Over the past few days, Sony’s Xperia Z1 successor, codenamed ‘Sirius’ and going by model number D6503, has exposed the Japanese company’s iterative approach to this year’s flagship.
Though the Xperia Z1 was only announced five months ago, it appears that Sony is already readying its successor; the Xperia Z1 was itself a small visual upgrade from the Xperia Z announced in January 2013, but dramatically improved the hardware.
At CES this year, Sony announced the Xperia Z1 Compact, a 4.3-inch version of the current flagship that didn’t skimp on specs. By the time it comes to market later this quarter, however, Sony may have already announced the Z2, or what is more likely to be called the Z1 Pro.
The Z1 Pro will be a thinner, more compact device than the Z1 despite a 5.2-inch 1080p display. It also looks to have a 2.3Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, though a newer SKU with a slightly faster CPU and GPU. The Z1 Pro will also have 3GB of DDR3 RAM, 16GB of internal storage (with a microSD slot), the same 20.7MP camera sensor as the Z1, 4K recording capabilities (up from 1080p), slow motion video capture called Timeshift, and a host of software improvements.
Though some of the software improvements will come standard in Android 4.4 KitKat, expected to ship with the device, others will be due to the more powerful GPU. The Snapdragon 800 processor is inherently capable of shooting in 4K, though Sony did not enable the capabilities on the Z1, so it appears the faster RAM or eMMC storage will facilitate the higher-resolution video capture.
Sony is also set to improve elements of its Android skin: a Glove Mode is coming, likely due to a more sensitive digitizer, as is a feature called Smart Backlight Control, which uses the front-facing camera to keep the backlight on while a user is looking at the screen (think Samsung’s Smart Stay).
Another interesting addition to the new version is Simple Home, a launcher for novice Android users looking for fewer switches and more content. Changing the default launcher should also be easier with a new toggle in the Settings menu.
It also looks like Sony is finally adding a Quick Settings-type menu to its notification bar, but is going one step further, allowing users to manually set which apps can expose notifications. While this is possible in the current version of Android 4.4, users have to set go into each app’s individual settings to activate it.
The Xperia Z1 Pro, or the Xperia Z2 — whatever it is called — looks to stack iterative improvements on top of thinner, lighter, better hardware. The specs, while still good, are not much different from the last version, and it is in software that Sony hopes to make a big splash. It also stands to reason that Sony could potentially bring some of these improvements to the Z1, since the hardware is so similar, but we aren’t holding out hope.