Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Sony Xperia Z: Round Two

In just a few days, the Sony Xperia Z release will kick off the first of many flagship smartphone launches in 2013. Sony’s new Xperia smartphone is the company’s answer to not only the iPhone 5, but also to the many Android smartphones that will be coming later in the first half of 2013. One of those devices if the heavily rumored Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that will be challenging the Xperia Z for consumers attention.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Nexus 4: Round Two.

Last year, Sony was rumored to be developing a new high-end smartphone dubbed the Sony Yuga, a 5-inch phablet that was likely to emerge at some point in 2013. Sony wasted no time in making the Yuga official however, taking the curtain off of the device now known as the Sony Xperia Z.

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

CES 2013′s lineup of smartphones was a bit small this year as companies like HTC, Motorola and Samsung opted to skip flagship smartphone announcements in favor of using events later in the year. However, the fact that there were fewer devices didn’t mean the show didn’t produce high quality smartphones. One of those devices was the Xperia Z, which ended up taking home our award for Best Smartphone of CES 2013 award.

The Xperia Z represents Sony’s first stab at the smartphone market in 2013, a year wherein it will likely only be releasing high-end smartphones, shunning the mid-range and low-range markets. That doesn’t mean it won’t be without competition. Instead, the market will be fierce as other companies are slated to be unveiling their Xperia Z competitors in the near future.

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One of those companies is Samsung which has been rumored to have a Galaxy S4 in the works, a device that will replace the Samsung Galaxy S3, the company’s best selling smartphone.

Read: Should I Buy the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3?.

The Galaxy S3′s success has put Samsung into the echelon of the iPhone in terms of expectations and anticipation and it can be seen with the fervor surrounding the launch of its sequel, the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Since December, we’ve heard quite a bit about the Galaxy S4, with rumors sprouting to the surface on a weekly basis. And while we already took one close look at how the Galaxy S4 stacked up against the Sony Xperia Z, given the amount of news rumors, it’s time that we took another in-depth look at how these two devices compare.

With that, here is how the rumored Galaxy S4 stacks up against the Sony Xperia Z in terms of hardware, software, release date and more.

Release Date

At CES 2013, Sony took a page right out of the old Android manufacturer launch event book and decided to not offer any specifics on a release date for the Xperia Z. Instead, the company offered vague details saying that the smartphone would see a global launch during the first quarter of 2013. For those that aren’t aware, the first quarter encompasses January, February and March.

Almost immediately, retailers came to Sony’s rescue, offering up some tentative dates for the device’s arrival. We heard February and March dates thrown around but nothing seemed to be concrete. It wasn’t until a little later on that we got idea about when Sony is planning to release the Xperia Z to the public at large.

Rumor has it, the Xperia Z release date in Japan is set for February 9th though we have still not heard a confirmation from Sony. It could be that a confirmation from the company comes next week. We have also now be given a release date in the United Kingdom with retailers and carriers boasting of a  February 28th launch.

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The Galaxy S4 launch could come March 22nd.

That’s a little later than we first anticipated though it’s entirely possible that Europe could see a staggered launch with other regions getting the device before the UK does. For what it’s worth, the Polish retailer that initially put the Xperia Z up with a February 18th release date still lists it as arriving on February 18th.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 Release Date Rumors Point to April, Again.

We still though, have not heard about a release date for the United States. Nothing has cropped up yet and Sony hasn’t announced anything so we aren’t sure if the Xperia Z will get carrier support or if it will only become available to U.S. customers in unlocked form.

Whatever the case may be, the Xperia Z appears destined to beat the Galaxy S4 to shelves.

Early Galaxy S4 release rumors pegged the device as potentially arriving at MWC 2013 at the end of February. We however remained skeptical given that Samsung skipped MWC for the Galaxy S3 launch and instead used a separate Unpacked event a little later on in May.

Turns out, that skepticism proved to be dead on as current rumors state that Samsung is indeed going to be skipping MWC 2013 and will instead announce the Galaxy S4 at later date.

Currently, that date is pegged for March 22nd at an Unpacked event, potentially in the United States. Samsung hasn’t confirmed that to be the case so a specific Galaxy S4 launch date is up in the air.  It does appear likely however as several reports claim that Samsung is aiming to get the phone out in April.

