Of all the phones that I saw at MWC, the Sony Xperia Z2 was the one I returned determined to buy. With its 5.2″ Display, 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera, 4K camcorder, generous battery, and its IP55/IP58 waterproof and dust-proof rating, the Z2’s specs were pretty impressive. I’ve purchased a Z2, and I’ve made it my daily-driver. Here are some highlights.
The Sony Xperia Z2 Hardware
The Sony Xperia Z2’s body is composed of a one piece aluminum frame with glass panels on the front and back; for build quality alone, it puts the Samsung S5 to shame. At 5.82″ long x 2.86″ wide x 0.32″ thick and weighing 5.7 ounces, the Z2 is like a solid slab of glass that feels weighty without being too unwieldy. Even so, coming from the iPhone 5S, it’s been a bit of an adjustment wrapping my head (and hand) around using a phone this large. That’s not to say that I don’t like its size; it’s just an adjustment. Missing are the slightly curved edges of the HTC One (M8); you really need to feel them both in person to see which you would prefer.
Available in black, white, or purple, I decided to have fun and go with what I assume will be the less common color; let’s do a quick walk around my big new purple phone.
On the inside
- Google Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
- 2.3 GHz Qualcomm MSM8974AB Quad-core
- Talk time: up to 19 hours***
- Standby time: up to 740 hours***
- Music listening time: Up to 120 hours***
- Video playback time: Up to 10 hours***
- Battery: 3200 mAh minimum
Connectivity and communication
- 3.5 mm audio jack (CTIA)
- ANT+ wireless technology
- Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
- DLNA Certified
- MHL support
- Native USB tethering
- USB High speed 2.0 and Micro USB support
- Wi-Fi and WiFi Hotspot functionality
Camera and video
- 20.7 MP Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor, 4K video capture
- HDR for both picture/film
- 8x digital zoom
- Front-facing camera (2.2 MP 1080p)
- HD video recording (1080p)
- RAM: 3 GB
- Flash memory: 16 GB
- Expansion slot: microSD card up to 64 GB
- UMTS HSPA+ 850 (Band V), 900 (Band VIII), 1700 (Band IV), 1900 (Band II), 2100 (Band I) MHz
- GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
- LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20)
Design and display
- 5.2”, 16,777,216 colours, Full HD 1920×1080 pixels
- TRILUMINOS™ Display for mobile
- X-Reality™ for mobile picture engine
- Face Unlock
- Gesture input
- STAMINA mode
- Touch gesture – multi-touch, up to 10 fingers supported
- Screenshot capturing (push the power button and hold to select)
The front of the Z2 is striking because there are no obvious buttons; the Sony branding at the top and the 2.2megapixel front-facing camera are the only items to see. Less noticeable are the stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the screen, which are built into the edge of the bezel. The top speaker has a notification LED embedded in its center; it will glow green when the phone is charged, amber when it is charging, and it will blink blue when there are missed notifications.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Sony Xperia Z2 is a lint and fingerprint magnet! I find myself obsessively wiping the screen throughout the day.
On the left side of the Z2, there is a covered microSD card compartment, the Power button, the volume rocker, and a dedicated camera button.
Here’s a peek inside the microSD compartment … nothing much to see here, other than the fact that it is covered with a plastic piece which dangles when open and that must be secured for the dust and waterproof rating to be in effect. Since there is no removable battery cover, this is how Sony chose to hide and protect the phone’s vulnerable points.
The bottom edge of the Z2 has a lanyard hole, and a noise cancelling microphone. You can also clearly see the bottom stereo speaker here.
The left side of the phone has a covered microUSB port and SIM card tray; the odd looking strip with two dots on either side is a magnetic charging port for the included dock.
As much as I hate little doors on the sides of devices, these are necessary for the integrity of the Z2’s water- and dust-proof capabilities. The good news is that when they are closed, they add to the phone’s sleek appearance.
The bad news is that any time you need to charge the phone you will have to open the door on the left — unless you are using the included charging dock which attaches to the magnetic charger built into the Z2’s side.
Side note: I’ve been using the dock a majority of the time because it’s so convenient — and I am ordinarily not a dock person. There is also a magnetic charging cable that you can order (I found it for $20.99 at Mobile Fun) if you don’t want to use a dock, but you do want to take advantage of the magnetic charging capabilities; I’ve already put my order in. Speaking of the magnetic charger and using the dock — there is a very satisfying click when the Z2 slides in and the contacts lock — similar to what happens with the MacBook and its magnetic charger. It’s likely that some will criticize Sony for making yet another proprietary connector, but I don’t have a problem with it. The standard, microUSB is included; I see the magnetic charger as a bonus convenience system.
The back of the Sony Xperia Z2 is another fingerprint hungry glassy slab, and just like the screen, it begs for compulsive and constant cleaning. I have ordered a screen protector and a case for the Z2; I am hoping that will solve some of the worries I have about scratches. In the meantime, I have attached a leather lanyard, because the phone is so slick I am worried about dropping it — although I haven’t yet!
In the upper left hand corner there is an LED flash and the 20.7MP rear-facing camera.
Just as the Sony Xperia Z1 did before it, the Sony Z2 has an IP55/IP58 rating; Sony states that this means that the Z2 can withstand up to five feet (1.5 meters) of water for up to thirty minutes. I’m glad to know that the phone can withstand a dunking or a rain storm, but I doubt that I will take it swimming any time soon — not on purpose, anyway.
