Sony Xperia Z1 successor promises thinner bezels, lots of minor software improvements

Daniel Bader

January 20, 2014 2:46pm

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • kilowiko

    Crappy ui, but the phone itself has promise as a Google edition device.

    • Stimulator

      The UI is almost stock compared to many other offerings out there.

    • Arber Binaku

      I agree with you

    • dick butt

      I agree with you

  • greedom

    Sony out of nowhere is really tightening up their smartphone experience. The compact Z1 is a phone people have long been asking for. They best tread carefully though if they release their phones in too quick succession they are going to alienate current Xperia owners.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the hey put out a portrait QWERTY device next, lol.

  • Francois Roy

    A new flasgship every 5 months isnt any better.. In 2 years, they had the Xperia Ion, S, T, Z/ZL, Z1, Z1 Ultra, now the Z2/Z1 pro.. that’s a lot!

    • Bri

      wow that is a lot.. but it’s good their stepping up their game

    • Yulet

      …they’re* stepping… ;)

    • Bri

      thanks :)

  • Bri

    I never had the chance to use one of Sony’s devices but I love the way they design their phones. They look sleek and solid. I’m curious how the user experience is.

    • Anaron

      Same here. I had a chance to play with the Z1 at a Telus store. Although it’s a 5″ device, it’s really big. Bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S4.

    • DouginKtown

      Just over a year ago I bought an Xperia T and I like it so much that my
      next phone will likely be a Sony, and not a Galaxy or a lookalike or an
      iPhone :-)

    • Stimulator

      I’ve had a Z1 for a couple months now and it’s a fantastic phone to use. Also, one MAJOR point not provided in this article is that the phone is completely waterproof and can be used as an underwater camera.

    • d9veNI

      It is good that you don’t have to worry about inadvertent water damage … but I have to say that, especially given the amount of space given to the feature in other reviews, I can’t think of a less useful feature for a phone than an underwater camera! :-)

  • Bankai

    “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.”

    That’s all I needed to hear. Seriously though, I’m impressed at how Sony’s phone division is stepping up their game as of late. I’ve been looking at a lot of different phones (Galaxy S, HTC One, etc.) in hopes of trading up and when I saw the Z1 Compact, I knew I’d found my new phone – now they’ve got this one.

    It’s a shame that Sony’s phones won’t get the attention they deserve just because they aren’t Samsung or Apple phones.

    • Clement L

      I agree about not getting the attention they deserver, although I have my hopes set on the Z1 Compact!

    • Bankai

      So do I, this one is obviously going to be pricey, so I’ll use the Z1 Compact until this one becomes more affordable.

    • Bri

      Sony definitely has much improved but I wouldn’t say they’re on par with the top manufacturers like Samsung when it comes to hardware.
      The display is still not as great and bezels are relatively large but they do deserve more attention. I hope to see more improvements on the Z1 Compact!

    • Bankai

      When a veritable no-name in the smartphone market comes out of nowhere and makes a phone like the Z1 Compact, which boast specs that blow most big name phones out of the water, then they deserve to be seen as being on par with Samsung – Samsung phones aren’t all that great anyway.

      And I disagree about the display, it’s easily one of the best displays out there and the bezels aren’t even an issue, I don’t see why people are always complaining about them.

    • Bri

      I disagree with your opinion about the display. The viewing angle and the light leakage at the edge of the display (Z1) are the example of how they can’t be matched with the top manufacturers like LG or Samsung. The bezel is a huge thing for me because it affects the size or width of the device especially when we have 5″+ displays everywhere. But I still think Sony’s latest flagship devices certainly were very well made and I do consider getting a Sony’s phone for my next phone. And hopefully, Z1 Compact is as great as it sounds.

  • Raj Singh

    Xperia Sirius looks like a nice device with subtle upgrades. UI looks good. The notification light is cool. Dedicated camera button is nice. Power button is awesome. I’ll wait for the Snapdragon 805 before considering an upgrade though. I am very happy with my Xperia Ultra C6833. Also looking forward to a Vaio phone for Windows.
    Sidenote: I wish Sony would release an official magnetic charging cable for Xperia devices. I hate pulling out the tab for the USB cable plus it wears out easily.

  • Damian Wayne

    I just got the 4.3 update to my ZL and it’s FANTASTIC. So fast, so fluid, beautiful animated and with just enough “skin” to stand out but not feel bogged down. As an added bonus, the walkman app is awesome, especially for Music Unlimited subscribers like myself. I really love Sony’s ecosystem under Kaz and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for the Z1 Pro.