Sony unveils iPhone rival the Xperia Z

Phil Molyneux, President and CEO of Sony, introduces the Xperia Z
Phil Molyneux, President and CEO of Sony, introduces the Xperia Z
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SONY this week unveiled the Android phone it hopes will be able to challenge the smartphone market currently dominated by Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S3.

Boasting a 13-megapixel camera that betters the offers from the iPhone and Galaxy as well as the Nokia Lumia and HTC One, the Sony Xperia Z is also dust resistant and ‘leakproof’ in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes.

The Xperia Z's waterproof capabilities are demonstrated

The Xperia Z's waterproof capabilities are demonstrated

Whilst Sony has struggled in the past to match the smartphones churned out by its rivals, the Xperia Z is being slated as the company’s flagship, working on the new 4G network and offering HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging during video recording, a feature the company claims is a maiden in the smartphone market.

Sony’s 2011 buyout of Swedish company Ericsson - with whom the Japanese firm had been working with in tandem - led to the release of the first Sony-only handset, the Xperia S, in 2012 and the company has raised its game even further with the announcement of the Xperia Z, its first 5-inch phone with a 1080p high definition display.

The Xperia Z’s rather sizeable screen belies the device’s relatively light weight of 146g, and at 7.9mm thick, is slightly thicker than the iPhone 5 but considerably slimmer than the Samsung Galaxy S3.

A full HD screen (1920 x 1080) is complemented by a pixel density of 443 pi, making the Xperia Z ideal for watching films and TV programmes on the go.

Sony has taken on board criticisms of past products, and the sleek design coupled with more focus on its multimedia services.

The phone is equipped with Sony Walkman for music downloads and to access the firm’s Music Unlimited streaming service (offering as many as 80 million tracks in exchange for a monthly subscription); Movies for video content including access to the Sony Video Unlimited store for renting and buying films; and PlayStation Mobile for accessing the game app store. There’s also a rather impressive Albums app for photos, which can pull in images from Facebook and Picasa accounts, and has a geotagging function similar to Apple’s.

Running on the slightly dated Android 4.1 Jellybean, the phone has nevertheless been slated to receive an update for Android 4.2 and the next instalment of the platform which has been codenamed Key Lime Pie. Sony has wisely opted for a slimmed down user interface, getting rid of some of the widgets and functions that cluttered previous smartphone offerings.

One of the more impressive features is the inclusion of a battery maximising option, called Battery Stamina Mode, which can extend the standby time fourfold or more. The mode turns off all background apps when the screen is turned off, save for text messaging and standard telephony, and any others the user chooses to allow to run.

Coming in three different colours - black, white and purple - the Xperia Z is still some way off being market ready but has been tentatively earmarked for release in March of this year, with an estimated retail price of around £450. The phone is initially expected to be available to Western Europe.