A specific release date for the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains unclear but thus far, reports suggest that Samsung will be bumping the Galaxy S4 release date  to April rather than May, the month that the Galaxy S3 launched.

We imagine that Samsung will more than likely release the device to the international community first, and then release the Galaxy S4 in the United States which means that an April-May timeline looks good for U.S. customers at the moment.

Design

Previous Sony’s Xperia designs were good, but maybe not as good as what Sony dished up with the Xperia Z’s. The Xperia Z is a well-built piece of hardware featuring a rectangular shape and possessing some roundness around the edges. It also features glass panels in both the front and back that help to give it a look that is befitting of a 2013 smartphone.

And like many of the Android phones that were released in 2012 and will be released in 2013, it sports a pretty immense footprint due to its screen size. Still, we were easily able to hold it with one hand though navigating the display with a thumb is a bit of a chore, much like it is on any smartphone of this size.

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The Xperia Z design is both water and dust resistant.

Sony has however managed to keep the Xperia Z’s frame thin. Specifically, the Xperia Z sports a 7.9mm frame which is close to the iPhone 5′s 7.6mm design and much thinner than many smartphones in its class, including the Droid DNA from Verizon. It weighs 146 grams, which is a bit on the heavy side, but again, given its size, it’s not surprising.

As a reference, the iPhone 5 weighs a mere 112 grams by comparison. However, it only features a 4-inch display, rather than a massive 5-inch display, the size found on the Xperia Z. The Xperia Z is also a rugged smartphone, featuring a water and dust resistant design, perfect for those that are either clumsy or like taking their smartphone into the elements.

While we aren’t exactly sure what the Galaxy S4 design looks like, it’s looking like the device will be similar in size to the Xperia Z due to its rumored display. The Galaxy S4 display is rumored to be around 4.99-inches to 5-inches which means that the footprint will likely be along the lines of the Xperia Z’s.

Specific measurements aren’t know but given that smartphones are getting increasingly thin and lightweight, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Samsung slim down the Galaxy S4′s design from the Galaxy S3′s.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 mock up.

It also could be that Samsung again uses plastic polycarbonate material to build its phone, a material that it used with both Galaxy Note models and the Galaxy S3 as well.

We have seen two potential Galaxy S4 images leak, one without a home button and another a mockup from a fan of Samsung’s but neither has been confirmed to be anywhere close to the real Galaxy S4 design.

Samsung, unlike HTC, has beefed up security around its high-end smartphone, and we would be surprised to see the real Galaxy S4 stand up until it launches.

Display

As we’ve pointed out, 2013 is going to be the year of the display for Android smartphones as companies push the bar in terms of resolution and size. Unsurprisingly, Sony’s Xperia Z fits that profile 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.

We should also mention that it features the same 16:9 aspect ratio as the iPhone 5 which means that it will deliver widescreen content by eliminating the black bars that often surrounds YouTube videos and movies. It’s not a huge feature but it’s one that users will come to appreciate.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 display should follow the trend as well with Samsung rumored to be bumping the screen up from the 4.8-inches on the Galaxy S3 to 4.99-inches or 5-inches on the next-generation Galaxy S smartphone.

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The Galaxy S4 will more than likely feature upgrades from the Galaxy S3. One of those upgrades should be a 1080p display.

Rumors suggest that the display will be FHD in nature and sport 1080p resolution, full HD, just like the Xperia Z’s. Samsung is also reportedly working on new pixel layouts for its smartphones, specifically, hexagon and diamond-shaped pixel layouts that could bump the Galaxy S4′s pixels-per-inch beyond the 440 mark.

If that’s true, it could mean that Samsung’s display could be even better than the one on the Xperia Z. Only time will tell if that’s the case but Samsung has, in the past, delivered some beautiful displays and so it wouldn’t be surprising to see it offer a best-in-class display on the Galaxy S4.

Camera

Like the displays and designs, this year’s Android smartphones are also going to be upping the ante when it comes to their rear cameras. The Xperia Z is a prime example of this trend as well.

