The smartphone market is changing everyday. Even a few months old Flagship device from a cell phone manufacturer
is getting replaced by a new Flagship by the same manufacturer. The cell phone manufacturers are releasing two or more flagship devices in a year. Now, you can see how volatile the smartphone market has become.
But, there is no need to worry. We are here to help you. We have carefully scrutinized all the best of the best smartphones in the market and categorized in this Top 10 Smartphones of 2014 for you. One should have a look before going to make a final decision on their next smartphone.
Let’s check the “Top 10 Best Smartphones of 2014”-
10. Motorola Moto X
Moto X is a flagship Android smartphone developed and manufactured by Motorola Mobility.
Moto X was met with mostly positive reviews, with particular praise towards its hardware design, Motorola’s new approach to customizing Android, along with its suite of contextual features, and the influence of its “mainstream” targeting on its overall performance, user experience, and battery life.
9. Apple iPhone 5S
The iPhone 5S is a revised version of its predecessor, iPhone 5. The phone maintains a very similar design to its predecessor, aside from the introduction of a new home button design using a laser-cut sapphire cover surrounded by a metallic ring, Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system built directly into the home button which can be used to unlock the phone and authenticate Store and iTunes Store purchases, and an updated camera with a larger aperture and a dual-LED flash optimized for different color temperatures. It also introduced the A7 dual-core processor, the first 64-bit processor to be used on a smartphone
8. Nokia Lumia 1020
The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a Windows Phone 8 smartphone developed by Nokia, first unveiled on 11 July 2013 at a Nokia event at New York. It contains Nokia’s Pure-View technology, a pixel oversampling (a data binning technique) that reduces an image taken at full resolution into a lower resolution picture, thus achieving higher definition and light sensitivity, and enables loss-less zoom. It improves on Nokia’s previous versions of PureView by coupling a new 41-megapixel 2/3-inch BSI sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS), and a high resolution f/2.2 all-aspherical 1-group Carl Zeiss lens.
7. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has a 4.3 inch display and is released as a cheaper and smaller version of the Xperia Z1 which features a 5 inch display.
Like its larger sibling, the Z1 Compact is waterproof and dust proof, and has an IP rating of IP55 and IP58. The key highlight of the Z1 Compact is the 20.7 megapixel camera, paired with Sony’s in-house G lens and its image processing algorithm called, BIONZ. The phone also comes with dedicated shutter button and has an aluminum uni body design, with a glass front and plastic rear.
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 serves as a successor to the Galaxy Note II, the Note 3 was designed to have a lighter, more upscale design than previous iterations of the Galaxy Note series (with a plastic leather backing and faux metallic bezel), and to expand upon the stylus and multitasking-oriented functionality in its software—which includes a new navigation wheel for pen-enabled apps, along with pop-up apps and expanded multi-window functionality. Samsung has sold 5 million units of the Galaxy Note 3 within its first month of sale and broke 10 million units sales in just 2 months.
5. LG Nexus 5
The Nexus 5 is a the successor to the Nexus 4, the device is the fifth smartphone in the Google Nexus series, a family of Android consumer devices marketed by Google and built by an original equipment manufacturer partner. The Nexus 5 was unveiled on 31 October 2013, and released in black and white colors the same day for online purchase on Google Play, in selected countries.
The Nexus 5’s hardware is similar to that of the LG G2, with a Snapdragon 800 system-on-chip (SoC), and a 4.95-inch 1080p display. The Nexus 5 is also the first device to feature version 4.4 of Android.
4. Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S5 is successor to 2013’s Galaxy S4. As with the S4, the S5 is an evolution of the prior year’s model, placing a particular emphasis on an improved build with a textured rear cover and IP67 certification for dust and water resistance, a more refined user experience, new security features such as a fingerprint reader and private mode, expanded health features (such as a built-in heart rate monitor), and an updated camera.
The Galaxy S5 received mixed, but mostly positive reviews; while praised for the improvements to its design, display, software, and camera, the S5 was panned for only providing modest design and hardware improvements over its predecessors, continuing to suffer from feature creep, and its fingerprint sensor was criticized for being too inconvenient to operate.
3. LG G3
LG G3 is a successor to 2013’s G2.The new model retains design elements from the G2, such its thin screen bezels and rear-mounted power and volume buttons, but is also distinguished primarily by its 5.5 in (140 mm)quad HD display, a refreshed hardware design that is intended to give the device a more premium look and feel, and a user interface designed to provide a simpler experience for users.
2. Sony Xperia Z2
The Sony Xperia Z2 is a successor to the Sony Xperia Z1. Like its predecessor, the Xperia Z2 is water and dust proof with an IP rating of IP55 and IP58. The phone features a new display, a Snapdragon 801 processor and the ability to record 4K videos. The Xperia Z2 also allows removable microSD storage.
