Showdown: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs Apple iPhone 5S

Sony's 4.3in Android smartphone takes it to the established Apple iPhone 5S.

Customers no longer have to choose between an iPhone or a big Android device following the release of Sony's 4.3in Xperia Z1 Compact. The smartphone bundles performance innards with a 20.7MP camera and waterproof credentials, but will this be enough to sway customers interested in Apple's iPhone?

Design

The Z1 Compact and the iPhone 5S might hover around the same size, but the designs of the two smartphones couldn’t be more different.

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Sony has tried to give the Z1 Compact an understated elegance by keeping the smartphone simplistic. Its flat front and back are free from imperfections, and the look of light shimmering on its uninterrupted face looks sublime.

Unfortunately this look is spoiled by the many waterproof flaps on its left side, and the dense arrangement of ports undermines the Z1 Compact’s overall appeal. It's a case of function overruling style, and as a result, the smartphone has to rely on its features if it's going to establish any kind of emotional connection.

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Then there’s the Apple iPhone 5S, idly laying on the desk with nothing but elegant curves, premium materials and the marks of exquisite craftsmanship. Whereas the Z1 Compact looks functional, the design of the iPhone 5S has been dictated by beautiful simplicity.

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Beauty stems from an almost-obsessive attention to detail. Pick the smartphone up and you'll notice crystalline-diamond cut edging. Then there's the machine drilled speakers and the bespoke 'profile' switch. Its front and back are flat too, but kind curved corners add charm to the 5S. Apple’s smartphone is also noticeably smaller, and this makes it less intrusive.

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Winner: Apple iPhone 5S

Software

A point of difference between the Sony Xperia Z1 and Apple’s iPhone 5S is the software. The Z1 Compact uses Google’s Android, while Apple continues to rely on its own iOS.

The two operating systems might be developed by different companies, but picking between them boils down to a matter of preference. Both operating systems are incredibly functional, benefit from extensive application support, make use of familiar gestures and are beautiful to use.

Sony

Sony adds a custom overlay that complements the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean software extremely well. Noticeable additions include apps that position the Z1 Compact at the heart of Sony home entertainment systems.

The Xperia z1 Compact's interface
The Xperia z1 Compact's interface

The Z1 Compact displays a level of intuition by launching relevant actions automatically. For example, music automatically resumes when you plug in headphones, or when the smartphone is recognised by a home audio system. Furthermore, the display on the smartphone can be ‘mirrored’ on televisions and other displays compatible with the Miracast standard.

Sony's Smart Connect app (above) is joined by PlayStation Mobile and TrackID for TVs
Sony's Smart Connect app (above) is joined by PlayStation Mobile and TrackID for TVs

Owning Sony televisions and sound systems isn’t necessary for these features to work; however, there are benefits to having other Sony products in your ecosystem. Setting all of the devices to communicate with one another will be easier, and will using it with your PlayStation.

Sony gains access to Google’s rich ecosystem by using the Android operating system. A simple gmail account acts as a skeleton key that backs up your contacts, calendar, applications, browser and Google’s range of content services. This means the vast range of information on your phone is backed up and can be easily transferred to other Android accounts.

The Xperia Z1 ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but Sony has pledged an update to the latest 4.4 KitKat will be made available.

Apple

Sony might appropriate the Android software well, but Apple tailor its software from the ground up to suit the iPhone’s hardware. The interface is undeniably beautiful, with its seamless transitions and the colourful persona of iOS 7.

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Apple restricts how you manage personal and multimedia content on the iPhone. iTunes is used to update the iPhone’s software, backup personal information and synchronise eBooks, photos, music, movies and applications. Many people will find iTunes streamlines how you use an iPhone, but others will find its restrictions limiting and dictatorial because there is no alternative.

Carefully controlling each aspect of the ecosystem has also streamlined how an iPhone interacts with other Apple devices, including the company’s computers, tablets, Apple TV, and compatible AirPlay speakers. Setting the standard has put Apple in the unique position of having a very strong product ecosystem, to the result other companies rely on the iPhone to deliver their products and services.

Apple pioneered the app store in 2007 and it now hosts in excess of one million apps. This is marginally more than Google’s Play store,

Winner: Draw. Both operating systems deliver the same extensive range of features.

Spec-for-spec

Read more: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review: A flagship at 4.6-inches

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Apple iPhone 5S

Verdict

?
Operating system
Google Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
Apple iOS 7.1
Draw
Screen size
4.3in
4in
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Display resolution
1280x720
1136x640
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Pixel density
342ppi
326ppi
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
CPU
Quad-core 2.2Ghz
Dual-core 1.3Ghz
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Architecture
32-bit
64-Bit
Apple iPhone 5S
RAM
2GB
1GB
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Internal memory
16GB
16GB/32GB/64GB
Apple iPhone 5S
Expandable memory
Yes, microSDXC up to 64GB
No
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Biometric security
None
Fingerprint scanner
Apple iPhone 5S
Durability
Waterproof and Dustproof
Standard
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Personal Assistant
Google Voice Search and Google Now
Siri
Apple iPhone 5S
SIM card
Micro-SIM
Nano-SIM
Apple iPhone 5S
Front camera
2-megapixels
1.2-megapixels
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Rear camera
20.7-megapixels, single LED flash
8-megapixels
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Video recording
Full HD (1080p)
Full HD (1080p)
Draw
FM Radio
Yes
No
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
LTE support
Yes
Yes
Draw
Wi-Fi
802.11a/b/g/n/ac
802.11a/b/g/n
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Bluetooth
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
Draw
NFC
Yes
No
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Connector
Micro USB 3.0
Lightening connector
Apple iPhone 5S
Battery size
2300 mAh
1560mAh
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Thickness
9.5mm
7.6mm
Apple iPhone 5S
Weight
137g
112g
Apple iPhone 5S

Winner: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Next page: Click over for comparisons on performance, cameras and the verdict.

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Tags smartphoneZ1iosAndroid7iPhone7.1jelly bean5SZ2 CompactApple4inchXperiaKitKatsony

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

PC World

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