During CES this year, amidst the UHD televisions and streaming game announcements, Sony unveiled its latest smartphone darling: the Xperia Z1 Compact.
At first glance, the device is nothing special: a high-end smartphone in a mid-sized chassis. So what? But there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Until now, manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, LG and others have been satisfied addressing an underserved section of the smartphone market with also-ran hardware — devices that resemble larger, more powerful flagships, but lack the performance and, more importantly, the long-term support, to wholeheartedly recommend.
Motorola was the first company to seemingly break from this trend with the Moto X, though in fairness it addresses both the high-end and mid-range at once, but Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact is the real deal: a high-end smartphone not much larger than the flagships of yesteryear. Back in 2011, when the 4.3-inch Samsung Galaxy S2 was considered oversized and the Galaxy Note a giant, the idea of us talking about a 4.3-inch flagship as retro, or “returning to form,” would have seemed ridiculous. But here we are.
Make no mistake: the Xperia Z1 Compact has not been announced for the Canadian market, and judging from the carriers’ reticence to invest in smaller, lower-margin devices for the premium crowd, it may never be formally available, but it’s a device to look out for. Even the lower-resolution 720p display is good news: it’s the first Sony smartphone to use an IPS display, which means that the disappointing viewing angles of former flagships, notably the Xperia ZL and Z1, are a thing of the past. The rest of the spec sheet is equally wonderful: a modern Snapdragon processor, plenty of RAM, a microSD slot for expandable storage, a 20.7MP camera sensor that actually takes phenomenal photos; a sizeable 2,300mAh battery; and waterproofing.
But it’s Sony’s commitment to updating the Z1 Compact at the same clip as its larger flagships that has us excited. The $499.99 device — sold through Sony’s online portal — will ship with Android 4.3, with an update to KitKat in the weeks following its release. There are countless Android users who would prefer a device easily manipulated in one hand if it meant not having to sacrifice specs; the Xperia Z1 Compact is the first such device.
Let’s hope at least one of the Canadian carriers sees its potential and offers it on contract — the current flock of “minis,” namely the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini and HTC One Mini, are Compromise City — so we don’t have to go to lengths — and we will go to lengths — to import it.