At CES 2013 in Las Vegas, Sony took down the curtain on its first big smartphone of the year in the form of the Sony Xperia Z. The Xperia Z is the company’s biggest smartphone launch thus far in 2013 and the device represents Sony’s flagship for the beginning half of the new year. That said, the Xperia Z is going to be facing some stiff competition in the months to come and one of the devices it will encounter on the market is oft-rumored Samsung Galaxy S4, the device that will likely replace the Galaxy S3 as Samsung’s flagship.
The Sony Xperia Z represents the biggest smartphone launch for Sony in quite some time and it also represents the device that will be carrying the companies flag into what is shaping up to be a competitive smartphone battle in the first half of 2013. Already, we’ve seen a number of high-end smartphones crop up in the rumor mill including the LG Optimus G2 and the HTC M7.
One other device that the Sony Xperia Z will be facing-off with in 2013 is the Samsung Galaxy S4, the next version of the Galaxy S series of smartphones that should be touching down at some point in the first part of 2013.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has some big shoes to fill and Samsung will obviously be looking to fill them completely. The Galaxy S3, launched in May of 2012, was wildly successful smashing the records that the Galaxy S2 set after its launch with over 30 million devices sold around the world. In fact, the Galaxy series has been so successful that it has arguably taken over as the most recognizable brand name in the Android market.
And that has decidedly put the pressure on other Android manufacturers to step up their game. Sony has seemingly done that very thing with the launch of the Xperia Z. But just how will it compare to the rumored Galaxy S4?
Here, we take an in-depth look at how the recently announced Sony Xperia Z matches up against the rumored Samsung Galaxy S4 in terms of release date, features, pricing and more.
In the build up to CES, Sony was rumored to be working on a device called the Sony Yuga, a device that was seen as a direct competitor to devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Droid DNA due to its size. The Sony Yuga ended up debuting as the Sony Xperia Z earlier this week on stage during Sony’s press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas.
Like many products that were announced at CES, the Xperia Z was given a release window instead of an actual release date. Sony has said that the device will be launching globally in the first quarter of this year, which means that January, February and March are all candidates for a release date.
Thus far, we’ve seen a few specific dates emerge though Sony has yet to confirm any. One retailer in Poland claims that February 18th will be the date that the Xperia Z hits shelves. Two retailers in the UK claim two separate months for the Xperia Z. One, Phones4U, says it will offer the device starting on March 1st. Another, Carphone Warehouse, says that the device will arrive at some point in February.
What’s clear is that the Xperia Z will definitely be out in the first quarter of this year. An American release is still unknown but those details likely won’t emerge until a little later on, if at all.
As for the Samsung Galaxy S4, it is rumored to potentially be coming at Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona. Several reports have pegged that trade show, the same one where the company introduced the Galaxy S2, as the event where Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S4. If the launch date does take place next month, it will much sooner than the Galaxy S3 launch which took place in May of 2012.
Gotta Be Mobile has been told by an accessory maker that it expects the Galaxy S4 to be announced in the first quarter, backing up previous reports claiming the same thing, though other dates including April, have also cropped up so, MWC 2013 isn’t for certain.
A Galaxy S4 release date has been predicted to not be taking place before May, by Samsung itself, and it could be that Samsung announces the Galaxy S4 in February but releases it further down the road. The company did that very thing with the Galaxy S2 before changing its launch process with the Galaxy S3.
While the smoke has not settled, it seems likely that Samsung will announce and release the Galaxy S4 in the first half of 2013.
The Sony Xperia Z is one of the better looking Xperia smartphones in recent memory. The design is a nice-looking rectangular shape that possesses some rounded edges around the side along with glass panels in the front and back. Due to the large display, the footprint of the phone is pretty big though not as big as a phone like the Galaxy Note 2, and it helps that the phone is extremely thin.
Sony’s Xperia Z checks in with a design that measures in at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm, which is actually extremely thin for a smartphone. It’s not as thin as the 7.1mm iPhone 5 but it’s thinner than most smartphones on the market.
The Xperia Z weighs a light 146 grams which again, isn’t as light as the 112 gram iPhone 5, but it’s still light, especially for a phone of this size. The design is also both waterproof and dust resistant which should help keep the phone together over a two-year contract.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has yet to show its face on camera, save for an alleged screenshot of a render which is impossible to verify. What that means is that the design remains in the dark. However, it would be a bit to see Samsung not tweak the design of the Galaxy S3, possibly offering a sub-8mm design and possibly even moving away from the polycarbonate material that it uses just about every high-end smartphone that it makes.
As we’ve pointed out, due to the high security that is likely surrounding the Galaxy S4, we likely won’t know about the Galaxy S4 design until we get much closer to the Galaxy S4′s launch date. If it’s February, that could mean soon.
At the very least, expect the Galaxy S4 to be both thin and sleek and potentially large due to a large display.
Sony took a page out of every Android manufacturers book and has slapped on a massive 5-inch display on its Xperia Z. The device, like the Droid DNA and like many of the other upcoming Android devices, features a full 1080p display with 1920 x 1080 resolution. That should translate into fantastic looking text, images and video.
It also features 443 pixels-per-inch which should translate into rich looking content on the screen. Sony has also included its Reality Display TV and Mobile Bravia Engine 2, both of which should make the Xperia Z one of the better looking displays on the market in the beginning of 2013.
The display on the Galaxy S4, surprise surprise, is expected to be a 1080p AMOLED display with 441 pixels-per-inch measuring in a 5-inches. If that’s true, it will be a big difference in resolution from the Samsung Galaxy S3 which sported a 4.8-inch display and 720p resolution.
