Sony Xperia Z2 – A Few Months Later: Z Life

Sony have been trying really hard to getting their game right in the flagship module. The Xperia Z1 was not really up to the mark, primarily because of the screen, but they had got it right with the build quality and waterproofing. They also struck the right balance with the Z1 compact which is still regarded as the best sub flagship mini in the market right now.

So lets find out if they have got it right with this year’s flagship the Xperia Z2, after a few months of use.

On the face of it, the Xperia Z2 has all the bells and whistles one expects out of a flagship. It packs in the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with 3GB RAM on board. They have also tweaked the UI.

Xperia Z2 First Boot

Quick Look at the specs

Operating System : Android KitKat 4.4.2 (as of testing)

Dimension : 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm. 163g.

Camera : 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3″ Exmor RS sensor and F/2.0 Sony G Lens.

2160p video recording @ 30fps, [email protected] 60fps, [email protected] 120fps.

2.2MP front camera with 1080p video recording.

Display : 5.2″ 16M-color 1080p IPS capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (424ppi pixel density) with X-Reality engine

Processor : Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset (MSM8974AB): quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU

Memory & Storage : 3GB RAM + 16GB inbuilt storage. Expandable upto 128GB.

Battery :  3,200mAh battery

Colours : White, Black and Purple.

Design and Handling

The Sony Xperia Z2 has 5.2” Full HD display with a pixel density of 424 ppi. This coupled with the X-Reality Engine results in a gorgeous display. The phone is packaged in a mixture aluminum and scratch resistant glass. The back is completely finished in scratch resistant glass and feels really classy and great to hold. It definitely feels like an expensive phone.

Sony Xperia Z2 Front Home Screen

The phone has no unnecessary undulations or uneven surfaces like camera bumps. The front and the back are completely flat and minimalistic, adding to the classy look. As mentioned, the rear is made of glass (Sony classifies it as scratch proof and shatter resistant). So far, it has not shown signs of wear, although the phone hasn’t really hit the pavement so far.

Sony Xperia Z2 Glass Back

Coming to the controls, there is a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top along with a secondary microphone for stereo sound video recording. The right holds the Power button, the volume controls, the microSD card slot and the camera button. The bottom has the microphone. the left side holds the SIM tray and the micro USB port. While the flap covering the USB is a little fiddly for day-to-day charging, you do have pogo pins that can be used with a charging dock or snap -on magnetic cables for easy charging. It does not have Qi Wireless Charging though. Even though the flap makes the phone dust and water-proof, opening the flap for charging daily and closing it back later does allow some grime to collect at the edges, as evident from the photo below.

VT's 1020_20140924_18_32_32_Pro

The Z2 gets stereo speakers for quality output, one located at the top and one at the bottom. It isn’t as loud or rich sounding as the “Boomsound” speakers on the HTC M8, but it is not that far behind.

VT's 1020_20140924_18_36_42_Pro

There is a 2.2MP camera on the front. The back holds the 20.7 MP autofocus camera with a single LED flash.

Display and User Interface

The Z2 comes with Android KitKat 4.4 out of the box. It was also, the company’s first phone to do so. The UI is pretty similar to the previous versions on Z1 and Z1 compact with a few nips and tucks.

Starting with the lockscreen, like most smartphones these days it supports widgets on every pane. You can also go straight to the camera from the lockscreen, a feature of KitKat. Security wise you get the usual Face, Pattern, PIN or Password Unlock.

Enter the homescreen and you will be greeted with five panes which can be customized. You can add or remove panes, seven being the maximum. Any of these panes can be made default and a press of the home button will take straight to the default pane.

The phone comes inbuilt with a host of static and live wallpapers and as with all Xperia devices, the theme can also be changed using the Theme Chooser. There are a few inbuilt themes and you can also download themes from the Sony Select  app or from the Play Store, where you can find third party themes and customize your phone as per your need.

It’s a similar story with the app drawer. Swipe from the left and you can sort apps in the app drawer manually, alphabetically, most used and most recently installed. You can also define your own order. Searching for an app shouldn’t be difficult as the search option comes in handy. Uninstalling an app can also be done from here.

The Notification draw and the Quick settings have been split now to give space for more information and shortcuts at ease. Swiping down from the top of the screen with one finger reveals the Notification draw and with two fingers reveals the Quick Settings.  The Quick settings toggles can be customized and one can choose from over 20 different toggles.

One new app in the Z2 is the What’s New. As the name indicates the app tell you what’s hot and happening the the app world and as well as keeps you updated with multimedia. It also displays the latest from the Sony Playstation Store as well. Unfortunately, this service is offered as one short-cut when you swipe up from the home button, along with Google Now.

