Just a few short days ago, Samsung finally unveiled its 2013 flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4, which will be taking on all comers in 2013 including the latest flagship from Sony, the Sony Xperia Z, a device that has gotten off to a great start.
All the way back in September of last year, and only a few months after Samsung released its most popular smartphone to date in the Samsung Galaxy, the first Samsung Galaxy S4 rumor sprouted to the surface. In the weeks after that, the Samsung Galaxy S4 became one of the most heavily rumored devices of the year with features leaking out on almost a regular basis.
Fueling the leaks was an incredible anticipation for the Samsung Galaxy S4, unlike anything ever seen for a Galaxy S smartphone. Even the Samsung Galaxy S3, a device that went on to sell over 40 million units around the world, didn’t have the type of build up that the Samsung Galaxy S4 had prior to its launch.
One reason for that of course was the Samsung Galaxy S3’s success. It quickly became the go to choice amongst consumers when it came to Android and it was backed by a large marketing campaign that depicted it as a rival of Apple’s iPhone. Depiction soon turned to reality as Samsung smashed the sales records it set with the Galaxy S2.
The success of the Galaxy S3 set the bar extremely high for its successor and earlier this month, all of the leaks, all of the anticipation, and all of the buildup culminated in one of the bigger smartphone launches of all time.
Samsung used the Radio City Music Hall, a venue with room for over 6,000 people to host the event, an event that was complete with Broadway performers and an orchestra. It also, of course, was the home of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch, a device that is now on the radar of millions around the world.
Of course, the Galaxy S4 isn’t the only big name smartphone out there. In fact, 2013 has proved extremely fruitful thus far. One device that has emerged as an extremely viable candidate is the Sony Xperia Z, a device that represents Sony’s first big smartphone of 2013 and arguably, one of the best Xperia-branded smartphones to date. But how does it stack up now that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is official?
Prior to the Galaxy S4 launch, we took several looks at how the rumored Samsung Galaxy S4 matched up with the very official Sony Xperia Z. Now, it’s time to take a close look at how the very official Samsung Galaxy S4 stacks up against the Sony Xperia Z in terms of release date, hardware, software, carriers and more.
While the Samsung Galaxy S4 may be official and out in the open, Samsung failed once again to announce specific release dates for the Samsung Galaxy S4. It did, at the event, say that the device would be arriving in late April.
Thankfully, several European retailers and carriers came to the world’s rescue shortly after the event and confirmed release dates for the Samsung Galaxy S4 on April 25th and April 26th for the United Kingdom. In fact, one retailer in the UK will be taking pre-orders for the Galaxy S4 tomorrow. Rumored release dates for other regions include early May for India and Italy while the United States has been left with a vague rumored May to June time frame, at least for some carriers.
Just a short time ago, T-Mobile confirmed that it would be releasing the Galaxy S4 in the U.S. on May 1st, becoming the first American carrier to offer a specific Galaxy S4 U.S. release date. Other carriers remain mum on timing though we suspect that they will likely release their devices in and around that time.
AT&T and Verizon are typically last so it could be that we don’t see them release their Galaxy S4 variants until late May.
The Sony Xperia Z of course is already on shelves, though only virtual ones in the United States. While it’s widely available on a large swath of carriers around the globe, a release date on a carrier in the United States has yet to arrive.
That means that users looking to snag the phone will have to do so through an online retailer, Sony sells it directly as well, and that may end up being the only way that the Sony Xperia Z is available in the United States.
No carriers have made quips about release dates down the road so at this point, online and unlocked is as good as it’s going to get in the U.S.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 design isn’t a vast departure from the design from the company’s previous Galaxy smartphones, though, it does have its subtle differences.
At the launch event in New York City, we spent some time with the Samsung Galaxy S4. And while it does indeed sport plastic polycarbonate material like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2, the material felt much stronger and easier clasp in the hand. One of the knocks on the Galaxy S3 plastic was that it was often a little bit slippery. Overall, it just feels a lot less like plastic than previous models.
Punctuating the new, larger design is a metal-looking band that stretches around the entire device. It’s a big of a new look and it’s one that will help consumers differentiate between the past and present Galaxy designs, both of which are plastic and both of which feature curves.
On the front, the Galaxy S4 is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, the new technology from Corning that we saw debut at CES 2013 in January. Corning says is three times more resistant to scratches than Gorilla Glass 2.
The overall form factor of the Galaxy S4 measures in at a slim 7.9mm in size with a weight of 130 grams. That’s extremely thin for a smartphone also fairly lightweight.
One of the first things that shoppers will notice about the Sony Xperia Z is its design which certainly rivals that of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sony has tacked on a modern design to the Xperia Z that not only gives it looks but also durability.
Sony’s device features a rectangular shaped form factor, rather than the curves of the Galaxy S4, though it does feature a bits of 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.