Sony Xperia Z2 is the most premium phone available in the market today. If you want quality and premium device Sony Xperia Z2 is a way to go.
1. HTC One M8
The HTC One (M8) retains a similar design to the first generation HTC One, but features a larger, rounded chassis incorporating a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core QualcommSnapdragon 801 processor, a depth of field sensor which can be used to individually refocus and apply various effects to the foreground and background elements of photos taken with the device’s camera, a higher resolution front camera, improvements to the device’s front-facing stereo speakers, expandable storage, new gesture functionality, and a refreshed version of HTC’s Sense software.
The Xperia Z Ultra’s huge 6.44in screen blurs the line between a smartphone and a tablet (aka phablet).
Sony’s new Xperia Z Ultra is yet another Android phone that blurs the line between a smartphone and a tablet. The company claims the 6.4in smartphone is the world’s slimmest with a full HD display, measuring just 6.5mm thick.
At almost 180mm tall and over 92mm wide, the Xperia Z Ultra will immediately become one of the largest devices on the market. Its size is comparable to Samsung’s Galaxy Mega 6.3, so it’s much larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note II, and even the 6.1inHuawei Ascend Mate. Take a look at The top 10 best Android tablets of 2013 too.
The Xperia Z Ultra appears to follow a similar design to Sony’s Xperia Z smartphone and the Xperia Tablet Z. It’s a long rectangle shape with flat sides, square corners and a sheet of tempered glass on both the front and the back. All that extra size means the Xperia Z Ultra weighs 212g, which is heavier than the Galaxy Mega 6.3.
The Xperia Z Ultra is completely waterproof, not just water resistant.
Perhaps the best design feature of the Xperia Z Ultra is the fact that it is waterproof, not just water resistant. The phone will handle water and dust to IP55 and IP58 standards, which is an upgrade over Sony’s previous water resistant devices. See: What’s the best phone you can buy in 2013?
The Xperia Z Ultra is a top end phone that is likely to retail for a top end price, so it’s specifications are certainly impressive, at least on paper. It has a 6.4in, full HD “Triluminos” display which is Sony’s fancy marketing term for a new technology that claims to display a wider palette of colours.
The phone is powered by Qualcomm’s new 2.2GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, has 2GB of RAM, and includes 16GB of internal memory. A microSD card slot handles extra storage, while the phone is also 4G capable and will therefore work on all Australian networks.
Sony says the Xperia Z Ultra’s handwriting recognition feature will work with any regular pencil or pen.
Like Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, the Xperia Z Ultra comes with a stylus that allows users to write and sketch on the screen. However, Sony says the handwriting recognition feature will work with any regular pencil or pen, provided the tip diameter is over 1mm.
The Xperia Z Ultra comes with an 8-megapixel rear facing camera with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor but the company has surprisingly omitted an LED flash. The phone’s waterproof capabilities means you can film full HD videos underwater, and there’s also HDR for both still photos and videos, along with a front-facing 2-megapixel camera that handles video calls.
Other features include a large 3050mAh battery and NFC-connectivity, though the battery is not removable.
The Xperia Z Ultra will be available in black, white, and purple colour variants.
The Xperia Z Ultra comes with Google’s latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean software but is once again skinned with Sony’s own UI. The Battery Stamina mode feature seen on the Xperia Z is also present here. It prevents applications from running when the screen is locked, therefore saving power.
The Xperia Z Ultra will be available in black, white, and purple colour variants. Sony says the phone will launch globally from Q3 2013.
What do you think? Please, leave your comments below.
The Sony Xperia L was launched back in March, and the handset is now available in some European countries through Sony’s official Sony Mobile Store, the device is now available in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The Sony Xperia L is powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and processing comes in the form of a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with a clock speed of 1GHz, there is also 1GB of RAM.
Other specifications on the Sony Xperia L include 8GB of built in storage, plus a microSD card slot that can take up to 32GB cards, the device also comes with a 4.3 inch FWVGA display with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixel.
The Sony Xperia L features an 8 megapixel camera with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor, and it also comes with 8GB of built in storage, plus NFC and it will be available in a choice of black, white or red.
The Sony Xperia L will also be available in the UK from tomorrow from a number of online retailers, the SIM free version of the Xperia L will retail for around £228 including taxes, you can find out more details over at Clove.
Sony Xperia ZR comes with a 13MP camera that is capable of capturing photos under water.
Sony’s latest smartphone comes with a 13MP camera that is capable of capturing photos under water. The all-new Xperia ZR, the newest entrant in the Japanese manufacturer’s smartphone portfolio, comes with IP55 and IP58 certifications, making it waterproof (can withstand 1.5metre depth up to 30 minutes) as well as dustproof.
