Archive | April 2013

A week with the Z

The CES 2013 event certainly raised some eyebrows in the mobile phone world and fuelled the expectations of consumers with Sony’s announcement of the Xperia Z. Having had a patchy first year with their foray into mobiles, Sony came out with guns blazing – the Z is a statement of intent.

Launching on Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) software. The key feature of the phone is its Ingress Protection Rating, making it dust protected, water-jet protected, and waterproof in up to one meter of water for up to thirty minutes. Not to mention a 5-inch, full HD 1080p screen, a 1.5GHz quad-core processor AND a 13.1MP Exmor RS camera sensor. It’s safe to say the Z crams a lot into its frame and is completely handy come bath time if you want to watch telly but are ham-handed!

I finally managed to get my hands on a Z on April 12th and although my first post about the handset was a scathing grumble about the WiFi issues I and countless other users have been facing, the week with the phone has been more pleasing.

For starters, it’s easy on the eye. For a phone this size you would expect it to be bulky, maybe even bordering on cumbersome. But as Sony have proved countless times before, they are the masters of miniaturising components. The phone fits in the hand well and if you’ve got reasonable size hands you should be able to use it, though you may find your thumbs getting a workout as the screen does cover some  impressive acreage. Think of early man in the film 2001, gazing at the monolith – that’s the sort of impression you get when opening the box!

Firing up the phone and browsing through the Sony-skinned JB ROM was something of a revelation, largely thanks to the processing power of quad-core and (finally!) 2GB of RAM this phone eagerly embraces. Even such simple acts like skipping through the app tray are done with such speed – I thought my dual-core S was fast, but this is something else entirely. It’s quicker than quick.

The extra speed comes in handy when using other features of the phone; the camera is now 13MP and has a HDR mode which generates some quite impressive photos. Something Sony have done well with their handsets (apart from the NXT series) is to include a microSD slot. For me, this is where the Nexus series stumbles slightly; with its semi-reliance on cloud services, one can quickly fill the internal memory of a 16GB Nexus 4 and soon find yourself in a quandary, especially if you’re out and about having fun and taking photos and the memory is full. Fail.

Hurrah for Sony then, as the Z has a microSD slot which supports cards up to 64GB in size. The phone already has 16GB of on-board storage, so throw in a 32GB microSD card like I have and suddenly your concerns about storage, unless you’re planning to shoot hours of 1080 video footage, are largely unfounded!

Battery life with a 5-inch, 1080p screen was always going to be something of a concern, though I’m pleased to report the Z handles itself quite well, even without stamina mode activated. I can get through a full 14 hours away from a charger and the phone remains above 60%. I took the phone off charge the other morning and it was 2 hours before the battery ticked down from fully charged – and that was with WiFi active, Advanced WiFi Lock running and listening to about half an hours worth of music, along with some browsing on Chrome.

Make no mistake the Xperia Z has its flaws, the aforementioned WiFi/Netgear conundrum being one of them, but this will be fixed in a future firmware update. Taking that problem out of the equation – especially if you DON’T own a Netgear router – the Xperia Z has a lot going for it and is a serious statement of intent from Sony. If they can continue to produce handsets of this calibre, they should find themselves creeping back up the market share listings in no time.

Woe is Sony

It seems Sony’s string of bad luck with flagship releases continues. It would appear there’s a massive issue with the WiFi on the Xperia Z. Suffering from drop-outs of signal within mere inches of the router, WiFi turning itself off and presenting users with ‘authentication errors’. Not to mention associated problems like DLNA streaming failures from and to the handset and interferences between Bluetooth and WiFi. Forums on XDA and Sony Mobile are flooded with posts about this issue.

Today I’ve left a lengthy post on the Sony Mobile GB Facebook wall which I think reflects my disappointment with this situation:

I’d like some answers please as to why the latest Sony flagship mobile, the Xperia Z, is plagued with problems? I’ve had my Z for little more than 12 hours and have been experiencing severe problems with WiFi dropping out and failing to see media servers linked to my network.

My router is a Netgear DGN1000 and up until yesterday was serving my Xperia S and a Nexus 7 in all manner of WiFi-related matters, including allowing me to access the Sony Homestream media server your parent company has recommended consumers to use.

I understand the latest firmware release .434 is meant to address these issues but after installing this update and doing a complete wipe/factory reset, the problem still prevails.

I am not going to replace my router just accommodate using your phone, when it’s working perfectly well with all other connected devices in my home, so I’d to know what exactly you as a company are planning to do to rectify this appalling situation – and I’d like an answer with some expediency please.

In order to use the phone without any WiFi drop-outs  I’ve been forced to change from the stock Sony firmware to CM10.1, release FXP214. This is at the cost of the camera on the handset, though it should be noted I’ve not completely shot myself in the foot with this change as 10.1 brings Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and an update to the software, FXP215 will be released just a couple hours after writing this post.

At the time of writing, FXP214 has been active on the phone for a couple hours and I’ve also taken the step of installing Advanced WiFi Lock for two main reasons:

1) It forces handsets to keep WiFi active, even in sleep mode. This was an issue that affected early ICS releases and I used it to great extent on the Sony Tablet S, now sadly abandoned to development hell by its makers.

2) It also keeps an eye on WiFi and if there are any drops in WiFi signal – either the phone loses signal or the router drops out – the app automatically switches WiFi off. Two hours in and I’ve not experienced any problems, though the phone still fails to see network media servers. Almost there, but still some work to be done. You win some, you lose some, though on stock Sony the WiFi dropped out within 2 minutes of a full reset and restore. Two. Minutes.

It’s quite the scandal although if I’m going to be truthfully honest, I’d class it as yet another woeful PR nightmare that’s once again incurring the wrath of consumers paying a Sony premium price for a premium Sony product and getting a less than satisfactory experience. Very, very disappointing, especially when the phone has a tremendous amount of potential.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll be spending some time with the stock Sony firmware so I can review the better features of the handset! Stay tuned!