Sony Xperia Z vs. HTC M7 (Rumored)

At CES 2013, Sony unveiled one of the most hotly anticipated smartphones of the first half of the year in the Sony Xperia Z, its latest high-end device. And while the Xperia Z will likely get a jump start on rivals, it will soon have to contend with some devices that will surely be in the upper echelons in terms of quality once 2013 has come to pass. One such device is the Galaxy S4, which we have already compared to the Xperia Z. Another, is the heavily rumored HTC M7 which should be coming to challenge Sony’s device in the near future.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC M7: Round Two.

With 2012 over and done with, Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has said that his company will change gears for the new year and put its focus into producing and introducing high-end devices. The products of that new vision have been the company’s first two announcements of 2013, starting with the Sony Xperia Z smartphone and the Sony Xperia Z Tablet which was announced a few days after.

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The Sony Xperia Z won our Best Smartphone award at CES 2013.

The Sony Xperia Z will be looking to set the tone for Sony’s new direction in 2013, as it takes on not only the iPhone 5 and the upcoming iPhone 5S, but also Android phones like the Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 and HTC’s rumored flagship, the HTC M7.

Over the past few weeks, the HTC M7 has bubbled to the surface many times over, offering up a glimpse of what consumers might see from HTC in terms of a high-end smartphone in the first half of this year. The HTC M7, which will likely be replacing the HTC One X+ as the company’s flagship smartphone, has quite a bit riding on it as HTC will be looking to rebound from a dismal 2012.

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And while the device is shaping up to be a potential juggernaut, it will not be without competition and one of the devices that will surely rival it is the Xperia Z from Sony which seems to be the company’s best offering in quite some time.

So how do the rumored HTC M7 and the very official Sony Xperia Z stack up in terms of hardware, software, and release date? Here, try to answer all of those questions and more.

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The HTC M7 could be launched on February 19th.

Release Date

Android manufacturers, especially those announcing big name products at trade shows like CES, often leave out the important details from their announcements. Unfortunately, Sony is not immune.

At CES 2013, Sony announced the Xperia Z, showed off its specifications, and let the press go hands-on. However, it did not announce any sort of specific release date beyond a global Q1 launch. That kind of window means that the device could arrive as early as January or as late as March. Thankfully, we have some kind of idea thanks to retailers who already have listed the Xperia Z on their websites.

According to one official Sony retailer in Poland, the Xperia Z is set for an arrival in Europe on February 18th. We’ve also heard February from at least one retailer in the United Kingdom and another is expected to offer the device on March 1st.

Read: HTC M7 Launch Date Pegged for February 19th.

What this means is that the Xperia Z release date should only be a couple of weeks away. Thing is, if it does come to the United States, it won’t likely arrive for a few weeks after its initial launch which means that those who are looking to get it off the bat, will have to buy it unlocked for quite a bit of change up front.

The HTC M7 release date, like the device itself, is still a mysterious entity. We had thought that we would learn the specifics at a launch date at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, but it appears that we may get our answer much sooner than that.

While the HTC M7 was at first rumored to be arriving at MWC 2013, which kicks off on February 25th, a rumor has suggested that HTC will instead opt to announced the HTC M7 at its own event, possibly in London, on February 19th. The rumor is from a questionable source, but it does make sense.

One, it would allow HTC to debut the phone without all of the noise (read: products) that comes with an event of MWC’s magnitude, and two, it could potentially give it an even bigger head start on the Galaxy S4, rumored to be coming at its own Unpacked event in March for a release in April.

Either way, 19th or MWC 2013, it’s looking like it will be launched and released in just a few short weeks from now.

Design

Maybe the first noticeable thing about the Sony Xperia Z is its design. Sony has really constructed a well-built piece of hardware in the Xperia Z. The design is rectangular shaped and possesses roundness around the edges. It also features glass panels in both the front and back that help to give it a look that is fitting of a phone that is coming out in 2013.

