Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Sony Xperia Z: Final Round Adam Mills03/12/2013 In just two days, the Sony Xperia Z will see one of its greatest threats, the Samsung Galaxy S4, launch in New York City. Those thinking about picking up either device are likely comparing the Galaxy S4 rumors against Sony’s latest flagship smartphone. Read: iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S4: Final Round.Advertisement In January, at CES 2013, Sony announced the Sony Xperia Z, a smartphone that will serve as its flagship smartphone for 2013 and one that represents a drastic change from the Xperia devices from years past. The Sony Xperia Z is a high-end smartphone, both from a hardware and software standpoint, and it figures to be a dark horse as far as sales are concerned over the first part of the year. Already, the device is said to be selling well in regions around the world, success that Sony hasn’t seen with a flagship smartphone in quite some time. What this also means is that the device has been and likely will likely continue to be an attractive smartphone for customers looking to pick up a new device this year. Of course, it’s going to be facing stiff competition from a number of devices including Samsung’s upcoming flagship.Advertisement Since the latter half of 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been a fixture in the mobile world, despite it not even being an official device. Over the course of the last few months those, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been teased, rumored, outed and leaked to the point that we have a very good idea of what to expect from Samsung and the Galaxy S4.Advertisement The Sony Xperia Z won our Best Smartphone award at CES 2013. None of the device’s features have been confirmed, but over the course of time, some rumors have been ruled out while others have leaked so many times that they are essentially all but confirmed. And given the amount of evidence that is out there, it’s fair to start looking at how the Samsung Galaxy S4 is shaping up next to other high-end 2013 smartphones. One of those devices is the Sony Xperia Z. We’ve already matched them up twice in the past and it’s now time to enter the final round and see how the current Samsung Galaxy S4 rumors stack up versus the very real Sony Xperia Z. Release Date In January, Sony announced the new Sony Xperia Z. However, what it didn’t announce at the event was a specific release date, other than to say that it would be arriving globally in the first quarter of this year.Advertisement Arrive it did as the Sony Xperia Z is currently available in a number of different regions around the world. The device has come out of the gates hot as well with Japan, Germany, France, Hong Kong, and Taiwan reportedly experiencing stock shortages due to high demand. One place where the Sony Xperia Z hasn’t yet been released is the United States. So far, no carriers have opted to carry the Xperia Z leaving those who want the device to buy it from a third-party retailer. Given the success of the device so far, we could eventually see it arrive on a smaller carrier in the U.S. but at this point, the odds seem slim. Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 U.S. Release Predictions. Samsung will show off the Galaxy S4 in New York City on March 14th. The Samsung Galaxy S4, while not confirmed, will almost certainly see U.S. carriers announced on March 14th in New York City. Samsung is hosting an event at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City where it will be showing off its Next Big Thing which is presumed to be the Galaxy S4.Advertisement At the event, Samsung will show off not only the device itself, but it will likely announce release dates or windows for the Galaxy S4. Thus far, we’ve heard April pegged as a release date for the Galaxy S4 in Europe while the U.S. Galaxy S4 release has been rumored to be taking place in either May or June. No specific dates have been mentioned yet and it’s unclear if consumers will see them announced at the Galaxy S4 event given Samsung’s launch history.Advertisement Design With the Sony Xperia Z, Sony has delivered a device that is up with the times, sporting an extremely thin frame with a modern look. The Xperia Z design is a bit of a departure from previous Xperia releases in that it features a more modern, sleep looking design that oozes 2013 smartphone. Sony’s device features a rectangular shaped form factor which is in possession of some roundness around the edges. It also features glass panels in both the front and back that feature an anti-shatter film over the top to ensure durability. The Sony Xperia Z features a dust and water proof design. Sony’s Xperia Z, due to its large screen, sports a fairly big footprint though Sony has made sure that the device is still very pocketable thanks to its thin design. The Xperia Z utilizes a 7.9mm frame which is actually very close to the iPhone 5′s 7.6mm design and much thinner than many smartphones in its class, including HTC’s Droid DNA from Verizon. It also weighs 146 grams which isn’t as light as the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3, but is certainly much lighter than the 180 gram Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It’s also dust and water resistant and Sony says that the device can be taken up to depths of one meter without suffering any type of damage. The most recent rumors and leaks suggest that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will feature a design that while different than the Sony Xperia Z’s, might feature at least one similarity. