The Vodafone eForum Community Champions have had their Sony Xperia Z1s for a while now, so what do they make of the Android-powered flagship?
One of the perks of putting in the hours on the Vodafone eForum is earning the ‘Community Champion‘ badge, which brings with it access to the Vodafone device loan program. Recently, we invited our CCs to spend some time with the Sony Xperia Z1.
Now that our eForum gurus have had ample time to get to grips with the monolithic Sony powerhouse, what do they make of it? We asked each to tell us what they think, and to pass along any top tips at the same time…
“My first impression of the Xperia Z1 was how heavy it is,” says Henry, adding that the heft feels reassuring: “There’s a real feel of solidity to it, which is in keeping with other Sony products I’ve handled and used. With phones getting larger and thinner, there have been a lot of comments about how fragile they feel, especially for something costing upwards of £500.”
Next up: software, more specifically how Sony has re-skinned the Z1’s Android operating system. As Henry, reveals, that’s been handled delicately by Sony:
“I originally thought that the Z1 came with unskinned Android, but I now know that Sony has added its own overlay. That said, it has a pleasantly light touch and the phone operates quickly and smoothly, starting and shutting down commendably quickly. Apps snap into place well too.”
Lastly, Henry’s a fan of the tricks Sony’s leveraged to eke the most out of the Xperia Z1’s battery:
“There are plenty of options on top of the usual ‘strip things down when on low battery’ approach,” he explains. “Stamina mode is particularly impressive, offering several days on standby, with extraneous services shut down when the phone’s asleep. With large screens and lots of hungry apps, this matters if you want a full day without effort.”
Like Henry, Nabs is keen on the solid Sony hardware and on Sony’s take on Android: “First thing you notice about the Z1 when you pick it up is the weight. It feels slightly on the weighty side, but that’s not a bad sacrifice to make for how solid the phone feels – it should be more than capable of handling a few knocks without having to worry about damage. I’m sure being completely waterproof has added to that weight but that brings such massive benefits.
“I’ve been able to listen to the radio in the morning without worrying about water in the bathroom, for instance, and I can cook dinner without concern for steam damaging the device. These alone make the phone very desirable.
“Sony has kept the UI clean, and the system isn’t slowed down by the modifications made.”
“As with most manufacturers Sony has added its own skin on top of Android, but it’s done so very well.” That’s high praise coming from a fan of Google’s own Nexus series, in which Android is completely untouched.
“Sony has kept the UI clean, and the system isn’t slowed down by the modifications made.
“There are apps pre-installed, but these can be easily removed or disabled, and there is still almost 12GB of space available to the user.
“As Henry touched upon, Sony has included a very useful feature in called Stamina Mode. This does some fantastic things to the battery life of the device, in some cases I had it double the already impressive standby time. Whilst most phones I’ve used need to be ‘topped up’ part way through the day, my Z1 with Stamina Mode enabled consistently made it right through day without the need for additional charge.”
Tim, AKA TheSoupDragon on the Vodafone eForum, tells us he really likes some of the customisation and control you get with the Xperia range: “Xperia Themes is a fantastically easy way to make your Z1 personal to you,” he says, “with six colourful themes pre-installed and more elaborate ones available for download. This means you can quickly change the system wide look of the phone without having to use third party launchers or other theme apps.
“Then there’s the Favourites Bar, which is a selection of quick-access apps. What makes this stand out for me is that each app is launched as a floating widget. Having a cooking timer constantly visible on screen or a calculator floating on top of another application is incredibly useful.”
Lastly, Tim’s keen on one hardware feature that a lot of manufacturers neglect to include: “It sounds simple, but having a dedicated camera shutter button is a far more natural way to take a photo,” he tells us. “It encourages the correct orientation of the phone into landscape view, and it also gives you the option of pre-focussing or holding the focus by pressing the button half way down.”
Sony Xperia Z1: Top tips
To round things off, Tim’s kindly given us at Vodafone Social a few handy hints on how to get the most out of your Sony Xperia Z1:
1. Xperia Lounge freebies
“When you get your Z1 make sure to sign into Sony Xperia Lounge for competitions and to get free content such as films and some exclusive Sony apps which you would normally have to pay for.”
2. Capturing mode shortcuts
“Place the Camera Widget on your home screen and select your favourite capturing modes as shortcuts. You can edit these modes to be just the way you want, so you can quickly take the right picture in the right environment.”
3. Back up your data
“After you configure your phone the way you like it with your home screens and widgets etc., use Sony’s Backup feature to save settings, WiFi passwords and app data just in case. I always install “SMS backup+” from Google Play store. It saves all your SMS, MMS, Call Logs and even WhatsApp messages to your Google account. This can then be restored to any Android phone when you sign into your Google account.”