Something else that users will notice is that the Xperia Z is large, much bigger than a phone like the iPhone 5. That’s because of its massive display. However, what Sony has done is keep the phone thin.

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The Sony Xperia Z, on the right.

Specifically, the Xperia Z is sporting a 7.9mm frame which is close to the iPhone 5′s 7.6mm design and much thinner than many smartphones of its size including the Droid DNA.

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This could be the HTC M7.

In terms of quality, the HTC M7 should match up well with the Xperia Z though those familiar with other HTC devices will likely recognize its design qualities. So far, the most credible images we’ve seen suggest that the M7 will boast a design that takes lots of hints from the Droid DNA. From the all-black color to the soft material used for its back, it could pass for the Droid DNA to the casual eye.

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The back of the potential HTC M7.

As we’ve said, specific details about the design are unknown but we expect the device to be thin as HTC has said that it will put great emphasis on keeping its high-end smartphones slimmed down.

Display

2013 is going to be the year of the display for Android smartphones as companies push the bar in terms of resolution and size. Sony has started the year off with an Xperia Z that fits that trend exactly.

The Sony Xperia Z features a large 5-inch Reality display with 1920 x 1080 resolution and 443 pixels-per-inch. It’s Sony’s first stab at a 1080p display on a smartphone and from our limited time with the Xperia Z, the screen delivers well-balanced colors and rich text, images and video.

HTC will be looking to offer a high-resolution display with the HTC M7 as well though it will likely be smaller and feature a higher pixels-per-inch count.

Rumors suggest that the HTC M7 will have a 4.7-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution and a whopping 468 pixels-per-inch. The quality isn’t surprising considering the HTC One X sported one of the best displays of any smartphone in 2012.

5-inch Android phones seem to be the trend for 2013 and HTC could appeal to people who want a little bit less with that 4.7-inch display.

Camera

This year’s crop of Android phones are going to be raising the bar in terms of their rear cameras and Sony has set the tone. The device features a 13MP Exmor RS sensor that translates into fantastic pictures in good and bad lighting environments.

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The Xperia Z matched up against the iPhone 5′s.

As we’ve seen in camera samples, the Xperia Z’s camera looks to be on par with the iPhone 5′s, and that should mean that it will fare next to the best that Android has to offer in the early part of 2013. Certainly, the camera is better than previous cameras on Xperia devices.

HTC’s One X had one of the best cameras of any smartphone and we imagine that the company will be focusing on delivering another quality camera in the HTC M7. The HTC M7 is currently rumored to have a 13MP rear camera and while details are light, we expect it to be one of the best of 2013.

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Xperia Z camera sample.

Yes, the camera on the Droid DNA was only good, not great, but the HTC M7 is the company’s flagship. The Droid DNA is not.

Specs

While details about the display, design and camera are all important, there are also some other important specifications that will be powering these two smartphones. Here, we take a closer at the other specs for both the HTC M7 and the Sony Xperia Z.

First, the Sony Xperia Z specs.

  • 5-inch Reality Display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor
  • 16GB Storage (microSD Card Slot)
  • 13.1MP rear camera/2.2MP front-facing camera
  • 2,330 mAh battery (Non-Removable)
  • 2GB RAM
  • NFC

And, the rumored specs for the HTC M7.

  • 4.7-inch 1080p Display
  • 1.7GHz Quad-core Snapdragon Processor
  • 32GB Storage
  • 13MP Camera/2MP Front-Facing
  • 2,300 mAh Battery
  • 2GB of RAM

Both devices will be quad-core powered, that’s a given considering the state of Android right now. There are also some key differences between the two devices that we should point out.

First, the HTC M7 is rumored to not have a microSD card slot which, if true, would leave it stuck at 32GB of storage space. The Xperia Z benefits from a microSD card slot where users can expand their storage.

We also expect the HTC M7 to have built-in wireless charging, something that came with the Droid DNA for Verizon, and a feature that won’t be found on the Sony Xperia Z. HTC also has a habit of sticking non-removable batteries on their devices so it could be that the HTC M7 features a non-removable battery, something that will surely tick off those who are looking for more battery life.