The new SonyXperiaZR has a 4.55-inch TFT HD Reality Display with 1280x720p resolution and 322ppi pixel density. It runs on Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and packs a 1.5GHz quadcoreSnapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB RAM under the hood. Onboard is 8GB storage, along with microSD card-based expansion up to 32GB.
On the back of the phone is a 13MP camera with LED flash, whereas a VGA front camera is in front. Connectivity options in the new phone are 2G, 3G, 4G (market specific), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB 2.0 and NFC. It is powered by a 2,300mAh battery and comes with Battery Stamina Mode to improve standby time.
XperiaZR’s display features Mobile Bravia Engine 2 technology as well as OptiContrast panel. This eliminates the need of an extra touchscreen layer by integrating the touch sensors on the panel, making the phone slimmer. The screen also features a shatterproof sheet to make it resistant to breaking in case of a fall. Features for sound enhancement in the phone are 3D Surround Sound, ClearAudio+ mode and xLoud Experience.
Display: 4.55-inch TFT HD Reality Display with 1280x720p resolution and 322ppi pixel density; Operating system: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean); Processor: 1.5GHz quad-core CPU; RAM: 2GB RAM; Storage: 8GB internal storage, 32GBmicroSD support; Connectivity: 2G, 3G, 4G (market specific), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB 2.0 and NFC; Camera: 13MP rear camera with LED flash, VGA front unit; and Battery: 2,300mAh
Sony has announced the younger sibling to the Xperia Z: the Xperia ZR. The Xperia ZR includes many of the Z’s features in a smaller, more compact design.
Just like the Xperia Z, the Xperia ZR is waterproof and dust-resistant. This time, Sony is not just advertising the fact that the Xperia ZR can survive underwater but that you can actually use it there, particularly for taking 13 megapixel pictures and full HD videos with the camera and dedicated shutter button.
The Xperia ZR has a 4.55-inch, 1280 x 720 resolution LCD. Sony is using its BRAVIA Engine 2, along with something called OptiContrast panel. This basically gets rid of the extra touchscreen layer by integrating the touch sensor on the panel itself, which improves image quality and makes the display assembly thinner.
Other features include a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8064, 2GB RAM, 8GB internal memory with microSD card slot and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
The Sony Xperia ZR is expected to go on sale around the world in Q2, 2013.
With a cutting-edge camera, a super-slim design and the ability to withstand life’s knocks and bumps (and Android Jelly Bean to boot) the Xperia Z is a phone that’s got us fired up about Sony Mobile again.
Earlier handsets such as the Sony Xperia S and Sony Xperia T were extremely promising from a brand striking out on its own – but it’s with the Xperia Z that Sony is really banking on making a cataclysmic dent in the makeup of the smartphone market.
If you don’t believe us, just look at its marketing hype – Valentine’s Day saw ads on several, consecutive pages of major newspapers in the UK and you can’t pass a billboard without seeing it in glorious Technicolor, accompanied by a strong statement that Sony has “reinvented the phone.”
And the early signs it will do so are promising: a quad-core 1.5GHz Snaprdragon Krait processor, 13MP camera, 16GB storage (expandable, woohoo!), 2GB RAM, water and dust-resistant, 1080p HD screen with Bravia Engine, LTE, to name a few. You couldn’t make this stuff up – this is the company that had a part in theSatio, after all.The Android Jelly Bean-toting (albeit only 4.1) Sony Xperia Z comes with some of the best specs on the market – and it’s one of the most eagerly awaited handsets of recent months. Launching before the HTC One orSamsung Galaxy S4, Sony is clearly hoping to steal an early march on its competitors.
Though maybe we are overestimating it, viewing the Sony Xperia Z through geek-tinted goggles – because while we were blown away, others came out with the line that Sony will be hoping doesn’t cross too many punters’ lips: “looks like every other smartphone out there though, doesn’t it?”
One thing the Sony Xperia Z certainly does have in common with every other smartphone out there is the fact that it is a pure magnet for fingerprints. You’ll struggle to keep it clean all day long without either surgical gloves or a can of Mr Sheen in your bag.
As is fast becoming the norm, you can expect to pick the Sony Xperia Z up in white too. On top of that, O2 in the UK is exclusively offering a purple variant.
If you’re coming from something like a Samsung Galaxy S3, it’ll feel similar, if a little larger, in terms of size: the Sony Xperia Z rocks in at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm/5.47 x 2.79 x 0.31 inches, so there’s little room for anything else in your hands.
Coming from something smaller like, say, an iPhone 5, you’ll certainly notice the difference. But it’s amazing how quickly you’ll adapt.
At 146g/5.15oz, it’s by no means the lightest handset out there – but the Sony Xperia Z exudes a heftiness that belies a quality device. It’s on a par with Apple’s offering when it comes to the thickness.
