10 February 2016 ~ 1 Comment

Sony Xperia Z3+ is 2016’s best waterproof smartphone


In a recent review of the best smartphones for 2016, as chosen by leading technology critics, the Sony Xperia Z3+ was chosen as the best waterproof smartphone.

It was hardly a surprising choice since Sony has been committed to waterproof phones since the release of the Sony Z in 2013. All their new phones have an IP68 rating meaning that they are both waterproof and dustproof.

The Z3+ is an upgraded version of its predecessor the Z3, with improved specifications, a thinner body and the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. It still retains the same 5.2 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, but has a slimmer and sharper design at 6.9 mm which makes it the thinnest Sony handset, with the same thickness as the iPhone 6.

The new octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, makes for a powerful package with excellent speed. Although not class beating, it certainly competes well with other premier range smartphones. But the processor is also a problem for the Z3+. It is prone to overheat, and at this stage, this means that the phone will often shut down in use when it starts getting to warm. Hopefully, this problem will be addressed in future software releases.

The Xperia Z3+ has 32 GB of onboard storage which can be expanded up to 128 GB via a microSD card. It has all the standard connectivity including 4G LTE support.

One of the features most critics were unanimous in approving was the dedicated camera shutter button. It makes taking photographs easier and the soft press to set focus is a welcome touch. The main camera itself has not changed in this model and is a 20.7 megapixel unit. Image quality, although good, is not exceptional. One feature where Sony stands alone is its commitment to high-quality audio. The Z3+ has unequalled high-res audio.

There are a few problems with the Xperia Z3+ which unfortunately tarnish its otherwise excellent features. The Z3+ is capable of recording video in 4K, but recordings often fail after about 20 seconds due to overheating. The battery is also not good enough for the device. It allows around 3 hours of screen-on time although with lighter use you might be able to eke out power for a day.

The UK version of the Sony Xperia Z3+ is currently available at a 45% discount on the recommended retail price of £549.99. At just £305 SIM-free, it is an exceptionally good phone which is both attractive and durable, as long as Sony can do something about the overheating.

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22 October 2015 ~ 1 Comment

Handsets changing the smartphone landscape in the UK

Something quite interesting has happened over the last months in the smartphone market. Two major brands (Sony and Motorola) and one cheeky upstart (OnePlus) have shown that we can get flagship quality for a reasonable price. The Motorola Moto X Style, Sony Xperia M5, and OnePlus 2 bring high end specs to the party while carrying unlocked price tags south of £350. So, is this a new trend we can expect other manufacturers to follow and will you see that value in contracts with carriers?

To answer the first question, it depends. It is unlikely that Apple is going to come out with a specced out blockbuster that costs £350 to £400, although the rumoured iPhone 6c will still be a premium metal device. Likewise Samsung, the market leader may well think that its Galaxy A7 and Galaxy A8 smartphones already fit the premium and affordable category. Perhaps they do, but not in the same way as the three aforementioned devices.

Moto X Style

moto x style

Motorola have already confirmed that the Moto X Style will be coming to the UK. If anything, this ups the flagship quality another notch with its huge 5.7-inch Quad HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (six cores) chipset, 3GB of RAM, 32GB native storage, micro SD card support, a 21MP rear camera, 5MP selfie shooter, and Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Included in the UK will also be Moto Maker, the pre-purchase design suite that gives you an enviable list of personalization options.

OnePlus 2

oneplus 2

The OnePlus 2 is a little more niche, but it is a true flagship that could cost as little as £300, provided you can get one. Yes, the Chinese company is once again employing a frustrating invite system for its “Flagship Killer” so unless you get an invite you will be left wanting. That means you won’t be seeing this device sold through retailers, not in any big numbers anyway, but if you pick one up it will surely impress you. A 5.5-inch screen provides 1080p Full HD resolution, while Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 810 with 4GB of RAM serves as the engine room. Other specs are high end and in some cases unique, such as USB Type-C.