Software

From a software standpoint, the Sony Xperia Z is as exciting as it is maddening. Exciting, because Sony will be introducing it with a minimal UI, so minimal, that the software overlay doesn’t even have an official name.

We were able to go hands-on with it briefly at CES and we can say, without question, that the software is far less intrusive than Sony’s previous UI, and in addition, it’s much better looking. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a vanilla phone but it’s fairly close. So those that are looking for an Android experience where manufacturer UI plays a big role will definitely want to take a look at the Xperia Z.

The maddening part comes in with Android itself. For whatever reason, Sony will be launching the device, its 2013 first half flagship, with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on board. For those familiar, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, seen below, is not the most current version of Jelly Bean. That title goes to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean which rolled out back in November.

For many this won’t be a big deal and Sony itself says that the Android 4.2 update will roll out for it soon after launch. However, for others, having to go through the waiting process for an update won’t be appetizing especially when flagships like the HTC M7 are expected to have Android 4.2 on board from the start.

The HTC M7 is said to currently be in testing with Android 4.1.2, though we imagine that HTC will likely launch it with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on board. It’s hard to imagine HTC’s flagship trotting to the finish line with Android 4.1, a piece of software that has been out since July of last year.

The HTC M7 is also supposedly going to boast HTC’s latest UI, HTC Sense 5, which is said to be, like Sony’s UI, far less intrusive than past releases. Sense 5 is rumored to feature, at the very least, a new lock screen, and we imagine that HTC will also be tweaking other major elements of the software as well.

Carriers

At CES, Sony neglected to offer any kind of word on potential carriers for the Sony Xperia Z leaving consumers wondering where it would end up. So far, we’ve seen a trio of UK carriers confirm the device. Three UK, Vodafone and O2 have all confirmed it though as we’ve pointed out, that doesn’t necessarily mean its heading stateside, even if demand is higher than normal.

Xperia devices have been scarce on U.S. carriers and while the Xperia Z is an attractive device, it may never come to a carrier in the United States. Given its stature though, we would be surprised if a carrier didn’t try its luck with Sony’s new flagship.

The HTC M7 carrier situation remains a mystery as well although rumors suggest that HTC may be following in the footsteps of Samsung this time around.

Read: HTC M7 Heading to AT&T, Sprint & Verizon?.

Last year, the company launched the HTC One X on AT&T and AT&T only, neglecting carriers like Sprint and Verizon. Samsung launched the Galaxy S3 on the five largest carriers in the U.S. giving it a distinct advantage.

This time around, it appears that HTC will be doing things differently as the HTC M7 is rumored to be heading to AT&T, Sprint and Verizon at the very least. That rumor comes from the credible evleaks who claims that those three are confirmed while T-Mobile still remains a possibility.

If it does come to all four carriers, expect it to be available on their high-speed 4G LTE networks.

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The Xperia Z features a 5-inch 1080p display.

Price

Thus far, neither device has any sort of official pricing. Sony neglected to offer any kind of details when it announced the device at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month. That means that it will be up to carriers and retailers to set the pricing in the days and weeks to come.

Of course, we don’t expect the Xperia Z to be available in the United States right off the bat and that means that potential customers in the U.S. will likely have to shell out for an unlocked version of the device if they want to get it shortly after its release. Typically, those prices are in the range of $600 or more depending on the retailer.

If and when the Sony Xperia Z arrives on a carrier in the United States, don’t expect the price to be anything but competitive with the iPhone 5. That means that at the most, it will likely cost $199.99.

The HTC M7 on the other hand, will almost certainly be launching on U.S. carriers and that means that it will come with subsidized pricing. Again, don’t expect anything more than $199.99 on-contract with off-contract pricing checking in well over $500.

HTC wants to compete with Samsung and Apple and it will either have to adhere to their pricing model or shoot for lower.

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