The front of theSony Xperia Zis minimalist – showing off only a Sony logo and front-facing camera. The rear is a little busier, with various tech info printed on it, plus the Sony Xperia logo, an NFC badge, camera light and the all-important lens. That back is stuck fast – as is becoming the custom, you’ll have no luck if you want to remove the battery.The ports are spread out with the headphone jack up top, the SIM slot and volume rocker on the right – either side of a silver standby button – while both the microSD and charging ports are on the left, alongside contacts for accessories. A watertight port covers each.
Turn it on, and you’re not disappointed. Coming from the blackness, the 5-inch screen springs into life. Whether or not you’ll like it is down to personal choice.
Some who’ve used the Sony Xperia Z describe the screen as a disappointment because Sony has gone for TFT – albeit with 1080 x 1920 pixels, giving a pixel density of 441ppi, which would explain why it looks a bit washed out. If you’ve come from a Super AMOLED screen you’ll definitely feel the difference.
We’re still fans – this is a razor sharp display from one of the world’s premier screen manufacturers, although it doesn’t have the wow factor of the HTC One’s Super LCD 3 screen.
The only thing that lets it down is viewing angles – if you look at the Sony Xperia Z’s screen, dead on, it’s sharp enough. If you look at it from the side, it has a strange ability to look incredibly washed out. It’s no huge problem – but it does mean the impressiveness of the screen is diminished compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One.
Clearly, you’ll need to make sure the ports are covered using those watertight protectors, that much goes without saying.One of the selling points of the Sony Xperia Z is that it is also water resistant. There’s something slightly unnerving about taking a £529 phone and dropping it in the sink – but that’s exactly what we did. And it worked absolutely fine.
And here’s some more good news: the price of the Sony Xperia Z is dropping quite quickly, already making it cheaper than the likes of the HTC One and could soon sneak under the £30 contract mark for a half-decent whack of minutes.
While it’s actually the same price as the comparable SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5, the cost is now closing in on the iPhone 4S on PAYG, so we can’t help but feel the Xperia Z is finding its natural pricing level.
Sony’s come out here with a very strong message: we are back and we mean business. There’s no hint of this being a niche Android phone, or by any means a cheap one. Sony wants the Xperia Z to be viewed as the handset of choice, the one that will knock Apple off its pedestal and be classed as the Android device.
It’s done this through a design which is, frankly, beautiful. And specs which are, in some ways, unmatched.
But it’s also making a powerful statement by charging so much. And while we can see why, we don’t know if it’s a strategy that will necessarily work.
It has built on the strong heritage of the Walkman and given power users one of the things they often desperately crave – a good battery performance and top speeds.The Sony Xperia Z has incredible specs – from that beautiful screen, to its breathtaking design and powerful innards, there is so much that Sony has got right here.
The design is robust and fits very well in the hand – and despite the fact the 5-inch screen is whopping, the way its integrated into the chassis mitigates that issue well. And when you turn on the Full HD screen, well, the clarity is almost mind-melting.
But there’s always got to be a minus, and there are a few with the Sony Xperia Z. For example, the dust resistance is pretty much nothing more than words in our experience, and it does feel like a large slab in the hand.
And while the camera is OK, it’s hardly mind-blowing. The price will still be a little high for some – although we think it’s probably about par for a phone of this power – and we’re annoyed about the trickiness of Mac support. Will it affect a large group of users? No – but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected at all, given the increasing number of people using MacBooks for media purposes.
The Sony Xperia Z has a beautiful design and finally represents an Android smartphone that can be used to show iPhone owners that they’re not necessarily at the top of the heap anymore.There is so much to love about theSony Xperia Z– and while there are some annoyances, they pale in comparison. Yes, we think it’s a bit shoddy that we encountered software bugs, but we suppose they can be fixed easily enough, and they weren’t bad enough that we had crashes or lost data.
The price is just a little too high in our opinion – but rush out a software update to improve the camera and you have a strong contender for smartphone of the year.
The only problem is, by the time that’s happened, the competition from fellow Android manufacturers will have grown even fiercer. For now, for those who can afford it, we recommend it heartily.
The Sony Xperia L is the latest smartphone to slide in at the bottom end of the Japanese firm’s range, launching alongside the mid-range Xperia SP to complete a trio of handsets headlined by the Sony Xperia Z.
It’s the natural replacement for the Xperia J, which launched at IFA 2012 alongside 007’s Sony Xperia T – handsets which bear a strong resemblance to the Xperia L in terms of design.
There’s no exact Sony Xperia L release date for now, all we’ve been told is that it will arrive during the second quarter of the year. The price has also been confirmed: £229 SIM free, but we’re waiting for the contract prices to turn up.
When we said it borrows design cues from the J and T we weren’t kidding, as it’s difficult to tell the trio apart.
Sony has stuck with the same curved rear made famous by the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc on the Xperia L, instead of cladding it in the straight-edged, glass finish found on the Xperia Z.