Sony keeps updating it’s stock apps from time to time, adding new functions, though this is handled by the Sony Updater and not via the Play Store like Motorola and HTC have been doing of late.

Battery

The Z2 comes packaged with a massive 3200 mAh battery. We threw everything possible at it, gaming, browsing, extensive camera use and we were still able to manage more than day’s usage on a single charge. The Power Manager lets you toggle between various settings to squeeze the most out your battery.

The STAMINA mode lets you disable mobile data and WiFi when the screen if off, but the clever thing is you can turn on data only for a set of applications which is user defined. It can also restrict device performance to squeeze that extra juice out of your battery. You can set all this to be done ‘Always’ or when your battery goes down a certain percentage.

The phone also has location based WiFi which essentially activates WiFi only when certain saved WiFi signals are in range.

 

Camera

The camera is a 20.7 MP unit which is the same as the ones in the Z1 and the Z1 compact. We have already seen the improvements in imaging in the Z1 compact over the Z1 using the same camera unit. Lets find out how different it is in the Z2.

The camera unit comes with a Exmor RS backside illuminated 1/ 2.3” sensor, which is about 70% bigger than the standard 1/3”. The lens is a 27mm wide angle Sony G Lens with f/2.0 aperture and BIONZ image processor. It captures images with a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 in 4:3 aspect ratio.

The Layout is pretty simple and all your basic and commonly used controls are just a click. The Camera module is supported by an array of filters and modes. As with the Z1 you get a Superior Auto mode, manual mode, burst mode, background defocus, creative effect, AR Effect and many more.

The results are a mixed bag, there are some features that we liked and some which are not up to standard. Images are best captured in Superior Auto Mode but unfortunately the resolution of these images maxes out at 8MP. The Manual does  let you shoot in 20.7 MP but the results are not upto a flagship phone mark. There is plenty of detail  but it still doesn’t match up to the S5 in sharpness and color accuracy.

The HDR mode is quite a letdown as all it does is brightens up the image without preserving detail. The images look blown out and the colors look washed out.

The Z2 offers quite a lot when it comes to videos. For starters it offers 4K video capture at 30fps but it is limited to just 5 minutes. There is also an option of recording Full HD videos at either 30fps or 60fps. It is also capable of capturing 720p videos at 120fps. Audio is captured in stereo mode and is pretty impressive. There is no optical image stabilization on board but the digital image stabilization does the part pretty efficiently.

One interesting video feature is the Timeshift video, which captures videos in 720p at 120 fps an then lets you slow down selected moments in the video, unlike the S5 which captures the whole video in 120fps. This feature was first seen in the iPhone 5s but it could slow down only one part of the video. Sony has bettered this feature and you can slow down multiple parts of a video.

Low light performance is pretty good too. We were able to capture some really amazing low light photos without the use of flash. The flash itself isnt very harsh on subjects and lights up the area pretty damn well.

One thing that we have noticed though, is that the camera performance has improved over time with different firmware updates from Sony. So we hope that with future updates, it will get even better.

The front camera is a 2.2MP unit and it performs like any other front camera unit on the market, it is able to capture Full HD video and does its part.

Performance

The Snapdragon 801 processor is a tried and tested processor and we didn’t encounter any lags or glitches in heavy usage. It isn’t the top of the line MSM8974AC, but there’s nothing really lacking in the SOC. The onboard 3GB RAM is a boon and gives the phone that extra edge. We were able to comfortably able to switch between applications while playing games. One problem we encounter though is that the phone does heat up when subjected to heavy usage, especially when using the 4K video capture. This is very uncomfortable and thankfully the phone force shuts the camera app before it can get any worse..

The graphics are pretty impressive, we tried a couple of action games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Batman:Arkham Asylum and the detail of the game play was on par with its competitors.

Connectivity and Browser

The default browser was satisfactory in all aspects. We threw whatever possible at it and it renders content smooth and fast. Zooming into content renders smooth and crisp fonts and images, thanks to the 1080p screen. Videos too ran smooth and we didn’t encounter any sorts of lag during browsing.

Coming to the connectivity side, unfortunately, the Z2 does not support Band 40 (2300 MHz TDD LTE) for LTE service in India, which is a bit of a letdown. It does support Dual-Band WiFi along with 802.11 ac, which is a good thing, assuming you have a capable router (and network connection). Having said that, we had no real issues (aside from the lack of LTE) and if you’re in an area which is not covered by LTE (which basically means most of India right now), you won’t miss the LTE support (or lack thereof).

