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Living with the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact: Damn, Sony's phones are getting good

JR Raphael | Nov. 25, 2014
Sony's latest flagship phones are like no other devices out there -- and there's a decent chance one of them might be just what you've been looking for.

As a Guy Who Reviews Tons of Android Devices (my official job title), I see a lot of forgettable phones. Phones that are fine but unremarkable -- that get the job done but fail to stand out or make any sort of meaningful lasting impression. 

I've written about this phenomenon before. It's part of something I like to call the "So what?" era of Android phones -- the idea that specs alone are no longer enough and that a phone needssomething special in order to make an impact. Some of the most prominent Android devices fail to achieve that and rely mainly on marketing and brand recognition for success.

Sony's smartphones are different. They're distinctive, they're memorable, and they're enjoyable to use. They're by no means perfect, of course, but believe you me: They get a lot of things right.

I recently spent some time living with Sony's Verizon-only Xperia Z3v and came away pleasantly surprised. The Z3v is a tweaked version of Sony's universal flagship, the Xperia Z3, so I've been living with that phone for the past several days to form a comparison. I've also been spending some time with the Xperia Z3 Compact, which is a sized-down version of the Z3 (got all that?!).

Sony Zperia Z3, Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Reflecting on the Xperia Z3 (left) and Xperia Z3 Compact (right)

The Xperia Z3 is available from T-Mobile in the U.S. for $0 down and a two-year payment plan of $26.25 per month. You can also buy itunlocked directly from Sony for $630. The Z3 Compact, meanwhile, is available only directly from Sonyhere in the States; it'll run you $530 unlocked from the company's online store and should work with either AT&T or T-Mobile.

Let's start with the Z3, because that's easy: It's more or less the same exact phone as the Z3v, only in a thinner and rounder form that feels smaller and more comfortable to hold. The Z3 sheds the Verizon version's sharp angles and goes with a softer approach that makes it less industrial and more approachable. In short, it's the same device in a better body.

Oh yeah: And it doesn't have giant Verizon logos plastered in every possible place.

Those elements aside, the phone carries Sony's trademark design language -- a glass front and back and a flat, boxy shape. The black-colored glass creates a sleek and premium-looking vibe, but it does have its downsides: The surface is a major fingerprint magnet and is perpetually covered in smudges. It's also smooth enough to be slippery at times; the phone randomly slid off a table one night while I was watching TV and fell to the (thankfully carpeted) floor. (Hello, Nexus 4 flashback...)


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