Xperia M5

xperia m5

Finally, the Sony Xperia M5 carries a metal sandwiched by glass body that oozes premium quality, while under the hood the spec sheet would not be out of place in the £500+ price band. The goodies include a 5-inch 1080p Full HD screen, an octa-core 64-bit MediaTek MT6795 chipset, 3GB of RAM, 16GB storage, micro SD card support, a 21.5MP rear camera, a 13MP front facing lens, and Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sony has not confirmed whether the device will be bound for Europe, and despite the company’s rich history launching in the UK, the real question is whether it will see an official release or not.

All the above are fantastic smartphones that if bought unlocked will offer unbelievable value for money. However, what will carriers do with these handsets and at which tier will they be available on contract? Of course, for a flagship device you are looking at a subsidized contract in the region of £30 per month or more (for a free device) depending on your particular tariff configuration. Will carriers decide that these flagship specced devices should be in that top bracket, or will they drop them to the mid-range tier (£22-26 per month) that their unlocked prices suggest they should be? It is worth noting that this will not include the OnePlus One.

It will be very interesting to see what companies do, so we reached out to Carphone Warehouse, EE, Orange, and others to find out. Watch this space for updates.

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25 September 2015 ~ 1 Comment

Four smartphones to get excited about this autumn

The summer months tend to be quiet in terms of new flagship smartphones landing. The autumn is typically where the action is at as manufacturers release their devices in time to take advantage of the pre-Christmas buzz. There will be myriad handsets arriving in the next few months, from budget and simple to expensive and bleeding edge, but here we will take a look at some high end smartphones you will be able to buy for yourself before Christmas.

Apple iPhone 6s

Last year Apple swept all before it with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, two devices that pushed the company to record sales, profit, and revenue. Expect much of the same when the iPhone 6s launches next month, with the company already preparing 90 million units for the holiday season alone. It is arguable that no iPhone is the best smartphone on the market, and the device is certainly more about how it works as it is what specs it has.

That said, this will be the most decked out iPhone so far, with an Apple A9 processor, Full HD Retina Display, and a 13MP camera. With iOS 9 maintaining the ease of use and functionality we love from the platform, and the hardware likely to remain gorgeous, expect this to be the one most people want yet again.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Sure, the Galaxy S6 is an awesome smartphone, but connoisseurs know that to get the best of what Samsung can do you have to go to the Note series. Launching August 13th, the fifth iteration of the phablet king will be the best large screen phone yet and probably the best smartphone full stop, at least from a hardware perspective. The specs will be market leading, including a 5.7-inch Quad HD screen, Samsung’s own Exynos 7420 chip, 4GB of RAM, and of course the excellent S Pen.

With Samsung recently upping its design game, a metal frame and body is likely and the Galaxy Note 5 could be one of the best looking flagships around.

LG G4 Pro

Trying to steal Samsung’s phablet thunder will be Korean compatriot LG with the G4 Pro. If the G4 flagship launched in May felt like an incremental update, the Pro is said to be LG throwing everything it has into a high end smartphone. Will the company finally turn to a metal body? We hope so, even if the plastic G4 is elegant either way.

One thing is certain, the G4 Pro will match the Note 5 in terms of specs. Coming to the handset will be a Quad HD screen at 5.7 inches, and possibly even Qualcomm’s just announced Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM. That would make the G4 Pro a performance powerhouse, while it will also boast a 20.7MP primary camera, 32GB of Storage, and an all-important micro SD card slot.

Sony Xperia Z5

Sony is under plenty of pressure, but the company has always enjoyed solid results in the UK and with the flagship line typically sold for a solid price in the country, the Xperia Z5 could be a compelling option. The Japanese giant’s flagships always scream premium, but perhaps that design language is ageing slightly, so an aesthetic refresh would be most welcome when the handset launches at IFA in Berlin next month.

Also welcome would be a Quad HD screen, high end chipset, and other flagship specs that would see the Xperia Z series keep pace with Sony’s rival. Arguably the most exciting aspect is the company’s new stock Android experience, although it is not confirmed whether that will be ready in time for the launch of the Z5.

What new handsets do you have your eyes on this autumn? Which manufacturers are tempting you the most? Or are you content with your current phone and prefer to wait and see what innovations 2016 will bring? Let us know with a comment 🙂

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