Conclusion

The Xperia Z2 is quite the step up from its older siblings, the phone has got a very sophisticated, neat and classy look to it. The gorgeous screen is complimented by the powerful Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM onboard. There were very few moments where the phone let us down. Sure the still Camera module is still not up to the mark, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker as its Video capabilities make up for it. In the past, Sony really did not bother with firmware updates, but things have changed and they are among the first of the non Nexus/Motorola devices to get updates to the newer versions of android. The Z2 definitely has what it takes to be a high quality flagship and also a big thumbs up from our side. The only thing to note is that Sony is on a 6 month release cycle (as of this article, the Xperia Z3 is already available in some markets). The flipside is that you can now get the Z2 for cheaper when the Z3 rolls out at their top end phone.

Sony’s Xperia M2 has launched exclusively through Telecom in NZ

Sony had recently refreshed it’s lineup, from the Top of the Line Z2 to the affordable phablet T2. The refresh also included the M2, a good mid-range device that was well priced in it’s previous iteration, the Xperia M. The updated Xperia M2 is available in New Zealand exclusively through Telecom NZ. As a refresher, here’s what you get:

  • Display: 4.8″ 960 x 540 (qHD) TFT LCD
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Connectivity: Quad Band GSM, HSPA  (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), Dual Band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 8 MP Rear Camera, VGA Front Facing Camera
  • Memory: 8 GB on board, Micro SD card slot (expandable upto 32 GB), 1 GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.3 (with Android 4.4 out sometime in the near future).

Check the press release below for details on where to get the device.  

Sony Mobile Communications New Zealand is pleased to announce the launch of its latest handset, the Sony Xperia™ M2 exclusively through Telecom NZ. The Xperia M2 is a strong offering in the mid-range price point, providing flagship experiences at an extremely competitive price point.

“The Xperia M2 showcases high quality technology at an affordable price,” says, John Featherstone, Managing Dirctor, Sony Mobile Communications Oceania.

“Incorporating many of Sony’s flagship features including, ultra fast processing speeds and OmniBalance design as found on Sony’s premium smartphone range. Plus unique Xperia camera and music apps which offer stunning entertainment experiences for all Xperia M2 customers”

Xperia M2 users will have the chance to enjoy a range of PlayStation® Mobile games that will be included.

Perfect for capturing all your favourite moments in brilliant quality, the Xperia M2 uses the expertise and technology of Sony’s cyber shot cameras combined with an 8MP camera. The M2 is armed with the latest in camera technology including Exmor RS for mobile, Autoscene Recognition and HDR.

“We’re always on the lookout for devices that give our customers a great experience without burning too much of a hole in their pockets and this smartphone really delivers,” says Jason Paris, Chief Operating Officer at Telecom.

“The Xperia M2 is a great all-rounder and we think it offers another exciting choice, particularly for those people who want a great camera in a sleek looking phone, but don’t have a fortune to spend.”

The Xperia M2 joins the Xperia Z1, Xperia M and Xperia E1, available through Telecom.

The Xperia M2 is available in white colour variant only. Exclusively through Telecom stores nationwide and through Telecom’s website (www.telecom.co.nz). RRP $399 or $0 on a $69 a month plan.


Using NFC to automate your Life: Sony SmartTags and Samsung TecTiles

NFC (Near Field Communication) is one of the oft-mentioned seldom-seen mobile innovations that is supposed to change the way we used our phones. It’s been around for a really long time, and one of the Pioneers of NFC Technology is Nokia (They set up the NFC Forum and the first phone with NFC was the Nokia 6131). The other two companies that were involved with the initial set-up of the NFC Forum were Sony and Philips.

Most of the things that we’ve been hearing about NFC lately has been about using it for Mobile Payments, and this is a really old use case (the Nokia 6131 was released and the payment partner back then was Citibank, for NFC payments). It didn’t catch on then (phones with NFC were few and far-between) and it hasn’t caught on yet (even though there are services like ISIS and Google Wallet). This is due to a variety of reasons: I would guess that it’s mostly because they aren’t a standard unlike using your Credit Card, which is more or less universally accepted. There are other uses for NFC too: Nokia used them as a way to initiate the pairing of your phone with accessories like the Play 360 Speaker (Check it out here) and sharing photos, similar to Google’s Android Beam implementation.