A noticeably plastic finish greets you when you pick up the handset, but it feels sturdy and there was little flex in the body – meaning the Xperia L doesn’t feel too cheap.
The curved, soft touch plastic rear does mean the Xperia L sits comfortably in the hand and offers a good level of grip.
It’s a well balanced device and although it may look chunky at the ends, it’s positively slender in the middle measuring in at 130.6 x 67.1 x 9.98mm.
Something which the Sony Xperia L has borrowed from its high powered brother is the distinctive power/lock key located half way down the right hand side of the handset.
Also on the right side is a volume rocker switch and a dedicated camera key, all of which are easy to hit one-handed.
Up top there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack while on the left is a microUSB port.
The front of the Xperia L is dominated by its 4.3-inch FWVGA display with the standard Android keys appearing onscreen instead of below it.
With this is mind we were disappointed about just how much bezel was left under the screen, with the chunky plastic adding what appears to be unnecessary bulk to the phone.
The screen itself is a pretty decent offering, especially if the Xperia L does come in sporting a sub-£200 price tag, with colours appearing vibrant while text and images look pretty sharp.
Of course on closer inspection you’ll be able to define pixels, but with a decent viewing angle and a bright, 854 x 480 resolution it’s difficult to fault it at this price point.
On screen the action is provided by Android Jelly Bean, version 4.1.2, with a 1GHz dual-core processor running the show under the hood.
General navigation is snappy and we were able to move swiftly through homescreens, of which you can have up to seven, and dive in and out of the app list without too much hassle.
The responsive touchscreen means the Xperia L doesn’t have trouble registering your various pokes and prods, which also helps to enhance the user experience.
Sony has applied its own layer of gloss to Jelly Bean, with its a homescreen editor function allowing you to quickly and easily manage your widgets, apps and shortcuts as well as changing the phone’s theme and wallpaper – making it that bit more personal. Lovely.
The custom user interface also sees the addition of the handy quick settings toggles in the pull down notification bar, allowing you to control things such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC without having to dive into the full blown menus.
Applications aren’t quite as speedy though, with most taking a second or two to load up with more demanding apps such as the camera sometimes taking even longer to sort themselves out.
We never encountered a drastic delay, but it is a contrast to the relatively fluid app list and homescreens.
The keyboard is relatively basic but this isn’t a bad thing at is allows for well spaced keys and acceptable next word prediction resulting in us typing pretty quickly.
In terms of photographic ability Sony has equipped the Xperia L with an impressive 8MP rear facing camera which also boasts a single LED flash, 720p video recording and HDR and panorama modes.
You also get a front facing VGA quality snapper on the front of the Xperia L, but it’s the offering round the back which helps the handset stand out from the competition.
As we’ve mentioned the camera app isn’t the quickest which can be a little frustrating, espeically if you’re trying to nab a quick pic – with a tardy auto-focus not helping either.
The inclusion of a dedicated camera key on the right of the handset means it easier to access the application and snap photos, as you don’t have to mess about with the on screen shutter.
Pictures were acceptable but we weren’t blown away with the quality, although to be fair the Sony Xperia L we were in an oddly lit location which probably didn’t help things.
You can whip the rear cover of the Xperia L off, but do this carefully as the case is hooked over the top and bottom of the device and a sudden application of brute force could spell the end of the plastic case.
The rear cover is available in three colours; black, white and red, with the white version of the handset also sporting the same coloured finish on the front.
Under the cover you’ll find a microSD slot and a removable 1,750mAh battery. Pop the battery out and there’s access to the SIM card slot too.
Sony has squeezed 8GB of internal storage into the Xperia L, although only 5.5GB is free, so you may be grateful for the microSD option.
As this is a Sony handset it also comes with the firm’s various bells and whistle in terms of pre-installed apps (or bloatware, depending on your views).
There are dedicated Walkman, Album and Movies applications plus Sony’s Music and Video unlimited streaming services are also plonked onto the Xperia L.
If you’re a fan of gaming then you’ll be pleased to learn the Xperia L also supports PlayStation games via the PlayStation Mobile app.
Sadly there was no content pre-loaded onto the handsets we go hands on with, so we were unable to test out its media capabilities.
We also lacked a web connection which meant we couldn’t surf the internet, but we did note the Xperia L only has the Chrome browser – no stock Android offering in sight.
The early signs are positive for the Sony Xperia L which brings a decent set of features to the bottom end of the market and although it won’t be as cheap as the likes of the ZTE Blade 3, Huawei Ascend G330 and Nokia Lumia 520, it will still register as affordable for a lot of people.
Generally it copes with everything pretty well and while there is a hint of slow down every now and then that’s expected from cheaper handsets.
