At IFA this year, Sony presented the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact and Xperia Z5 Premium. Three new flagships from a major Android manufacturer have landed, and I'm struggling to see a convincing reason to recommend any of them. Join us as we explore whether these new devices are really worth your money.
Let's start with the Xperia Z5 Compact. Sony's Compact series has traditionally filled a market gap: there are very few current smartphones that are smaller than five inches yet still shine with high-end hardware.
We have praised Sony in the past for delivering high-end Compact phones (such as the Xperia Z3 Compact) that have been almost as good as their larger cousins. So why has Sony decided to produce a Compact model that looks like it's fallen from a Toys'R'Us shelf this year? The Z5 Compact lacks the sophistication and craftsmanship that both its predecessors had.
The Z5 Compact has some improvements, as you’d expect from a generational leap. The internal memory has doubled, the battery is slightly larger, and the processor is faster. The new lineup now includes a fingerprint sensor too.
Despite this, the display resolution is still an absurdly low 1,280 x 720, with a pixel density that's even below that of Apple's Retina-display (which may be adequate, but still falls far short of what's possible on modern smartphones). It’s slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor, has a plastic body, and the same 2 GB of RAM, but still Sony wants to charge you more to own one.
The bottom line: This is a mid-range smartphone that costs around US$620 and in 2015, you can pay far less and receive far more.
With the Z5 Premium Sony has revealed its own inconsistency. Sony has been sticking with Full-HD displays on its hardware, despite Samsung, LG and Motorola releasing devices with QHD technology over the past 12 months, claiming that the benefit of QHD to the viewing experience is negligible.
It’s not an unreasonable argument, and it was brave of Sony to eschew the obvious marketing benefit that a QHD phone could offer on the grounds that it wouldn’t improve the user-experience.
But why don't Sony’s arguments regarding 2K resolution apply to the even higher 4K resolution? We can only guess that Sony sees the "world’s first 4K smartphone" as a selling point, because it cannot be down to user-benefit. The Xperia Z5 Premium will now be able to correctly display 4K videos (which smartphones have been capable of recording for a while), but on a 5.5-inch display, it's going to be essentially undetectable to the human eye.
Given that a 4K display doesn’t provide a significant reason to purchase the Z5 Premium, what does justify the US$899 price? The processor is the same as on the Z5 and Z5 Compact. The camera is identical. The Z5 Premium is larger and heavier. Is the extra 1 GB of RAM (4 GB compared to 3 GB on the standard Z5) worth the extra cost?
Yes the battery is bigger, but you can bet it will be drained quicker after pushing around all those pixels. And it's not as if the Z5 Premium presents a more premium design – it looks just like a larger, non-premium Xperia Z5. The bottom line: it’s a more expensive version of the Xperia Z5 but isn’t really any better.
So we come to the regular Xperia Z5. If you liked the Xperia Z3+ then you will probably like the Xperia Z5, because its practically identical. The Z5 is a little thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but the battery is almost the same, the screen resolution and size are the same, the internal memory and RAM are the same, and so is the processor.
In other words, the Xperia Z5 boasts two main selling points: the fingerprint sensor – which is now pretty standard on Android – and the fact that its camera app no longer crashes due to overheating. And that's pretty much all.
I feel that Sony Mobile no longer has a passion for smartphones. The Z series has passed its peak, and until it is reinvented, its relevance in the market will continue to dwindle. Einstein said the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. What does that say about Sony?
What’s your take on the latest Xperia Z devices? Let us know in the comments.