With the waterproof Xperia Z2, you can take pictures with the best phone camera while swimming in freshwater for up to 30 minutes. You can even dive up to 1.5 metres with it. Just remember that all the covers for the micro USB port, the micro SIM slot and the memory card slot must be firmly closed.
IP 55/58 – what does it really mean? IP rating is a certification testing to measure a device’s resistance levels to both dust and water. The ?rst digit in the two-digit IP rating indicates the level of protection against solid objects, including tiny dust particles. The second digit indicates how resistant the device is to water.
Am I the only one who finds the dual IP ratings confusing? IP55/58? Those are both two very different things, so what exactly is going on here? Best I can tell, the combined IP ratings are meant to signify the following:
• IP55 = Limited dust ingress protection low pressure water jets from any direction
• IP58 = Limited dust ingress protection continuous immersion to a specified depth or pressure
The Z2 is not only able to handle raining weather, it can also handle cold weather. If you live somewhere that gets cold enough that gloves are needed when outside, you won’t have to remove them to interact with the screen. Instead, you can activate “Glove Mode”.
It’s a Non-US Mobile Phone, After All
I ordered my Z2 from Rinato, a seller on Amazon; as expected, I received an unlocked Chinese version. Part of the opening setup sequence on the Z2 is selecting your language, and from the point when I entered English (US), there have been very few reasons to remember that this didn’t originate as a US-intended phone. At this time, the Z2 is not technically available in the US, although there have been rumors that it might come to T-Mobile or Verizon.
There were a couple of things that I needed to do to get the Z2 working properly on AT&T’s network:
First, I had to set the Sony Xperia Z2 to use AT&T US data. I did this in settings, under the More category in Wireless and Networks; down at the very bottom, there is an option to download internet settings from local carriers. I chose AT&T, and then under Mobile Networks and then Network Mode, I selected 4G (preferred)/WCDMA/GSM. I also had to download the AT&T Visual Voicemail app in order to have that service on my Z2.
It’s worth noting that much of the time, depending upon where I am, the Z2 doesn’t register Edge, 3G, or LTE in the task bar like I am used to seeing on the iPhone; instead, it shows H, H+, and 4G. Not that it really matters, but it is something I’ve noticed.
While I have read complaints about the blockiness and sharpness of the Z2’s rectangular design, and how it isn’t really easy to hold one-handed, I haven’t had any issues. Probably the biggest reason for it not bothering me is that ever since I made the conscious decision to not fiddle with my phone while driving, I’ve noticed that I don’t care as much about whether I can text or operate a phone one-handed. It’s funny how those things work together. Otherwise, I find the glassy surfaces of the Z2 to be oddly compelling; I love the way the phone feels; as my step-daughter likes to say, it feels and looks “expensive”.
The 5.2″ screen has completely spoiled me, and it’s made the idea using my iPhone again very unappealing. Answering email and reading Zino mags or Kindle eBooks on the Z2 is a dream:
There may be a fine line between phone and phablet, but in my opinion the Z2 just barely misses crossing it; in other words, I don’t mind holding the Z2 in my hand or up to my ear in public.
Sony Xperia Z2 Processor and Battery Life
The 2.3 GHz Qualcomm MSM8974AB Quad-core processor in the Z2 is the same one that is in the new HTC One (M8); it is powerful, lag-free, smooth, and very fast! Apps open instantly, and everything just seems to fly! But best of all, the huge 3200mAh battery has meant that I can make it through more than a day of my typically heavy use. This has been a huge benefit for me, since I am used to terrible battery life with my iPhone 5S. Where I wouldn’t be caught dead going anywhere without an external battery pack before, I now find myself confidently stepping out with just my phone; it is liberating!
The Z2 has a special set of parameters which can be set so that the 3200mAh battery (already over twice the size of the battery in the iPhone 5S) can be stretched even further.
STAMINA mode disables mobile data and WiFi when the screen is off; a subset of that mode, Extended Standby, restricts device performance to increase battery time. Low Battery Mode turns off certain functions once the battery level is below 20%.
Location Based WiFi automatically turns the WiFi on when you are near any of your saved WiFi networks; this is a great way to automatically make sure that you save data when possible.
If there weren’t already plenty for me to love about the Sony Xperia Z2, the camera really sealed the deal. I made no secret of my love for the Nokia Lumia 1020’s camera, and I feel that the Z2’s camera is going to prove itself to be just as good. There are great effects and filters built right in, along with an excellent automatic mode for times when you just want to take the shot and be done with it.
Here are some of the pics I took this evening in my back yard; each is a thumbnail, so click one to pop up a larger gallery:
It’s tough to say which flagship Android phone is best right now, because Samsung, Sony, and HTC have all upped their game. They are all great phones that will appeal to over-lapping segments of the consumer market. One thing that might sway you is the fact that the Z2 currently comes bundled with a host of extras. Check them all out here.
Here’s what it boils down to, at least right now: the Sony Xperia Z2 can’t be purchased with a contract in the US; that means you are going to spend anywhere from $750 – $1000 on an unlocked one, depending upon where you buy it. If you have little hands, you’ll probably hate it. If you have a problem with shiny surfaces that collect fingerprints and dust, then you’ll probably hate it. But if you want a phone that has a large and gorgeous screen, is water- and dust-proof, has a huge battery, sports a fast processor, has a solid body that looks and feels top-notch, and a camera that takes pics you can be proud of, then you’ll want to check out the Sony Xperia Z2. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and my iPhone 5S is languishing in a drawer because of that. Oh well …