We look forward to getting the Sony Xperia L in for a full review to see how well it handles media and the world wide web – we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Sony’s Xperia series of Android smartphones is slowly but surely gaining momentum as newer models in all price brackets are beginning to flood the market. The latest is the Xperia L handset that’s all set to replace the Neo L, the successor to the Neo V. A lot has changed since then and specifications and features that were once considered brilliant for this price segment does not hold any ground today. Let’s hope Sony has kept that in mind when designing the Xperia L.
OS – Android 4.1 with Sony’s custom skin The Xperia L will ship with Jelly Bean 4.1 out of the box along with Sony’s custom skin. The handset should also be easily upgradable to 4.2 down the road. The UI should be very similar to the one’s we’ve seen on the Xperia Z and ZL.
Cellular connectivity – 3G but no LTE There really aren’t any smartphones available today in this price bracket or lower that don’t support 3G. The lack of LTE isn’t much of a downer as many of the high-end phones launched in India lack LTE support too.
Slim and sleek design
Display – 4.3-inch TFT LCD Here’s where Sony would have to really fight for its right to be taken seriously. With devices like the Micromax Canavs HD and the XOLO X1000, both of which have HD displays, the Xperia L falls a bit short in this respect. There’s nothing wrong with the size of the screen as larger screen devices are more cumbersome to handle, but the lack of BRAVIA Mobile Engine could be an issue.
Form factor – Definitely an upgrade from the Neo L Taking its cue from the Arc, the concave back of the handset should make it easy to grip. While Sony seemed to think that a completely flat rear surface would be ideal (see Xperia Z), the curved nature also adds a little finesse to the overall design of the handset. The protruding power/sleep button is all chromed out and adds a touch of class and ease of accessibility to the form of this slim handset. The subtle light indicator at the bottom of the device is also a good idea. Overall, we feel it’s a big step up from the down right plasticky Neo L.
Connectivity – Fully loaded The Xperia L features dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Hotspot creation, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, NFC and USB 2.0. GLONASS for navigation will be sorely missed though.
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 400 Loaded up with a dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz, 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU, speed shouldn’t be a problem. However, once again, lower priced options with quad-core processors like the Canvas HD are available. We’ll have more to say once we’ve run benchmarks on the Xperia L and compared them to those of the lower priced devices.
Internal storage – 8GB, further expandable You’re provisioned with 8GB of internal storage on the Xperia L, out of which about 5.8GB is available for users. This can be further enhanced with the use of microSD cards going up to 32GB in capacity. That’s quite a bit for all intents and purposes.
The camera is the main USP of the L
Cameras – 8MP shooter with HDR video The Xperia L’s main selling point is the camera. The 8MP shooter supports HDR for stills as well as video, just like the Xperia Z. While this is all fine and dandy, we don’t understand why Sony has limited the video recording to just 720p. Most phones in this price range can easily manage 1080p video, so why cap it knowing the SoC can handle it? This is one area which could be a make or break for most buyers. The front-facing camera is also a disappointment. The Xperia L still uses a VGA sensor when the rest of the world has moved onto 1.3MP and above.
Sensors – Only proximity, compass and accelerometer The Xperia L is missing a Gyroscope, but everything else is present.
Battery – 1750 mAh Li-ion battery The battery has been bumped up to 1750 mAh capacity, which, given the resolution, should easily last you for an entire day.
The bottom line Sony’s new Xperia L is definitely not as exciting as its higher-end cousin, the SP. If phones like the Canvas HD, Galaxy Grand and the XOLO X1000 didn’t exist, then yes, the L would have been a very good option. But sadly, that’s not the case. The L certainly has better aesthetics as compared to its predecessor, but it’s far from perfect. At its expected launch price, there are not one but several gaping holes in the specifications list that stick out like a sore thumb. The screen is the most disappointing part. Not only is it not HD, it also lacks the BRAVIA treatment. The lack of full HD recording will also be missed and we could have done without NFC and taken GLONASS instead. We just hope that Sony soon drops the price of the L like it did with the SP, else it’s going to be a tough sell.
With Sony getting out of the blocks early, it’s one of the first companies in 2013 to reveal its wider portfolio of devices. The Sony Xperia SP technically slips into what we’d traditionally call the mid-range, but with specs matching 2012’s flagship devices, the Sony Xperia SP doesn’t lack power.
That’s a huge positive, because it means you get a great experience from a device that’s now perhaps £200 cheaper than it might have been 12 months ago. But is there really any space for this sort of device, lacking the glory of the top spot and falling well into the long shadow of the excellent Sony Xperia Z?
The Sony Xperia SP mashes together the S and P names and in theory brings together elements of those forebears, mainly with the specs of the S and the aluminium design of the P, together with the translucent strip design common to the S, P and U Xperia devices of early-2012. However, the design has taken something of a departure, because although this phone carries an aluminium frame, the back is a conventional clip-on plastic shell which can be removed to give you access to the important SD and SIM card slots, but that’s all.