Like the Galaxy S4, the Sony Xperia Z is a mere 7.9mm thin but it weighs quite a bit more checking in with a weight of 146 grams. However unlike the Galaxy S4, the Sony Xperia Z design is both water resistant and dust resistant.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia Z feature 5-inch displays with 1080p resolution which makes them appealing to those that want a large-screened smartphone with the very best resolution.
Starting with the Samsung Galaxy S4, it’s display is a Super AMOLED HD display with 441 pixels-per-inch. This translates into beautiful imagery, videos, and text. Samsung did not just stop at high-resolution and size in terms of upgrades for the Galaxy S4 display though.
In addition added a sensor to the Galaxy S4 that allows users to make touch less gestures which means that the content on the screen can be manipulated without ever touching the display. While phones have featured this technology in the past, it was more or less a gimmick. Samsung has tried to make the feature useful by adding some smart features.
One of the features is called Air Gesture which allows owners to change a music track, browse the web or accept a call simply by waving their hand above the display. Another is called Air View and it allows users to hover their finger over content to get a sneak preview before opening it. This acts much in the same way as the Galaxy Note 2′s Air View, only, it doesn’t require an S Pen stylus, only a finger.
The Sony Xperia Z is right up there in terms of quality. The Xperia Z display sports a similar 440 pixels-per-inch which means that it will also offer outstanding looking images, videos and more.
Sony has also added some smart features to its display as well though they aren’t like Samsung’s. Instead, Sony has included the Bravia 2 engine on board the Xperia Z 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.
The 5-inch display will also automatically reduce noise for a clearer video when watching low quality content on places like YouTube.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S2 both utilized 8MP camera sensors. With the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung has included a 13MP camera sensor that already looks like it’s a vast improvement over the quality found in the previous two Galaxy S smartphones.
Early samples suggest that the Samsung Galaxy S4 can shoot rich, detailed pictures, even in far from perfect lighting environments. One of the drawbacks of the Galaxy S3’s camera was that it was unable to perform well in low light. We were impressed with the photos that we shot with our short time with the Galaxy S4 and it will likely possess one of the better smartphone cameras of the year.
Of course, Samsung wasn’t content with just improving the sensor though. The company has also attached some significant upgrades to its already stellar camera application and two of the biggest new features of the camera app include Sound & Shot and Dual Camera.
Sound & Shot allows Galaxy S4 owners to add sound to them in order to bring photos to life. This could be handy, for instance, when signing Happy Birthday during a child’s first birthday celebration. Instead of just having the photo, users can add a sound clip with everyone singing to go along with the photo.
Dual Camera is unique as it uses both the front and rear camera to put the Galaxy S4 user in the photo. Users can then choose from a variety of effects to help the image taken with the front-facing camera to better blend in with the larger photo.
The Sony Xperia Z camera, as we’ve seen, is no slouch either. Sony has packed in its 13 Exmor RS camera inside the Xperia Z, a sensor that not only can shoot some of the best photos we’ve ever seen from an Xperia device, but some of the best video as well.
Sony’s Xperia Z was the first smartphone to feature HDR video, something that allows for optimal video quality in noisy environments. An example is when a user is 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.
Like Samsung, Sony also loaded it up the Xperia Z’s camera app with some fantastic functionality that should go along way with mobile photographers. Features include panorama shots, burst mode, extremely fast pinch-to-zoom, and Superior Auto which automatically ensures that the best quality photo is being taken.
Beyond the design, the display and the camera are a number of other specifications that are powering these two devices. From their processors to storage options, there is quite a bit to compare and contrast. Here, we take a look at the rest of the Galaxy S4 specs versus the Sony Xperia Z’s.
The Galaxy S4.
- 5-inch Full-HD 1080p Super AMOLED HD 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
- Wireless Charging Kit
And 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
The first thing to take note of is the fact that the Sony Xperia Z only comes with one storage option, 16GB, though it offers microSD card support of up to 64GB. That means users can get up to 80GB of storage. The Galaxy S4 on the other hand comes in three different variants and also supports up to a 64GB microSD card which means that it can utilize up to 128GB of space, perfect for power users.
Second, both utilize quad-core processors. But while the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a current-generation quad-core Snapdragon 600 or a Exynos 5 Octa processor from Samsung, the Sony Xperia Z opts for a last-generation Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor. That should translate into better performance and early battery life tests suggest that the Galaxy S4 has an edge over the Xperia Z.
Third, those who need more battery life with the Sony Xperia Z won’t be able to get it as the device features a non-removable back. This means that an extended battery cannot be installed and a defective battery is a much bigger hassle. The Galaxy S4 on the other hand features a removable back which means users can easily install a larger, extended battery should they need more juice.
