One year ago, almost to the day, I received the Sony Xperia Z Ultra in the mail from Negri Electronics. Brandon and Michael decided I would be the one to review the massive 6.4-inch smartphone from Sony, likely because I’ve always had a penchant for extra large smartphones – excessive smartphones.
Just two months before the Xperia Z Ultra landed on my doorstep, I had reviewed the Galaxy Mega. All things considered, I really liked it. Its specs and display could have been better, but Samsung did a pretty good job at keeping the Mega’s physical footprint reasonable – more like the Galaxy Note II than the Note 8 – and the Multi-Window software made the extra space worth it.
However, the Z Ultra broke me.
It ruined large phones for me. It barely fit in my pocket and often jabbed me in the stomach when I sat down; using it one-handed was out of the question (which was actually fine by me); the Triluminos display didn’t live up to the hype; and Sony did a pretty poor job of making use of the extra display real estate, of which we can all agree there was plenty of. Sure, you could add up to six icons or folders in the static dock at the bottom of the home screens, three on either side of the application drawer shortcut. But the floating window software from Sony is practically useless and there is no split-pane simultasking like on many other larger smartphones from LG and Samsung.
The phone also suffered from some serious touch sensitivity issues that many also seemed to be having. This, I determined, was a product of the ability to use any metal-tipped object as a stylus on the Z Ultra.
To make matters worse, I was stuck on EDGE the entire time. I had to carry this phone that hardly fit in my pocket around for over a week, succumbing to 2G speeds. Suffice it to say, conditions weren’t the most favorable during my time with the device.
Still, I feel the score – particularly with the general consumer in mind – was fair. With the sensitivity issues, poorly-optimized software, and extreme size, I knew few would flock to the Z Ultra. All aspects of the phone have to be considered in its overall score and while the hardware was fantastic, albeit unapologetic about its size, the software and user experience suffered from these problems.
Following the review, I deemed the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 as my upper limit for smartphone size. I popped my personal SIM back in the Moto X and called it a day, and I swore off oversized smartphones for the foreseeable future. Even today, I stand by my original score, despite the 100+ comments on the original review stating I was biased and a moron. But the 7.5 out of 10 I gave the Xperia Z Ultra didn’t stop me from buying one for my personal use last week, a year after I originally reviewed it.
Why would I want anything to do with a phone that left such a sour taste in my mouth? Why would I want to dig up some of the most cruel and unjust comments I’ve ever received on my work?
I never felt satisfied with my time with the Xperia Z Ultra. After the lashing I received in the comments, I always wanted to take another look at the device; but as far as content goes for Pocketnow, it never made sense, financially or otherwise, for us to revisit the phone. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind or that I hadn’t made a huge mistake. I was confident I hadn’t, even though I recall shipping the phone back to Negri before finalizing my review.
Still, the sheer amount of comments telling me how wrong I was made me second-guess myself and my judgement. I always wanted to make sure I was right and that my opinion wouldn’t change with a second round with the device.
And from the very start, I imagined it would be loads better without Sony’s custom interface. Of all the Android wares out there, Sony’s has to be my least favorite. The Xperia UI didn’t exactly make use of the large display any better than stock Android would, though I’m still left wishing there were a third-party solution for split-screen applications.
I nearly pulled the trigger when the phone was introduced as a Google Play edition device, but there was no way I was going to spend $650 plus tax and shipping for it. And even Google’s $200 price cut in late April wasn’t enough for me to treat myself to a late birthday present.
However, when eXpansys started offering several discontinued Google Play edition devices at roughly half their original retail price, I couldn’t resist. I waited to finish moving and paying all my bills and immediately went to eXpansys to purchase the GPe Z Ultra.
I’ve spent the last day using the phone as my personal device, and I’ve actually been quite pleased. The loudspeaker, located along the bottom edge, is still a joke, and without Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2 or X-Reality engine to boost saturation, the display isn’t breathtaking. Still, it could be far worse.
It’s shockingly big. Like before, it barely fits in my pants pockets, and it’s definitely a two-handed smartphone, but I’m rather enjoying it and all the attention it manages to receive. Within an hour of receiving it, a U.S. Postal Service rep commented on how “cool” it was the proceeded to ask me if it was a phone.
After just a day with it, I maintain all my original sentiments. By the time I had set the phone up last night and played around with it for a while, I knew I hadn’t gotten my review wrong. It’s not the sensational device Sony fans proclaimed, nor is it a complete flop. It’s powerful and gorgeous, and boy is it big. But it’s still everything I said it was the first time around.
For $350 (with a case and screen protector), I couldn’t pass up the offer. If a few weeks pass and I decide it isn’t the phone for me, I’m simply slapping it in the dash of my car in lieu of the Nexus 7 – it fits in a Double-DIN slot better anyway. But I have a feeling I’ll be carrying this phone as my daily driver for a while. It’s nice having such a large phone after using the Moto X and One M8 for so long.