The iPhone 6’s arrival is just around the corner, but will it be good enough to tackle the Sony Xperia Z2? We’re not so sure.
The iPhone 6 may not be in our midst just yet, but with the recent unveiling of iOS 8 (and the leak-fest that is Apple’s supply chain) we’ve got a much clearer picture of what it’ll be capable of and how it measures up to the current competition; the cream of the crop including the mighty Sony Xperia Z2.
Apple’s rise to power in the consumer space came primarily through music. The star duo of iTunes and the iPod gave the iPhone a foundation of existing Apple-loving consumers to pitch too, not least because Apple was the word in cool consumer tech back in the mid-2000s.
Whilst Apple is still undeniably desirable, the playing field has levelled out dramatically over the last 10 years and if there’s another phone maker out there who knows a thing or two about music, it’s Sony. Unlike Apple, Sony actually has access to a library of incredible artists through the Sony Music label.
The company only flexes its musical muscles a little with the Z2, but you get a pre-loaded copy of Michael Jackson’s new album Xscape out-the-box, the long-respected Walkman brand in pre-loaded app form and room for streaming from the off (today’s preferred method of music consumption on-the-go over the likes of iTunes), thanks to Sony’s own Music Unlimited service.
Look beyond the music and Sony also has a hand in cinema with Sony Pictures and of course its gaming background with the PlayStation brand. Apple builds its experiences from scratch, Sony can dip into its existing talent/content pool every time it releases a new phone.
Sony is the one mobile manufacturer whose design ideals most closely mirror Apple’s. With a preference for premium materials, precision engineering and minimalist aesthetics, Apple users will most likely identify with Sony’s handsets over the likes of HTC’s, Samsung’s or Nokia’s and with good reason, the Sony Xperia Z2 is a thing of beauty.
Whilst design has always been a cornerstone of the iPhone experience, resilience has never been its strong point and there’s little reason to suspect the iPhone 6 will be much different. The Z2 meanwhile boasts an aluminium chassis (just like the iPhone 6 is expected to), but ups the ante with strengthened Dragontrail glass on the front and back as well as a fully waterproofed body, a rare find in the market, unless you ditch the glass and metal for the plastic of the Samsung Galaxy S5.
Sony’s top dog also offers support for expandable memory via microSD and charges using a conventional microUSB lead, no proprietary chargers here.
When it comes to screen size, the iPhone 6 is the first of its kind expected to rock a 4.7-inch display – huge by Apple’s standards, but in the current Android market, too small to make it the latest flagships. Whilst in the case of the iPhone, bigger will be better, Apple will also need to up the resolution to come close to the clarity served up by the Z2’s 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminos display.
On the inside, the Xperia Z2 is currently sporting one of the best processors in the business, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor paired to 3GB of RAM. Apple has up until this point relied on its own dual-core chipset’s and they’ve done more than a good job of providing a slick user experience.
This will likely be the closest run part of the race in the battle of iPhone versus Xperia. Apple may even jump to quad-core if they’re upping the screen resolution, but that’s still speculation at this point.
As we discovered in our 5S versus Z1 Compact camera face-off, Apple’s camera experience is for those who like simple point-and-shoot functionality and not much else, the Sony approach as found on the Z2 offers two levels of interactivity, like the iPhone 6 will likely allow, you can point, shoot and grab a great photo off the bat, but you also have the ability to go manual.
There’s a lot more control at the point of capture with the Xperia Z2, not to mention a wealth of extra shooting modes for stills and video, including 4K recording, something we’re doubtful the iPhone 6 will offer.
Sony’s also spent a lot of time improving battery life on its handsets and the Z2 can easily manage a full day. Unless Apple really pulls something special out with iOS 8 running on the iPhone 6’s hardware, the iPhone’s reputation has taught us that battery life is great, as long as you’re not actually using your iPhone.
Apple’s favourite buzzword at WWDC this year was ‘Continuity’ and being able to take calls and texts on your Mac via your iPhone is handy, but it’s simply another bullet point on the list of things Android phones like the Z2 can already do. Third-party apps like MightyText have been around for years; include added functionality for finding your phone locally and more.
Jumping back to the matter of music, there’s talk that Apple’s looking to do away with the conventional 3.5mm headphone jack altogether and give you iPhone-only headphones which connect via the Lightning Connector at the phone’s base, stopping you using your favourite cans without an adapter. Not ideal.
Sony’s more considered approach comes as a result of the impressive noise-cancelling tech squeezed into the body of the Z2. Play your tunes through the MDR-NC31EM earphones and experience nothing but the sounds you want to hear, don’t have those earphones? No worries; just swap them out for some other ear/headphones of your choice and listen on in comfort, no adapter required.
Android 4.4.2 KitKat which comes running on the Z2 is a well rounded experience and thanks to the hardware on offer, this phone can run pretty much anything the Google Play store wants to throw at it. The ability to transfer files from device to device via Bluetooth has been part of the Android experience for donkey’s years, as has USB storage functionality, two things that Air Drop and iCloud still don’t cover.
The Sony Xperia Z2 is a feature-packed behemoth with a future-proofed spec sheet and innovative capabilities that help it stand out from the crowd. Up against Apple’s next champion, the Z2 still looks like it’ll be bigger, better and more versatile.
The American tech giant has been hard at work cooking up ways to recapture that ‘cool’ that made the iPhone unique in its earlier days, but right now it feels like this former trend-setter is playing catch-up and now no-one’s quite sure what the future holds.