You can also use NFC to set up certain actions: launch a web-page or an app, or perform a function like turning Silent Mode on, or WiFi off. Enabling functions though, is going to be platform dependent. If you have an Android Phone with NFC, you can write NFC tags to save certain functions. Imagine having an NFC tag at your office entrance that would put everyone’s phone on Silent Mode as they walk in: they just have to tap the tag with their phone (I find it really annoying when people leave their phones on normal mode in office, with really loud Notification Tones). Turn on GPS and launch the Maps app when you’re in your car by tapping on a NFC tag in the car. If various venues had NFC tags at the entrance, you could just tap on them with you phone to check in there on FourSquare. Now that would be super useful.But you need the NFC Tags to do this right?

Sony launched the Xperia SmartTags a while back, along with the NXT series of phones. Available for £12.99 on their website for a set of 4 (you could probably shop around and get it for less), you can set up the tags by using the companion app available on the Play Store. Once you get that set up, you just place the tags where you want them. Here’s a look at how you can use these Tags:

Samsung recently launched their NFC accessory, TecTiles, which are a bit cheaper, at $14.99 for a set of 5. And you can set them up using the app that’s available on the Play Store. They have a set of daily scenarios where you could use these TecTiles. Check them out, here.

Check out TecTiles in use in the Video Below:

Now if only there were more phones that had NFC! Interested in getting an NFC enabled phone? Here’s a list on Wikipedia which shows you which phones are NFC enabled.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 gets Gingerbread

Sony Ericsson. They make some gorogeous devices, that are let down by the user experience, and the dated OS versions left behind in the dust. Well, SE is looking to catch up with the rest of the Android manufacturers, and they said back in June that the Xperia X10 would get Gingerbread by August.

Well, it looks like somebody actually keeps to their timelines, because the update seems to be out. Phandroid reports that the update was first live in Italy, and is now available globally to all unbranded devices. All you need to do is get the SEUS software from here, and run the update.

It brings a few new things, apart from Android 2.3. It gets much deeper Facebook Integration, similar to what SE has done with the Arc, and a new app drawer.

Here’s a preview of what was supposed to come. Let us know if that’s what you get.

Source: Phandroid

Xperia X10 to get Gingerbread by August

Sony Ericsson has had quite a few flip flops with the Xperia X10: they updated the X10 to Eclair (2.1) really late, then it turned out that update was buggy to say the least! They seem to be reforming now, with developer support to build custom kernels, unlocking bootloaders, etc.

Well, it looks like the promised Gingerbread (2.3) update for the X10 is coming soon. Posted on the Sony Ericsson Products Blog was a full write up about why it took so long, what else is expected from it AND a video of the update.

Here’s the video:

Here’s the full post:
Update on Gingerbread for Xperia™ X10
Back in March we announced that we are working on a Gingerbread update for Xperia X10. Our developers have been working hard on this and the work has progressed well. Development and testing is still ongoing and the current plan is start the roll-out in the beginning of August.

For more information on what to expect from this update please re-visit the original post from back in March, most of it is still valid:

A few things have changed since then.

First of all – we’ve seen your feedback about losing some of the camera features of the original XperiaTM X10. Our developers have been working on it and I can now confirm that also the Gingerbread version of the X10 software will keep the original camera UI as in the Éclair version. I can also confirm that the new Facebook inside XperiaTM functionality introduced in the 2011 XperiaTM products will also be in the XperiaTM X10. More info on what it is and what it does at: http://www.sonyericsson.com/cws/products/services/facebook-inside/overview?cc=gb&lc=en.

As said in March most of the 2011 Xperia software functionality from e.g. Xperia arc will be included. The UI with the desktop layout and pinch-to-overview gesture will be similar and Gingerbread features like Wi-Fi & USB tethering, App storage on SD-card etc are included. Also the customizable horizontal app tray and the media experience widgets from the 2011 Xperia Products are in, including an integrated equalizer in the music player. Of course also apps that require Android versions 2.2 or 2.3 will now be possible to download from Android Market, e.g. Adobe flash.

One difference compared to the 2011 products is that DLNA will not be included. Extra type approvals were needed for that and we were unable to prioritize that without jeopardizing the time schedule. There are both server and client alternatives downloadable from Android market though.

For XperiaTM X10 mini, mini pro and X8 there are as communicated earlier no plans to update beyond the current Éclair version. There are two mains reasons for this: The XperiaTM X10 mini, X10 mini pro and X8 all have less RAM memory than XperiaTM X10. By this we can’t guarantee a good user experience by upgrading beyond Android 2.1. The upgrade of XperiaTM X10 also was made possible due to that we had a code base that mostly could be reused. For the mini’s, who have a different user interface, this possibility did not exist.