In reality, the contrast is rather nice. You have the solidity of that metal frame, cool to the touch around the sides, then the warmth and tactile feel of the plastic back, providing some grip against your fingers to make it a little more secure in the hand. The angles of the sides provide plenty of grip too, the high points fitting into the joints of your digits to ensure that this handset isn’t going to go flying from your grasp. Measuring 130.6 x 67.1 x 9.98mm, it isn’t too large, but the 155g weight is pushing up towards the top end: it weighs more than the larger Xperia Z or HTC One, for example.
But the biggest design feature isn’t the choice of materials, it’s the inclusion of the illuminated bar across the bottom of the phone. This replaces the notification LED, giving you coloured flashes when you have a message, as well as changing colours when viewing photos – rather like Philips’ Ambilight TV technology. It brings a dash of colour to what you’re doing and it is a bit of fun, although we found that flashing can be a bit too much, especially at night, when an email alert may well end up illuminating your whole bedroom. We’re sure it will appeal to some; for us, a simple LED notification will do, but that’s personal choice. The physical controls are placed around the device in typical Sony fashion, with a central power/standby button on the right-hand side, along with the volume rocker and a dedicated camera button, which can be used to launch the camera directly from locked.
All on display
Encased within the somewhat quirky design are a set of display specs that are altogether more solid. There’s a 4.6-inch display on the front, with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, giving you an impressive 319ppi pixel density. The result is a nice sharp display and plenty of space for Android to show off its talents. Of course the resolution has now been bettered by those Full HD displays, with the likes of the HTC One being fractionally larger, but plenty sharper. Considering that the price is a step down though, the Xperia SP serves you well, although you will need to accept that the viewing angles aren’t brilliant.
The display itself is good, but not the best out there. The auto-brightness seems to be a little reluctant to react, often needing a prompt to get a perfect level. You’ve also got Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2 included, that will boost colours to give you more-vibrant images. It works, but can result in the photos you take looking a little better on your device than they do when you share them with friends. But our biggest gripe about the device is that we’ve spent our time constantly trying to clean smears off it. The Xperia SP is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass, but it seems to spend more time being smeary than any other device we’ve used recently.
Hardware and performance
Driving the Xperia SP is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, clocked at 1.7GHz, and backed by 1GB of RAM. It isn’t the latest generation of processor, nor is it the most powerful and that’s somewhat reflected in the experience. Although the SP is pretty fast, it lacks the snap that the latest devices give you, but given the device’s positioning, we’re happy with that, and it will set about your Android tasks with relative ease. There’s 8GB of internal storage, of which 5.37GB is available, although you can add up to 32GB via microSD card. In terms of physical connections, the Xperia SP has a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top and a Micro-USB supporting MHL on the left-hand side. On the wireless front, this is available as a 4G LTE handset in some markets, and you have all the wireless wizardry you’d expect, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, DLNA support and so on.
The whole thing is powered by a 2300mAh battery, which is pretty impressive considering the level of this device. We’re pleased to see that Sony Mobile didn’t opt for a lesser capacity, as the SP really needs that to power this hardware. Typically, the phone will make it through the day and we found that we’d get through 12 hours fairly easily. On light days we had no problems at all. It used to be the case that “mid-range” devices did well when it came to battery performance because of the lower specs. In the case of the Xperia SP, that’s not really the case. However, there are also a lot of smart options for managing the battery. As we found with the Sony Xperia Z, you can customise how the phone behaves with a stamina mode. This will let you say exactly what elements of the device are shut off when the level dips below a certain figure – 30 per cent by default. You can turn off background data, but cleverly you can nominate those apps you want to stay connected. That means, for example, you could keep WhatsApp active for your social connections, but let all your Google syncing go quiet when the battery gets low. You also get hardware controls, so you can easily manage the endurance of your device when the battery level gets critical. The result is that the Sony Xperia SP is a good performer on the battery. Sure, push it hard and the battery will drain itself in 6 hours or so, but with sensible use, the SP will see you through the day easily enough and Sony’s smart battery management options really work well, with all the flexibility we want. The call quality of the Sony Xperia SP is good and there were no complaints from callers when using the phone. We also found the reception to be pretty good, with a good strong signal in places that some phone struggle with on our test network. The external speaker is located on the back of the phone and isn’t great. It sounds rather tinny and there are certainly phones that give a much better account of themselves when being used for music and movies with the external speaker.
