The Sony Xperia Z5 is a great flagship Android phone at a time when great is not enough to mean sales and profits.
Premium phones from brands not called Samsung or Apple struggle to stand out in a crowded market.
Sony hopes the fingerprint reader, camera and extended battery life in its Xperia Z5 will catch your eye. If that doesn’t work, then there’s always the marketing tie-up with the new James Bond Spectre movie.
Samsung and Apple both have fingerprint readers. Neither of them match Sony’s claim of two-day battery life, but that needs taking with a pinch of salt: electronic goods companies’ promises are often over-optimistic in this department.
Which brings us to the camera. On paper the Xperia Z5 camera has a higher specification than you’ll find in a Samsung or Apple phone.
The Xperia Z5 has a 23-megapixel Sony Exmor sensor. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 also uses an Exmor sensor, but there are just 16 megapixels. The iPhone 6S has a 12-megapixel sensor.
A high number of megapixels isn’t always an advantage. It can mean individual sensors are smaller and get less light. The Xperia Z5’s 23 megapixels is far more than you need for most images, but it does make for worthwhile 5x digital zoom and practical oversampling.
Sony has solid experience with cameras and that shows as much in the software as the hardware.
At the phone launch in Auckland I got to play with the camera. Images showed great colour even in the poor light conditions during the product demonstrations. Focusing is fast, that’s immediately noticeable. We didn’t have time or suitable conditions to test the flash.
Although the Xperia Z5 gets good still pictures, that’s now par for the course with premium phones. I can’t think of any flagship phone I’ve seen in recent years that takes bad photos.
A first sight, the Z5 shoots still pictures that are as good as you’ll get from an iPhone or Galaxy phone. When it comes to shooting video, the Xperia Z5 is a cut about the competition.
Software reduces camera shake for beautiful, clear moving images. The camera can record 4K video, but that means 1GB of data for every three minutes so you’ll need to use the SD card slot to store your movies.
One other feature that may tempt you to choose a Xperia Z5 over, say, a Samsung Galaxy or iPhone, is the built-in noise-cancelling technology. You have to spend another NZ$75 for proprietary ear buds to use the feature, but that’s a fraction of the NZ$400 or so you might pay for noise-cancelling headphones. It’s also a lot more convenient as there is no need for an extra power pack.
Sony has avoided the trap Samsung falls into and kept the Android software overlay to a minimum. I discussed this with the product manager who said the decision was in part to make it easy for customers to get future Android software upgrades.
Sony Xperia Z5 Spark exclusive
In New Zealand the Sony Xperia Z5 is a Spark exclusive. It sells for NZ$1200 outright and is also available on a plan.
There are two other Xperia Z5 models. The NZ$1000 Z5 compact is the same phone with a smaller 4.6 inch screen in place of the Z5’s 5.2 inch display. Spark sells it in New Zealand, but it’s not an exclusive.
At the time of writing Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium is not officially on sale in New Zealand. It has a larger 5.5 inch 4K display, which boasts more than 800 pixels per inch. That’s far more than the eye can see, but you might plug the phone into a 4K display.
All three Sony Xperia Z5 phones are waterproof. They also all have fingerprint scanners on the side under the power button, not the front of the case. I’m told this means more room is given over to the display and that the fingerprint site makes the phone easier to use.
Overall, the Sony Xperia Z5 phones are excellent alternatives to Samsung and Apple models. They are the most competitive Sony phones to date. Sony offers interesting differences, especially noise cancelling audio. There’s enough here to tempt Android fans away from Samsung, at least for the next six months.
- I asked the Sony product manager and found that doesn’t mean you can kill people with one of these phones. ↩