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is thought to have a design that isn’t comprised of metal, but is instead built out of plastic. Samsung executives have been touting the company’s plastic designs ahead of the device’s launch saying that it is durable, allows users the freedom to install their own extended battery and also makes it easier for the company to keep production up with demand. Rumors have suggested that the device will keep the home button that has been found on previous Galaxy smartphones as well, including the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. This alleged image shows a curved Galaxy S4. Recently leaked photos depict a device that looks to be made of plastic and sport a home button, but since these are from an unofficial source, it’s impossible to say whether they are indeed of the Galaxy S4 or not. Read: 5 Thoughts on the First Samsung Galaxy S4 Photo. More recently, Samsung teased what appears to be a photo of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and its design, and from the looks of things, it appears to mirror the Samsung Galaxy S3 heavily. Samsung teased this Galaxy S4 image. Specifications of the design have suggested that the phone could be as thin as 7.9mm which would put it on par with the design of the Sony Xperia Z and others. Display Sony has kept the Xperia up with the times in terms of its display as well. The device has been outfitted with a spacious 5-inch full HD 1080p display much like the rest of the Android crop that we’ve seen emerge in 2013. That means that content like movies and photos will look fantastic and it also means that web browsing will look phenomenal as well. The device’s pixel-per-inch count is 440 which is extremely high and should ensure high-quality content all around. The Sony Xperia Z features a 1080p display. In addition to the resolution, Sony has included the Bravia 2 engine which helps to ensure quality looking content at all times. For instance, for content with high contrast, the screen will automatically darken the darkest parts of the content to help bring out the most detail. It will also automatically reduce noise for a clearer video when watching low quality content on places like YouTube. Samsung of course is going to keep pace with Sony and the rest of the Android pack. The latest rumors suggest what we’ve heard all along, that Samsung is planning on bestowing a 4.99-inch 1080p display in the Galaxy S4. That’s not surprising, given the landscape of the Android smartphone market right now and it’s likely going to be what’s on board the Galaxy S4 when it arrives. This is a purported photo of the Galaxy S4 display. However, Samsung may be looking to take the display a step further. Besides the 1080p resolution and the high pixel-per-inch count, the Samsung Galaxy S4 display is rumored to support touch less gestures. If true, it would mean that users could manipulate the display without having to actually touch the display, much in the same way the S Pen works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. With the Note 2, users can hover over things like email with the S Pen stylus in order to get a preview before actually touching the display. The technology isn’t new for smartphones though. The Pantech Vega 4G LTE and the Sony Xperia Sola both have had similar technology on board though the Samsung Galaxy S4 would be the first big name smartphone to feature it. Camera The Sony Xperia Z comes with a 13MP Exmor RS sensor that makes it one of the better smartphone cameras around. The Xperia Z camera is capable of not only taking gorgeous photos, but it can also take HDR video as well. Sony claims that it’s the first phone to feature HDR video, a feature that allows for optimal videos when taking them in noisy environments. One example is when a user might be shooting a video of friends at a concert with the sun in the background. With HDR video, the final product is as or close to as stunning as it would be without the sun. It also features a number of other bells and whistles including panorama shots, burst mode, extremely fast pinch-to-zoom, and Superior Auto which automatically ensures that the best quality photo is being taken. Rumored Galaxy S4 camera sample. Like the Xperia Z, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is rumored to have a 13MP sensor on board. Evidently, it could also sport Sony’s 13MP Exmor RS sensor though that hasn’t been confirmed. If true, the device would likely have the same capabilities as the Sony Xperia Z, including access to HDR video. Information from recently leaked photos, thought to be samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy S4, suggest a 13MP sensor at the least and if Sony’s sensor on board, it will only be a plus. Specs The Samsung Galaxy S4 specifications remain unconfirmed but we do have a list of potential specifications that could be on board, thanks to rumors. The Sony Xperia Z specs on the other are, of course, very official and out in the open. Here is how they both stack up. The rumored Samsung Galaxy S4. 4.99-inch Full-HD 1080p SoLux Display 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 Quad-Core Processor/Exynos 5 Octa Processor 16/32/64GB of Storage 13MP Camera 2,600 mAh (Removable) 2 GB RAM The Sony 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 The first thing that consumers will want to know is that both devices will be running quad-core processors. While the Xperia Z uses the Snapdragon S4 Pro, the Galaxy S4 is said to feature either a Exynos 5 Octa or a Snapdragon 600 or both. If that’s true, the Galaxy S4’s processor could out perform the Sony Xperia Z’s thanks to a current-gen chip. Second, the Xperia Z does not feature a removable battery. This means that the device cannot take advantage of an extended battery and it also makes it difficult for users to replace if a problem should arise. