Sony's early-2014 flagship compared to its late-breaking successor
Sony's six-monthly refresh cycle for smartphones shows no sign of stopping, with the recent announcement of the Xperia Z3 at IFA 2014. It's a minor upgrade of the Xperia Z2 in terms of pure specs, but the Z3 also represents a further evolution of the company's "OmniBalance" design language, while tweaking its 20.7-megapixel camera and introducing some subtle software changes.
Read on to learn how these two premium handsets compare.
Since Sony's Z series started out in early 2013, the Japanese manufacturer's has quietly iterated upon its flagship smartphone designs with each generation. The Xperia Z3 is another such device — if you're a Z1 or Z2 owner you'll spot the differences straight away, but for those unfamiliar with Sony's Android lineup the subtleties are harder to pick out.
First, let's look at what hasn't changed: its predecessor, the Xperia Z3 is a blocky, chunky beast: another unapologetic rectangle clad in metal and glass — the latter covering its front and back, the framing the whole package. The trim itself has been smoothed out, making for a more comfortable, ergonomic in-hand experience, whereas the Z2 (and most other Z-series phones) were significantly more squared-off. The location of the front-facing speakers has also changed — they're not smaller and situated further towards the display, rather than sitting between the glass and the frame.
Sony's managed to trim down Z3's thickness and weight, going from 8.2 to 7.3mm. It's also noticeably lighter lighter — 152 grams compare to the Z2's 163. As a result the battery's taken a small hit, going from 3,200mAh in the Z2 to 3,100mAh in the Z3. That's not to say the newer device will necessarily be worse-off in terms of real-world battery life, as Sony may well be saving power elsewhere.
The Xperia Z3 gets a small bump in performance over the Z2, going from a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AB) to the faster 2.5GHz version (MSM8974AC), while keeping the 3GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage, backed up by a microSD slot. There's not a huge difference in performance, though the Z3 did seem a little more responsive to touch than the Z2 we've been using periodically since launch. Around the back, the Z3 uses the same 20.7-megapixel Sony Exmor RS shooter as the Z2 and Z1, but with a new 25mm wide-angle lens that captures a slightly wider view. The difference is pretty subtle, though, even with Z2 and Z3 side by side.
Sony's latest handset also comes preloaded with Android 4.4.4 KitKat, topped with Sony's Xperia UI. The look and feel of Sony's smartphone interface hasn't changed much in years, and the Z3 brings yet more minor tweaks into the mix. The Sony launcher has been updated with larger icons, an optional persistent Google search bar (disabled by long-pressing), and a new app drawer icon. It's definitely channeling the Google Now Launcher a little, though the rest of Sony's UI retains its own distinct visual style.
Overall, the Xperia Z3 isn't a huge upgrade over its predecessor, and Z2 users would be advised to wait until next year for the inevitable Xperia Z4, as on paper this isn't a huge upgrade. That doesn't mean it's not a decent high-end Android phone, but owners of the last couple of Xperia flagships might think twice before parting with their cash.