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From Xperia Z1 to Xperia Z3: This is how Sony got it right

The team behind Xperia says how they improved the camera, battery life and design in the Z3.

Written by Debashis Sarkar | New Delhi |
Updated: January 27, 2015 4:31:30 pm
sony xperia z3, sony xperia z3 specs, sony xperia smartphones, The team behind Xperia says how they improved the camera, battery life and design in the Z3.

The Xperia Z3 is, no doubt, a classy top-end smartphone that was launched by Sony last September. The smartphone impressed us with its camera and 4K video recording capability along with a battery life of 36 hours. While the Xperia Z2 smartphone attracted criticism for its poor battery life and heating, the Sony team worked hard to improve these in the Xperia Z3.

[Pictures] Sony Xperia Z3 teardown: See what’s inside 

Sony Xperia Z3 tear down, Sony Xperia Z3 assembly, Sony Xperia Z3 specs The camera module space at the top left side corner. The camera module is directly placed on the Corning Glass (below) to reduce thickness. (Source: Debashis Sarkar)

The Sony team focused on improving the overall design and helped the Xperia Z3 evolve from the Z1 and Z2. The Xperia Z3 now sports a narrow border design which made the width of the smartphone more compact with a bigger display, thus, making it comfortable for one handed usage. “While the Z1 had a 5-inch screen, it felt bulky when compared to Xperia Z3 which has a bigger 5.2-inch display,” said Yoshikazu Sakamoto, Senior Project Manager, Product Program Office, Development at Sony Mobile Communications, Tokyo. Sakamoto was actively involved in the management of the Xperia Z3 smartphone development team and has been actively associated on four mobile phone development over the past six years.

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The older 5-inch Xperia Z1 weighed 171 grams and had a thickness of 8.5mm, while the new 5.2-inch Xperia Z3 weighs 153 grams and is slimmer at 7.3mm. “One way to achieve this was by putting the camera module directly on top of the front Gorilla Glass. This reduced the thickness and weight of the Xperia Z3,” said Shimpei Yamaguchi, Mechanical Engineer, Concept & Technology Sec. Advanced Design Dept, at Sony Mobile Communications, Tokyo.

Size and weight evolution:

Xperia Z1: 5-inch display, 144 x 74 x 8.5mm, 171 grams

Xperia Z2: 5.2-inch display, 147 x 73 x 8.2mm, 163 grams

Xperia Z3: 5.2-inch display, 146 x 72 x 7.3mm, 153 grams

Better battery life

Apart from the design, Sony had another challenge at hand. Improving the battery life without compromising on size and weight. “Providing a bigger battery simply wouldn’t have solved the problem as it would make the smartphone heavy and big,” said Yasutaka Kashiwagi, Base Band engineer, PD5 Product design, Hardware at Sony Mobile Communications, Tokyo.

The Sony Xperia Z1 and Z2 was powered by a 3000 mAh battery and 3200 mAh battery respectively. Both the smartphones could last only a day on average usage. Sony simply couldn’t afford to include a bigger battery in its Xperia Z3 as it would have a direct impact on the weight of the smartphone. Also, Sony had to improve the battery life. This is where Kashiwagi and his team’s expertise came to play.

Kashiwagi leads the team handling ‘power save’ for the Xperia range of products, especially Xperia Z3. In the past he was associated with the team involved in the design base band area (system/LMU/Charging/ESD/Desense) and lead base band object in previous Xperia models.

Kashiwagi introduced the Stamina and Ultra Stamina mode in the Xperia Z3. “The Stamina mode disables mobile data and WiFi when the screen is off. However, if users are allowed to activate specific apps like Email, Facebook, etc in this mode,” he said. For extended usage, Kashiwagi ensured that the LCD refresh rate was reduced to 45Hz from 60Hz (in previous Xperia models) and disabled image enhancement (X-Reality for mobile). Memory on display technology helped in lowering power consumption by 50 per cent in static images.

On the other hand, the Ultra Stamina mode prolonged battery life by keeping only basic phone functions active.

Overall, Kashiwagi’s team claims to achieve a standby battery life of 284.8 hours on normal mode, 349.2 hours on Stamina mode and 533.8 hours on Ultra Stamina mode.

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Camera power: Low noise ISO 12800 images

While reviewing the Xperia Z3, the first aspect we discovered was that the Xperia Z3 has a far better camera than the earlier Xperia Z2 or Xperia Z1 models, especially the 4K video recorder. “The Xperia Z1 leveraged Cyber-shot camera technology while the Xperia Z2 used Handycam technology. The Xperia Z3 combined the best of Cyber-shot and Handycam and introduced ISO 12800 along with Intelligent active mode,” said Hiroshi Takano, Deputy Head of Research, Tokyo, Technology, Sony Mobile Communications.

Takano’s current role resulted in the key device development especially the camera and display of the Xperia Z3. In the past, he was associated with Sony as a Section manager of Imaging device.

To achieve better images in low-lighting conditions, Takano’s team used low noise technologies similar to Cyber-shot. “Once a subject is shot on low light by the G-lens at ISO 12800 on Xperia Z3, the Exmor RS for mobile reduces noise by pixel binning. The BIONZ for mobile image processor further reduces noise by Multishot NR and then restore pixel number by using pixel super resolution to get maximum ISO 12800 with low noise,” said Takano.

Combining all these, Sony was able improve upon the Xperia Z1 and Z2 and deliver a better Xperia Z3. While, Sony’s attention to design, camera and battery has certainly paid off well, we would surely want to see more innovation happening on the software and UI aspects of the Xperia Z4, as their little difference in the UI when the Z3 is compared to the Z2.

[Pictures] Sony Xperia Z3 teardown: See what’s inside 

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