With regards to the roll-out plan, as said back in March, this will first and foremost be made available to generic trade kits. Even if there will be some operator kits getting this upgrade, as said before – some of you will not be able to upgrade your customized version of XperiaTM X10.

I’ve recorded the hands-on video below to give you a view of what it looks like. Let me know in the comments section if there are follow-up questions or certain use cases you want me to go through!

Source: Sony Ericsson Product Blog

Introducing the Sony Xperia PLAY

Sony’s Xperia PLAY is the world’s first Playstation Certified smartphone. Having a dedicated gaming device that doubles as a phone is a great asset for those constantly on the move. The PLAY is powered by a Snapdragon processor with a 1Ghz CPU an embedded Adreno GPU graphics processor and comes loaded with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and has a 4″ touch screen interface, along with dedicated gaming keys.

The Xperia PLAY seems to a be promising product, especially when it comes to filling gaps between dedicated gaming devices and smartphones.

Nokia had tried earlier with their dedicated N-Gage device and the N-Gage gaming platform, which they rolled into Ovi Store. They didn’t make much of a dent in the gaming market at that point. Sony should fare better with this with their prior experience with their PlayStation platform and the PSP hand-held gaming device. They can cross-sell this device with their existing Playstation user-base.

Some of the main Content partners at launch include:

Sony Computer Entertainment,  Digital Chocolate, Electronic Arts, Gameloft Glu Mobile, Handy Games and Namco Bandai apart from others.  So it definitely looks like the Xperia PLAY will definitely not have any shortage of high qualite gaming titles at its disposal

Specifications of the Xperia PLAY

Screen

  • 854 x 480 pixels
  • 4.0″ 16,777,216 colour TFT Memory
  • Phone memory up to 400MB
  • microSD™ (supported to 32GB)

Camera

  • 5.1 megapixel camera
  • Auto focus
  • Flash / Photo light

Networks

  • GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900
  • UMTS/HSPA 800/850/1900/2100
  • UMTS/HSPA 900/2100

Size & Weight

  • 119.0 x 62.0 x 16.0 mm
  • 175.0 gr

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Sony Xperia Play to launch this Sunday (13th Feb)

The team from Sony is making an offical announcement soon about the Xperia Play an Android based Portable Gaming unit and a phone rolled into one. This phone was earlier nicknamed the “Playstation phone” , and  they’ll be unveiling it at the Mobile World Congress.

They’ve also got a Facebook page running with a teaser image of the phone and the date and time of the official announcement, which is the 13th of February at 6pm GMT. For us folks in India, that’s going to be around 11:30pm. Are you excited enough to stay up for the launch?

The Xperia Play’s going to be an Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device with slide-out gamepad controller. I’m really curious about what games are going to be exclusively available for the phone which are optimized for the gamepad controllers. There’ s no news yet on what the device is going to cost and when it’ll be available on sale. So stay tuned for news about this as we get more details.

Here’s a somewhat creepy trailer for the Xperia Play:

All not so peachy in Xperia X10 Land

The Xperia X10 recently got updated to Eclair (Android 2.1). The update didn’t bring out much, apart from different home screens, HD video recording and the benefits of eclair. There’s still no multitouch support on the beautiful 4″ screen!

It gets worse though. Users have been reporting problems since the update. I personally have had the phone reboot 10 times in a day! That’s a proper #fail moment(s).

Check this thread out on the XDA developers forum. Turns out the update might just be faulty. I noticed that the battery was getting searingly hot after the update. THAT is the issue. The update fries the system because of higher power usage, which kills the battery, which kills the phone. The only thing that can be done is to take the battery out and let it cool a bit.

Have you guys noticed any issues? Have you gotten in touch with the Sony Ericsson care centres? Any issues at all? Do let us know by commenting below, or catch us on twitter, we’re @myportableworld.

Personally, I think Sony needs to up their game, as this is absolute crock. A massively delayed update that’s still faulty? That’s BS! I’m sorry SE, but you guys deserved this.

A peek at the XPERIA X10 update

The Sony Ericsson product blog just posted two new videos that show off some major enhancements on the way for the XPERIA X10.

First is the new HD video recording that supports continuous auto-focus. When filming objects in landscape or at a distance, the X10 focuses on that object. Focus remains in a relatively seamless transition to macro/up-close objects and remains continuous when going back to the object in the distance.

The X10’s custom interface has also been upgraded. The homescreen now features 5 panes on the home screen rather than 3, and each screen has been expanded to support 5 rows of icons rather than 4(will support 20 icons per screen vs. the standard 16). The new call widget also seems like a nice touch.

According to the blog, the long overdue Xperia X10 update is supposed to start rolling out by the end of October.