Android smartphone screens are getting bigger and bigger, and it has reached a point where you can’t get a top-of-the-line Android with a screen smaller than 5 inches. What do you do if that’s too big for your hands? If you don’t want an iPhone, then the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact wants to offer good things in a tiny package. It’s got all the goodness of Sony’s flagship Xperia Z1 compressed into a smaller form factor.
Quick Tech Specs: 4.3-inch Triluminos display (1280×720 pixels, 342 ppi) | 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Krait processor | 2GB RAM |16GB storage + microSD up to 64GB | 20MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, 1080p HD video | 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | GPS with A-GPS | 2300mAh battery | IP58 water-resistant and dustproof | Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Upgradable to 4.4 KitKat
Price: Rs 34,990
Design: The Z1 Compact looks exactly like the Z1 and the Z1 Ultra, only miniaturized: it’s sleek, it feels premium and while it’s not heavy, it’s got a reassuring heft. And without a doubt, anyone will be able to operate this with a single hand. You’ll be proud to show this off. The unibody design and flaps for ports seal off the important bits and make it waterproof; but the flaps are quite annoying when you are fumbling in the dark to charge your phone. While this isn’t something we could test, it’s worth noting that we know Z1 and Z1 Ultra users who got scratches on the glass back of the phone with regular usage. Also, this phone has enormous bezels—space which could have been used better, either with capacitive touch buttons or by making the screen larger.
Screen: The 4.3-inch screen of the Z1 Compact is a treat for the eyes. The colours are true, the viewing angles are wide and the details are sharp. You couldn’t ask for anything else.
Performance: The Xperia Z1 Compact has the same processor and RAM powering current flagships, so there’s no question of lacking the horsepower you need for any task.
Memory: A lot of phones these days tend to put in high internal memory with no option for a microSD slot (I’m looking at you, Lenovo Vibe Z). Thankfully, the Z1 Compact has no such qualms and along with its 16GB of built-in memory, you can throw in a microSD card of up to 64GB.
Connectivity: The call quality and network reception is good as any phone out there, so no complaints there.
Software: Currently, the Xperia Z1 Compact ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box, with a few customisations by Sony. Sony’s changes don’t add anything that you won’t get by installing the right apps, but it’s not cumbersome or ugly either.
Camera: The highlight of the Z1 Compact is the 20-megapixel camera on the back, which is among the best Android shooters out there. If you use the built-in camera app on Superior Auto Mode, you’ll face issues: in particular, it aggressively smoothens images (causing you to lose details) and artificially punches up colours in low-light environments. The photos end up looking fake or Photoshopped. But switch to manual mode or use a third-party app like Camera Zoom FX and you’ll get fantastic shots. Photography is helped by the fact that the Z1 Compact has a dedicated camera button on the side, complete with the half-press-to-focus feature. On an Android, I have yet to see a better camera.
Battery: On average usage, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact goes for about 13 hours before needing to be recharged, which isn’t bad. However, the battery drains very quickly when playing high-end games like Asphalt 8 or FIFA 14—it lasts for less than 2 hours.
Special Mention: The coolest part about the smartphone is that it is waterproof and dust-resistant, while still looking sleek and compact. I used the phone in the shower, I kept it under running water in the sink and I spilt a cup of tea on it—one wipe and the Z1 Compact was ready to go. I can’t quite explain how much this adds to the experience of using a smartphone, especially an expensive one, as you are no longer worried about the silly small damages of everyday life. Imagine walking into the rain without any concern about the phone in your pocket—it’s a smartphone that offers a little peace of mind.
Verdict: If you want an Android smartphone without a gargantuan screen, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the best choice. The question then comes around to whether you should buy this or the iPhone 5c, which is available for around Rs. 40,000. In terms of pure hardware, the Z1 Compact edges ahead with its camera, expandable memory and waterproofing—considering it’s a good Rs 6,000 lesser, I’d put my money on the Z1 Compact. But you need to be okay with Android over iOS for that.