Sony has unveiled four new Android devices at IFA. The Xperia Z3 is the full-sized flagship phone that replaces the Z2 launched earlier this year (Sony is on a two-flagships-per-year schedule); the Z3 Compact Tablet is an iPad Mini-style eight inch device; and the Xperia E3 is classed as an ‘affordable 4G phone’.
But it is the fourth device, the Xperia Z3 Compact that could have the greatest impact on the market.
The Z3 Compact features ostensibly the same specs as the Z3, only with a smaller screen—4.6” as opposed to 5.2”, and the resolution dropped from 1080p to 720p consequently.
It’s significant for two reasons. First, ‘mini’ variants of Android phones are normally stripped down both in size and performance (see the mediocre Galaxy S5 Mini as the perfect example), while never being priced at an attractive enough level to offset the performance compromises.
By squeezing flagship level specs into a smaller form handset Sony is giving genuine choice to consumers who have previously been told that high end devices must be large and small devices must be low end.
It’s something Sony tried tentatively with the Z1 Compact earlier this year, although that phone was only available in select markets. The Z3 Compact will be available far more widely.
Z3 Compact vs iPhone 6
Second, it’s widely expected that Apple is new iPhones in larger sizes, including 4.7” and 5.5” versions.
There’s no shortage of competition in the largest of those categories, but with the Z3 Compact will be virtually the only Android manufacturer with a direct equivalent to a 4.7” iPhone. Other manufacturers will have devices at that size, but none at the high end level.
And with unique features including being waterproof at depths of 1.5m for 30 minutes, and the ability to play games streamed from a PS4, the Z3 Compact won’t be a mere copycat.
Sony Z3 Compact specs
- OS: Android 4.4
- Processor: Snapdragon 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Quad-core
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 16GB
- Dimensions: 127.3 x 64.9 x 8.64 mm
- Weight: 129g
- Battery: 2600mAh
- Screen size: 4.6-inch
- Screen resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels
- Main camera: 20.7MP
- Front camera: 2.2MP
Phone sizes have been growing steadily over the last number of years. When HTC unveiled the Windows Mobile-powered HD2 back in 2009 it was widely criticised for being too large; only a couple of years ago 4.6 inches would have been considered to be the absolute limit of what would be accepted by the mainstream. Now flagship smartphones routinely pack displays that would once have put them firmly in ‘phablet’ territory.
And while sales have been strong there’s always been the nagging question: do people buy large phones because that’s what they want, or because that’s all they can get.
With the Z3 Compact we may just be about to find out. A success could force the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG to rethink their approach to smaller form Android phones.
With an affordable price of £429 in the UK, and highly likely to drop below £400 not long after launch, it looks a very attractive proposition, and one that could have a big impact on the Android market.