With the Xperia Z camera, Sony has included an 13MP Exmor RS sensor which should mean that it will take fantastic pictures in dark light. It should also mean that the noise that has affected Xperia devices in the past will have been taken care of.
The photos we’ve seen snapped with the device were sharp and crisp and it should meet the demand from Xperia fans and average consumers. The Xperia Z also features a 2.2MP camera in the front which should work well for video chats.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Galaxy S3 was its good but not great camera. For a flagship smartphone, it left consumers wanting more. With the Galaxy S4, Samsung is rumored to be including a 13MP camera which could mean an upgraded sensor. Paired with Samsung’s already fantastic software, we should see a better camera in the Galaxy S4 and maybe the best it has ever offered in a smartphone.
Look for the front-facing camera to be good as well.
Beyond the design, display and camera, there will also be a bunch of other specifications that power these devices. And while we know the Xperia Z’s specs, we still aren’t sure about the specs of the Galaxy S4. Still, let’s have a look at both.
First, the Xperia Z.
- 5-inch Reality Display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Storage (microSD Card Slot)
- 13.1MP rear camera
- 2.2MP front-facing camera
- 2,330 mAh battery (Non-Removable)
The Galaxy S4 remains firmly in the dark though its rumored to have a quad-core processor, potentially the Exynos 5 Octa processor that Samsung introduced at CES 2013. At the very least, it will have a quad-core processor on board as its the norm now with Android smartphones.
It should also come with a microSD card slot with expandable storage and potentially two storage options like the Galaxy S3. And if Samsung continues its current trend, we could see a removable battery as well. It’s something that the company included with its Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3.
Samsung’s Galaxy S3 should have a large battery, like the Xperia Z, and it should also come with NFC support as well. We’ve heard rumblings about S-Pen support but that seems a little far-fetched given that its one of the Galaxy Note 2′s biggest selling points.
The Xperia Z doesn’t appear to have built-in wireless charging like the Droid DNA and Nexus 4 but the Galaxy S4 has a very good chance to feature this technology given its flagship status.
One of the most interesting, and frustrating, things, about the Sony Xperia Z is its Android software. The Xperia Z is going to be running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which unfortunately, is not the latest version of Android Jelly Bean. Our favorite Android 4.1 features can be seen below.
We had hoped that Sony would launch the phone with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean but it did not. The company has said that it will be delivering Android 4.2 Jelly Bean at some point after launch though it’s unclear how long it might take. Sony is very communicative about its Android updates so owners of the device should know about the update’s details in the weeks after its launch.
The interesting part of the Xperia Z is that it features a slimmed down user interface from the previous interfaces that Sony has put on its smartphones. It’s not vanilla Android but the UI’s lack of intrusiveness has prompted Sony to not even give it a brand name like HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz.
Sony will instead be loading up the software with Multimedia services and a better look.
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 will also be running a version of Android though its version is unclear. Rumored are Android Jelly Bean, version unknown, and Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie which is rumored for Google I/O in May.
If it does run Android 4.2, our favorite features can be seen in the video below, it will likely be one of the first devices to run the software. Android 4.2 still hasn’t rolled to many high-end Android smartphones.
If it runs Android 5.0, it will also likely be one of the first devices to run the software. Information about Android 5.0 is unfortunately scarce at the moment but rumors should be popping up in the months ahead.
Samsung will also likely be putting TouchWiz over the top of Android but as we’ve seen with the ‘Premium Suite’ upgrade from Samsung, the company is committed to delivering software that is extremely useful. Look for the Galaxy S4 to be outfitted with some fantastic software, potentially unique software.
Thus far, the Sony Xperia Z has not been confirmed for any carriers in the United States though several carriers in the UK have pledged allegiance to the device including Vodafone UK, O2 and ThreeUK.
There is no guarantee that the Sony Xperia Z will come to a carrier in the United States though AT&T did carry the Sony Xperia Ion so it’s possible that it could be a place that the Xperia Z calls home. More likely, the Xperia Z will, at least at first, become available unlocked to customers in the United States which will allow them to buy the phone off-contract.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will almost assuredly be coming to several carriers in the United States. The Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 both arrived on the five biggest carriers in the United States including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon. And with sales over 30 million, it would be surprising to see all five not on board with the Galaxy S4.
This time around though, the device will likely run on 4G LTE across the board as T-Mobile will be launching its high-speed 4G LTE network in Las Vegas later this month. The carrier is planning to release a 4G LTE version of the Galaxy S3 in the weeks ahead so it would be rather surprising to see the Galaxy S4 arrive without any 4G LTE support.
At its CES 2013 event, Sony neglected to confirm a price for the Samsung Xperia Z. Instead, it opted to leave that detail a complete mystery though the price didn’t stay mysterious for long.
UK retailer Clove says that it will be selling the device for £440 in the UK plus a VAT, though we imagine that the phone will vary in pricing across regions and carriers when it arrives.
Pricing in the United States is still a mystery though prior to the device’s launch, it was rumored to be coming unlocked to American consumers for $650, a typical price when it comes to high-end unlocked smartphones. If the device does arrive on an official carrier, look for it to arrive for $199 or less. $199 is currently the standard when it comes to on-contract pricing and it would be strange to see the Xperia Z arrive for any more than that.
No pricing has been rumored for the Samsung Galaxy S4 but we imagine that it will likely come for a familiar $199.99, which was the same price that the Galaxy S3 debuted for across all carriers but T-Mobile.
With T-Mobile set to launch its 4G LTE network, it might put its price on par with other carriers to stay competitive, though, that remains to be seen.