The device features a 13MP Exmor RS sensor that translates into fantastic pictures in good and bad lighting environments. Camera samples suggest that the Xperia Z’s camera is on par with the iPhone 5′s, and if that holds up, it could have one of the best cameras of any Android smartphone, at least for the first half of 2013.

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

We can say though, that without question, the Xperia Z’s camera is better than the rear cameras found on previous Xperia smartphones.

How the Galaxy S4 camera will match up is unclear though rumors suggest the device will incorporate a 13MP shooter, up from the 8MP camera on the Galaxy S3.

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Another Xperia Z camera sample.

As we’ve pointed out many times in the past, megapixels don’t mean everything when it comes to a camera but they will certainly help. It also helps that Samsung likes to add powerful features to compliment its hardware and we could see the company unleash some new camera software with the Galaxy S4.

Specs

How about the features beyond the design, the display and the camera? Well, we have a good looking picture of the Xperia Z but the Galaxy S4′s still remains unclear. Here, we try to do our best to compare and contrast the rest of their specs.

First, the Xperia Z:

  • 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 now, the current Galaxy S4 rumored specs:

  • 4.99-inch/5-inch FHD Display with 1080p Resolution
  • Quad-Core Processor
  • 13MP Rear Camera
  • Wireless Charging
  • 2600 mAh Battery

Both devices will feature quad-core processors but it could be the Galaxy S4′s that takes home the prize as the most attractive. Rumored Galaxy S4 benchmarks suggest that the Galaxy S4 could have Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa processor on board. The Exynos 5 Octa and a flexible display prototype were Samsung’s big CES announcements.

Samsung has said that the processor uses 70-percent less power than a typical quad-core Cortex A15 processor, including Samsung’s own Exynos 5 processor found in the Nexus 10. This could mean that the Galaxy S4 sports some fantastic battery life in addition to high level performance.

The Xperia Z does feature a microSD card slot, good thing because it only has 16GB of storage. MicroSD card slots are staples of Samsung smartphones so expect one to be on board the Galaxy S4.

One Samsung staple that isn’t on the Xperia Z though is a removable battery. This means that users will have trouble replacing the battery if it fizzles out and it also means that installing an extended battery will be virtually impossible for the average person.

The Galaxy S4 is not rumored to have a removable battery but don’t be surprised if one is on board.

Finally, the Xperia Z does not have built-in wireless charging, a feature on the Nexus 4 and the Droid DNA. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is rumored to have wireless charging support, but it’s unclear if it’s built-in or if it will come separately.

Software

One of the most intriguing features of the Sony Xperia Z is not its a piece of hardware, but its software. The Xperia Z will launch with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and not Android 4.2 Jelly Bean which could mean that it will be far behind in terms of the competition. Other flagships for 2013 are rumored to be coming with Android 4.2.

However, Sony tries to make up for this by offering what is a near-vanilla version of Android. Yes, the Xperia Z has a user interface over Android, but no, it’s not intrusive at all. In fact, Sony decided to not even give it a name. So while it’s a shame that Android 4.1 is on board, the minimal UI is much better than any previous Xperia UI and it makes the Xperia Z’s software an intriguing proposition.

For whatever it’s worth, Sony has said that Android 4.2 will come shortly after its launch. No specific date was provided.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will likely feature almost an exact opposite experience. The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on board and while not rumored just yet, we imagine that it will have some form of TouchWiz, Samsung’s UI, over Android.

It’s possible that Samsung will announce Nature UX 2.0 at the event as well but nothing has leaked to the surface just yet. What has though are two potential features discovered in trademarks.

These trademarks suggest that Samsung is cooking up a feature called ‘Eye Scroll’ which could use the front-facing camera to track eye movement and automatically scroll content and a feature called Eye Pause which could pause movies when the eyes look away.

Whether they come with the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, or not at all remains to be seen however.

Carriers

The Sony Xperia Z will be heading to a trio of carriers in the United Kingdom with Three, O2 and Vodafone confirming the phone for their networks. And while carriers in the UK have jumped on board, U.S. carriers remain silent.

Xperia devices have been scarce on U.S. soil with the Xperia Ion from 2012 arguably the biggest Xperia release of the year. And while the Xperia Z is an attractive device, there is a decent chance that it will not come to any carriers in the United States.