The Sony Xperiance
Sony’s customisation of Android is now at a level where it doesn’t inhibit much of what you love about Android. Some of the distractions of Xperia devices of old have been moved aside, so there’s no longer any Timescape or Mediascape, but there’s still a fair quantity of bundled apps and services. But thanks to support for folders in the apps tray on this Android 4.1.2 (at launch) device, you can easily move any number of apps you don’t want into a folder. While we’d much prefer to be able to remove them, at least you can hide them away easily. There are some superficial changes to the calendar that we don’t think really add anything over the stock Android offering and although Sony has added a great deal to its keyboard, we still don’t think it stands up against Swiftkey or the new Swype, which we used predominantly on this phone. But Sony is sticking to some core Android elements. Chrome is the browser you’re supplied with out of the box, rather than having some other customised browser getting in the way. We like that approach, just as we like that Sony follows the Nexus line and eschews capacitive buttons in favour of on-screen icons for device control, which can be dimmed when you dive into things like movies, making for a nice, clean experience.
Perhaps the integration of your social networks – Facebook and Twitter – could be a little better, as it’s all too easy to lose an update you share via Twitter for Xperia for example, but as we found with the Xperia Z, Sony’s user interface has reached a point where it feels right. We did find a few quirks however. The camera seems to slow things down a lot. Launching the camera takes longer than expected, moving into previews feels slow, and returning to the camera once you’ve viewed a shot takes even longer. It’s almost as though there’s too much going on, which may well be the case. We also found the returning to the home screen sometimes left us with lots of blank spaces where there should be app shortcuts or folders, as though the SP was lagging behind what you were asking it to do. With the power on offer, this shouldn’t be the case, so perhaps points to something in the software that needs fixing. Not a deal breaker, by any means, but it detracts slightly from the package.
Photos, movies and music
Sony being Sony, it wants to own the entertainment space. Where you really feel the impact of its tinkering is in the entertainment apps. That means that visually, as well as operationally, things like the Gallery, here called Album, change dramatically. One of the things we like about Sony’s Album is the zooming to change the view of photos, a feature Sony has offered over a couple of generations of Android smartphones. It’s great to be able to zoom in and out of the whole album view and watch everything rearrange itself.
You also get in-built editing options, so you can add common effects like Lomo, change the saturation of a picture, crop, rotate, change highlights, shadows and a whole host of other things, so if the picture you snap isn’t looking its best, you can easily make some changes. The Movies app is something of an oddball as it doesn’t give you all your movies, like those from the camera, which are accessed through the normal album. Movies will, however, pull together those videos you sideload, as well as those you might buy through Sony’s Movies Unlimited, but not those you download from Google Play. Movie playback looks good head-on, although the display’s viewing angles will see the colour drop out if you lie it down flat. There’s good native support for a range of different file formats, however, as well as integrated support to share content or access content on a media server. We’re still not totally sold on the music app. Even though it sports the Walkman branding, the home page for the music app feels a little antiquated with the top section given over to the depiction of a record player. When it comes to finding and playing your music we don’t have a problem with it, and the sound quality is pretty good through a decent set of headphones, with various enhancements available to tweak the sound to your liking.
Sony packs a huge amount of functionality into the camera of an Xperia handset. The Xperia SP has an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 0.3-megapixel camera on the front. The rear is supported by an LED flash and as we’ve mentioned, there’s a dedicated camera button. This button will let you launch the camera to get into snapping straight away. There are various options for its function, but we suspect that to launch the camera will be the most popular. It launches in a fast capture mode, basically in fully automatic, and seems blighted by inaccurate focusing. The majority of pictures we took via this method didn’t come out well, so its use is limited.
We also don’t like the “superior auto” mode. It limits your options and doesn’t seem to give you the superior return you might expect given the name, so it’s best to head into the normal shooting mode and tweak things to your liking to get the best results. But the Sony Xperia SP suffers with noise, both in low light conditions and in good conditions, with blue skies turning speckled on a fine day, even with a reported ISO of 50. These shots are fine for sharing where the viewing size will probably hide those imperfections, but it’s not the best performer out there.
The slightly misleading thing about the Xperia SP, as with the Xperia Z, is that the Mobile Bravia 2 option often makes these pictures look better on screen than they actually are. That’s fine for showing to your friends on the phone, but fire them to your TV and they lack some of the punch you might be expecting. The front-facing camera isn’t great either. Its low resolution shows, and although it’s not bad at giving nice colourful shots, they’re mostly mushy and lack detail. Full HD video capture is offered and the results from video are pretty good, with continuous autofocus.
The Sony Xperia SP is a good mid-range phone. There’s power and flexibility on board and there’s the performance to back it up, aside from a few minor quirks. The design of the handset is good too with the metal frame giving the SP a nice solid feel. We’re not sold on the flashing bar however, it just seems a little too much at times, especially when you’re lying awake at night, watching it illuminate your bedroom. The camera performance isn’t great. Although there’s a lot on offer, it just doesn’t seem to all come together and give you the good shots you’d sometimes expect, with focusing being the thing that frustrated us the most. However, the Sony Xperia SP is reasonably priced and for that you get a good display and a device that will showcase the fun of Android nicely, with a battery that will get you through the day.