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Sonys gone and done something few manufacturers have done at E3 before: It unveiled its latest smartphone. The Xperia Z4v builds on last years solid Z3v, and at first glance, its pretty similar to last years model: 5.2-inch display, 3GB of RAM, 20.7MP rear camera, 32GB of local storage, a microSD slot that supports 128GB cards, and a similar design to its older Xperia Z brethren.
There are some differences between the Z4v and the Z3v, although perhaps not as many as there should be. The front-facing camera gets a bump from 2.2MP to 5MP. The display resolution ticks up from 1080p to Quad HD, putting the device on par with 2015 flagships weve seen so far (the Galaxy S6 edge is such an example). Sony replaced the Snapdragon 801 CPU in the Z3v with Qualcomms Snapdragon 810 octa-core SoC that is said to deliver 4K video recording.
The Xperia Z4v comes with Qualcomm 2.0 quick charging, which should help your device get up and running with battery life rather quickly. The battery in the Z4v sits at 3,000mAh, which is slightly below last years Z3v battery (3,200mAh). Early results have shown you should get better talk time with the device, though the tougher-to-drive Quad HD display could affect overall endurance.
As before, the v in the model name designates it as a Verizon Wireless exclusive. The Z4v also retains Sonys IP65 and 68 water and dust resistance ratings. And just like with last years handset, Sony is pitching the Z4v as an ideal companion for the PS4s Remote Play feature that allows you to play your console games on your smartphone without turning on your PS4.
While it seems Sony nailed the right specs and features, there are some drawbacks. Its a Verizon exclusive, which will put off customers on other carriers, and the Snapdragon 810 has been Qualcomms most controversial processor to date. LG used the 810 in the G Flex 2 despite the overheating issues the company found with an initial batch of 810 processors. The HTC One M9 had 30-degree overheating with its initial Snapdragon 810 batch, but an update with thermal improvements fixed the overheating for the most part.
Qualcomm has always said that the Snapdragon 810 drama is nothing more than that. But Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo issued a statement to its customers this week about the Sony Xperia Z4, giving advice on what to do should something go wrong. That does not indicate that there is something explicitly wrong with the Z4, but the One M9 thermal improvements update should give pause to someone considering any smartphone with an 810 processor inside including the Z4v.
Last but not least, Sonys E3 launch is different from years past, when the company launched its newest devices at Berlins IFA Conference in September. Sony usually waits until then to make its big splash, but the companys change this year signals Sonys intent to go after hardcore gamers with the Z4v. Sony desperately wants to gain a foothold in the US, but its carrier exclusivity and gamer focus may be drawbacks to the public at large.
Could Sonys Xperia Z4v be a game-changer? It seems there is little to distinguish the Z4v from the Z3v. On the one hand, Sonys water and dust resistance remains the companys tried-and-true trademark, and one we wish more manufacturers would adopt. Manufacturers need not send the message that one must sacrifice good looks in order to have an element-resistant device, and Sony shows that the often-believed, false dilemma of form vs. function simply isnt true. Additionally, Sony phones are known for their long battery life, and that will probably continue with the Z4v.
On the other hand, since Verizon doesnt sell PS4 consoles, it will be hard for customers to see the significance of Remote Play. Additionally, Sonys software experience has yet to be detailed in the newest device. What is Sony doing to set itself apart software-wise from HTC, LG, or Samsung? When youre in Sonys position where you dont control your own OS (Android), you dont have a unique hardware form (such as Samsungs S6 edge), and youve not had big marketing campaigns as Apple and Samsung, you have to do something else to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Wed like to see more of that from Sony going forward.
For now, while the PS4s game lineup has gotten a big shot in the arm at E3, the Xperia Z4v appears to be just another phone in a seemingly endless sea of them. The Z4v lives up to 2015 industry-standard smartphones, but it isnt cutting-edge by any means and chances are it will be tough to remember come 2016.
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