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is expected to have a removable back. A Samsung executive hinted at it and recent Galaxy phones have had them. This means that users will not only be able to replace the battery if it fizzles out, but also pop in an extended battery for extra juice. What’s more, it means that it’s primed and ready for wireless charging. The Galaxy S4 will likely feature wireless charging. The Xperia Z does not. Third, while the Xperia Z doesn’t feature built-in wireless charging, it also doesn’t have a removable back which means it can’t take advantage of a wireless charging kit. The Galaxy S4 isn’t supposed to feature built-in wireless but it will have a removable back. It’s rumored that Samsung will be announcing a wireless charging kit for the Galaxy S4 which means users should be able to charge it without using wires. And finally, fourth, the Xperia Z features 16GB with microSD card support. That’s the only storage option. The Samsung Galaxy S4 on the other hand will likely have microSD card support with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options meaning it will have a better selection for those concerned about storage. Software The Sony Xperia Z launched with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the previous version of Google’s Jelly Bean Android software, though Sony has promised Android 4.2 Jelly Bean for the device some time in the near future. Rumors have stated that it could get Android 4.2 as early as this month though owners haven’t seen the update roll out just yet. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is Google’s most current piece of mobile software. The Xperia Z also features a skin over Android, courtesy of Sony, but the skin isn’t as intrusive as previous versions of Sony’s skins. Instead, the software is light and easy on the eyes. While it’s not vanilla Android, it’s certainly not going to be as intrusive as the software on the Samsung Galaxy S4. The arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S3 marked the debut of TouchWiz Nature UX, Samsung’s most current skin which it places over Android. The software comes with a number of smart features that Samsung has included in an effort to make the lives of smartphone owners easier and it appears that it will be doing the same with the Samsung Galaxy S4. Current rumors suggest that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be coming with several smart features including Smart Scroll, which looks like it will allows users to scroll pages on the screen simply by using their eyes and Smart Pause which will allow owners to pause content on screen when they look away. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will come with powerful software, in addition to Android. Besides that, the device is said to have a feature called Samsung Orb which is pegged to be Samsung’s version of Google’s Photo Sphere, a feature that allows owners to take 360 panoramic photos. The Galaxy S4, since day one, has been rumored to have Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on board. Carriers Unfortunately, while carriers in other parts of the world have signed on board for the Sony Xperia Z, no carriers in the United States are currently offering it. Furthermore, there is no sign that a launch could be coming in the future. Smaller carriers could opt to carry the Xperia Z, but at this point, their plans haven’t been made public. Consumers in the U.S. can still import the phone and while it will run on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, it won’t run on their 4G LTE networks. Those looking for that kind of support will have to opt for the Sony Xperia ZL, a variant of the Xperia Z that seemingly has support for 4G LTE in the U.S. Connectivity is limited with the Sony Xperia Z. The same type of problem won’t occur with the Samsung Galaxy S4. Both the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 launched on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon and because of their success, we imagine that the same five carriers will carry the Galaxy S4. Thus far, rumors have only pointed to AT&T and Verizon but we imagine that the other carriers will be along for the ride as well, with T-Mobile finally offering a Galaxy S device on its 4G LTE network at launch. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will likely feature a familiar price. Price Due to the fact that the Sony Xperia Z hasn’t officially launched in the United States, those looking to buy it are going to have to pay a pretty penny up front. We’ve seen the device become available for $850 through some retailers, a price that is going to have to be paid up front. Until a carrier in the U.S. decides to offer the device on-contract, that’s unfortunately the type of pricing that Americans are going to have to deal with when it comes to the Xperia Z. As for the Samsung Galaxy S4, oddly enough, no rumors about its price have emerged though the price shouldn’t stray too far from the smartphone norms. Apple set a precedent with its $199.99 iPhone price tag, a price tag that emerged with the Galaxy S3, and that means that we should see it arrive with the Galaxy S4 as well. That price of course will likely be for the 16GB model while a 32GB model will be more expensive, possibly $249.99 on-contract. Those opting for a T-Mobile device will likely encounter off-contract pricing due to the carrier shifting gears and moving to its Value Plans which come without contracts.