I still remember the time when Brandon unboxed the first-ever Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. There’s simply no way that anyone from our times can forget that phone. That gorgeous HTC design, the curved keyboard, and that unique card-based UI was code for the best Windows Mobile smartphone of that year, and in full honesty, it’s been the best Windows Mobile phone I ever saw, and could never afford.
Sony Ericsson’s implementation of Android has been a different story, and one to be really upset about. The hardware was always there when it came to design, but then the engineers in charge of choosing the processor and other specs were never up to speed with the market trends. As a result, you ended-up with a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 running Cup Cake, at a time when we were all enjoying turn-by-turn navigation in Froyo.
This year we had a lot of high-hopes for Sony, as they ditched the Ericsson from their brand, and they begun to treat smartphones like true Sony innovations. As a result, we’ve seen some of the most minimalistic and most handsome designs in the hands of Sony, and yet, history kept repeating itself at the beginning of the year. I reviewed the Xperia ZL, and I still can’t believe that such a gorgeous phone has such a terrible display, and the same could be said about the Xperia Z. That struck me in a bad way since I also reviewed the Xperia S the year before, and it had one of the best displays I’ve ever seen on a phone. We go back to the same problems of the past, where designers did their job, and then the engineers in the spec and software department never got the memo, as they launched a phone with last-years specs, and a very dull display. Sony products, for the longest time, have been seen as devices of compromise, and that’s sad.
Still, I’ll admit that Sony is changing, and I’ve noticed it in my time with the Xperia ZL. If you watch our After The Buzz, you’ll notice that the device has aged very gracefully when it comes to hardware, but even more impressive is the software story. This is currently one of the only devices that didn’t ship with Android 4.2.2, and that has already received the update. If Sony left me with a very sour experience with the terrible delays in software updates of the Xperia S, the story has changed dramatically with the ZL. So yes, things are changing for the good when it comes to software.
So now that Sony keeps pushing the bar with designs, and now that software seems to be a problem that’s solved, the only thing we needed was a phone that walked the talk. A device that spelled innovation, without the need of a CEO in-front of a stage praising it. A device with a spec sheet that could speak for itself, and I think that device is finally here.
The Xperia Z1 is truly worthy of the Sony brand
I guess my biggest problem with January’s Sony line-up is that they were not better than anything they competed with. On the contrary, it made no sense to choose an Xperia phone over an HTC One. Even if the Xperia Z had a better camera than the One, those extra megapixels didn’t necessarily translate to a better photo in practice.
If you asked me now if I would recommend the Xperia Z1 over the HTC One or the Galaxy S 4, I’d finally say – sure. It’s got great design, it finally has this year’s processor, you don’t need an Active variant with lesser specs to get some waterproof love, and that 20 megapixel camera should finally get something right.
For those of us who grew up with Sony setting the bar when it came to consumer electronics, this is a worthy smartphone to carry their brand.
If not perfect, but it’s progress
Yes, I’ll admit that this will not be the only phone to run the Snapdragon 800 processor. Yes I know that more devices can film video in 4K, and that more devices have gorgeous 1080p displays. So yeah, not everything that’ll come in the Z1 is necessarily innovation, but it clearly gives Sony fans a product that’s worthy of their wallet.
I personally may not necessarily buy it, since I’m still waiting for the smartphones that’ll be launched in the fall, but still, it does top the list of devices I’d consider.
The bottom line
I’ll admit that I’m really starting to like Sony’s new leadership. Kazuo Hirai has quickly shifted a huge and slow elephant that relied on its brand more than on its products, into the company it once was, which made its products, define the brand. The Z1 may not be as big as the X1 was for me back in the day, but it finally is a competitive phone that I’d recommend to anyone. I sadly couldn’t say the same about the Xperia Z or ZL.
I have high hopes for Sony going forward. If Sony’s new leadership could make this stagnant company catch-up to the market in less than two years, I honestly can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring for the company when it comes to smartphones. Who knows, I might even expect next year while I take a couple of phone calls on an Xperia Z1.
What about you? Does the Xperia Z1 really show you what the best of Sony is or should be? Leave us a comment.