We’ve seen some petitions circling around, pleading with carriers like Sprint to host the device, but as of now, the pleas have fallen on deaf ears it seems. Hopefully, at the least, customers will be able to bring it to the U.S. unlocked on a GSM carrier’s HSPA+ network, though availability is still unknown.

The Galaxy S4 on the other hand will almost certainly be coming to a host of U.S. carriers, quite possibly the same five that launched the Galaxy S3 back in 2012.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon all launched the Galaxy S3 right off the bat on their 4G LTE networks and there is no reason at this point to believe that that type of launch won’t happen again.

So far, we’ve only seen a hint of an AT&T Galaxy S4, but don’t be surprised if all five claim the Galaxy S4 for their own. Should T-Mobile launch the Galaxy S4, expect it to run on the carrier’s network straightaway as it has confirmed a Galaxy S3 LTE for its network and it would be odd to see its predecessor arrive with support.

Price

At CES, Sony neglected to offer up any sort of word on Xperia Z pricing. Now though, we finally have word on how much the device will cost, at least in the United Kingdom.

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The Xperia Z price in the UK has been confirmed.

We’re seeing the device in the £30 to £50 price range in the United Kingdom, with that pricing come with the signing of 24-month contracts. Converted to U.S. dollars, it translates to between $47 to $67. Of course, carriers in the U.S. don’t offer that type of subsidy so if it does come to the U.S. expect the pricing to be much higher.

We haven’t see any unlocked Xperia Z pricing emerge just yet though we imagine that when it does, U.S. consumers will be looking at a price tag well over $500.

There aren’t any rumors about a Galaxy S4 price just yet but it would be surprising to see Samsung offer it for any more or any less than a starting price of $199.99. Samsung wants it to compete with the iPhone 5 and that means it will likely keep the same price as the iPhone and the Galaxy S3.

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Consumers who  don’t want to pay that much money will likely have options though retailers like Amazon, which should have discounts in the days following the Galaxy S4′s launch.

Comments

  1. sy t says

    Every time I have handled a Samsung I have been very unimpressed.AMOLED screens make all the colours look over saturated and vile. Not to mention the screen burn problems ive heard about. I also prefer the simplistic android UI of Sony. Touchwizz looks so cheap and child like.
    Ive also seem bench mark tests on the dual core Xperia t beat a lot of quadcore phones. This is because Android is a long way off being optimised for quadcore processors yet.
    The release date of android doesn’t bother me much either. Why would I chose a brand of phone simply because it gets android updates a month or so early. A 24 month contract makes it an insignificance.
    Thats just me though. I just never understood the popularity of Samsung.

    • MK says

      Not to mention how their Galaxy line is also made out of plastic. Said plastic, while not necessarily being so, feels and looks incredibly cheap. I refuse to pay a lot of money for a premium device that does not bear the looks of one.

    • shivam says

      The Samsung phones look and feel cheap in terms of design and user interface while Sony’s design is to marvel at.I have used Sony Xperia Arc for a couple of years and well its been amazing with a near perfect camera quality.I’ll be surely getting a xperia z soon now

  2. Michael Fischer says

    I held and played with a friends S3 this morning and was impressed by it’s responisiveness and also it low light picture quality. Can’t wait for the S4 and Xperia models.

  3. Anshul says

    Do you guys even know that sony will update the Z to 4.2 in 1 week of its release?
    Also, the UI is called “TimeScape” , so yes, It HAS A NAME……

  4. abu afak says

    I consider any review that doesn’t include Brightness/lux USELESS.
    How can one talk about Battery life and not mention one phone is ie, 50% Brighter.
    Not t mention the beauty factor of brightness, and/or color accuracy. The latter of which is tragic on Samsungs.
    Most reviewers just Geek out on stats.

  5. masa says

    yessss, gonna definately get this new Xperia!!! My friend has it always, simply amazing. =)))))

  6. John Doh says

    How do I applie? Pleeze post yur cel phon numbr so we al can cal yu becuze obviusly yu are verry sucksessful as a result uv spaming peeple.

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