Lastly, fourth, the non-removable back means that the Sony Xperia Z will not be able to take advantage of wireless charging as it is not built in. The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t have built in charging either but it does have a removable back which allows owners to replace it with a back that supports the Qi wireless standard of wireless chargers.
Like many Android smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be coming with manufacturer prints all over its software. What this means is that those expecting a pure, vanilla version of Android are going to want to look elsewhere.
While the Samsung Galaxy S4 has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on board, the most current version of Android, it also has an assortment of Samsung-made software features, many of which we have detailed above.
However, there are plenty more. Like the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2’s previous version of TouchWiz, the Galaxy S4 will come loaded with an assortment of smart and powerful features, one of which is the much talked about Multi-View which allows users to use two separate apps on screen at once.
It will also be coming with a number of new software features as well. Two of the new Galaxy S4 software features include Smart Scroll and Smart Pause. Smart Scroll allows users to use their eyes to scroll a web page while Smart Pause pauses content on the device when users look away.
Additionally, the Galaxy S4 comes equipped with an IR port that lets users take control of their home entertainment system, thus removing the need for a universal remote.
Samsung calls the feature Samsung WatchON and it essentially transforms the Galaxy S4 into a universal remote, perfect for those that are typically glued to the television watching shows or movies.
That’s not all either. It also comes loaded with a feature called S Voice Drive which is an in-car version of S Voice and S Translator and can automatically translate between a number of languages. Swiftkey has also confirmed that it has enhanced the Galaxy S4′s keyboard with its technology, something that could make it better than the stock Android keyboard which comes with built-in gestures in Google’s Android 4.2.
Those looking for a more toned down user interface will want to look no further than the Sony Xperia Z which, while coming with some features beyond those of Android, has a more mellow UI, so mellow in fact, that it doesn’t even have an official name.
While some of the Xperia skins of the past have been ugly and intrusive, the Xperia Z’s skin over Android is far more toned down. And while it’s not vanilla Android, it’s certainly more so than the Galaxy S4’s software.
Two of the most distinct features of the Xperia Z software are the inclusion of a smart Battery STAMINA mode, which monitors the device and flips off applications automatically when they aren’t necessary, and the the PlayStation Mobile Store which is perfect for those that hope to use the Xperia Z display for gaming.
The Xperia Z is running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at the moment, an older version of Jelly Bean, but Sony has promised Android 4.2 and in January said that it would be out shortly after launch.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has followed in the footsteps of not only its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, but also the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which both became available on an assortment of carriers around the world.
In the United States, the Galaxy S4 will be available on the 4G LTE networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon. Pre-paid carriers like Cricket Wireless will also carry it while Sprint MVNO Ting will carry the device at some point down the road as well.
Of the five largest carriers, T-Mobile will have the greatest advantage, in terms of network speeds, as users will not only be able to take advantage of 4G LTE but HSPA+ as well. Of course, other carriers have advantages too. Verizon is home to the largest 4G LTE network in the land, Sprint offers pure unlimited data and AT&T allows those still on unlimited data plans to stay grandfathered when paying a subsidized price.
There is a huge carrier discrepancy between the Sony Xperia Z and the Samsung Galaxy S4, at least in the United States. While an assortment of carriers will have the Galaxy S4 at launch, the Sony Xperia Z may never officially come to a carrier in the U.S.
As it stands, the Sony Xperia Z is only available unlocked for the U.S. and even then, it doesn’t have the correct bands to properly work with the HSPA+ networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, the GSM carriers that are home to unlocked devices. This means that 4G LTE data speeds are unavailable as well.
Those in the United States do have options though. The Sony Xperia ZL, the more compact brother of the Xperia Z and one that drops the water and dust proof glass design, is available for pre-order right now and it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE networks.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is expected to become available, at least in the United States for $199.99 on every carrier except for pre-paid carriers and T-Mobile, which has recently transformed into the “UnCarrier”.
In fact, at its event to announces its shift to off-contract plans and pricing, T-Mobile disclosed how much it will be charging for the Samsung Galaxy S4. While other carriers will likely offer it for $199.99, T-Mobile will price it at $99, though, that will be the minimum down payment that consumers will have to make for the Galaxy S4.
Other carriers will likely carry it for $199.99 though they have not announced their plans. That price will likely net a 16GB device model. The 32GB and 64GB models, should they become available, will cost more.
Those in the U.S. who may be thinking about importing a Sony Xperia Z will face stiff price tags thanks to the fact that no carriers currently host the Xperia Z on their networks.
Instead, users will have to pay upwards of $600 for the privilege of owners the Sony Xperia Z in the United States. That price is in line with the full price of most smartphones so it’s not unusual. However, those that wish to get subsidized pricing won’t find it here.
The Sony Xperia ZL, the device that can run on 4G LTE in the U.S., is available through Sony for $750, a much steeper price.