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back to article Review: Sony Xperia Z

How it must gall Sony to find that along with the likes of HTC, ZTE and LG it is now firmly in the second division of Android phone makers, floundering in the spume and wake of the global sales monster that is Samsung. Sony Xperia Z Xperia Z: a bit of a slab Personally I blame a ludicrously complex model portfolio as much as …

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Should be nice and hackable...

It look like this will be a very good choice for those of us who like to root their phones...

Sony (yes, Sony!) are actually pretty good to the Android community, making it easy to get into and hack the phones, and supplying lots of good information. Unlike certain others, including Samsung who are really missing a trick.

Having a Qualcomm CPU goes along with that, Qualcomm are also very pro-hacking, whereas the International version of the S3 has an Exynos CPU which is not well documented.

After Sonys chequered (solid black?) past in these things it's very good to see them being more open.

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Meh

Re: Should be nice and hackable...

This surprises me, after all the playstation related nonsense (and lawsuits!)

I've not had any problems hacking my samsung kit, mind, so I'm not sure what your gripe with exynos is.

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Re: Should be nice and hackable...

My non-techie friend who has a Z rooted it on day one with no problems at all. He's a little annoyed that he stuck with Apple for so long.

I just got an Xperia P and - like with my last Sony - unlocking the bootloader was a matter of moments, all nice and official, no shifty hacks needed. Sony's instructions are clear and understandable even if you're not a software nerd like I am. Fresh kernel, nice clean ROM - sorted. Easy as pie.

For some reason lots of people seem not to like them but in all my years owning Sony/Ericsson phones (first was an Ericsson t28) I've only ever had one I didn't like. That was the S60-running Satio, which was pretty dire although did have it's plus points.

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Re: Should be nice and hackable...

Sony are not really that good for hacking either they use the qualcomm in secure mode that makes it much easier to brick and if you unlock the bootloader the official way then you cannot use Sony's tool to resurrect the device. Updating the radio's is much more painful than it should be. (It was as if they deliberately made it as easy as possible to break things once the bootloader was unlocked thinking people will have to pay use to do a hwconfig. In reality the money goes to Setool creators and users). It is much safer to do a testpoint unlock as it doesn't break your recovery methods.

I would say Samsung are more pro hacking

Qualcomm are not pro hacking at all QAEP is available (But the really useful bits are not available except to licensees) but it was them who wouldn't let the binaries for the CDMA devices be distributed by Google. There is still lots of closed binaries the only reason it is easier to hack Qualcomm is there is more devices so you are more likely to be able to find a suitable closed library or binary.

ZTE (And to a lesser extent Huawei) devices are much easier to hack than Sony - ZTE gives you fastboot a full diag mode / TPT and the qualcomm is in the most permissive state so it is almost impossible to brick no matter what you mess with. (You can even TPT a broken bootloader with and it has an extra copy).

(I don't like Sony as a company no other company I know treats their customers with such contempt and tries every trick in the book to not issue warranty replacements or all the other well publicised stuff they have done (Not updating the Xperia Play to ICS / OtherOS Removal / Rootkits.). I dunno what they are I used to think they were a reasonably decent Japanese company but I think the only one left that is good is Panasonic.

(I read an article in an engineering magazine about engineering headphones to fail after 18 months. Monster and Sony were part of the for camp and even provided information on the methods. Panasonic said we would never do that it is wrong. (My current Panasonic (Technics) headphones needs a new lead but they are 10 years old and you can actually buy the part.)

Kind of sad Panasonic again left the international mobile market. (I think it is more likely only the Japanese have any taste in what is good.)

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Paris Hilton

Re: Should be nice and hackable...

Have to agree with the anti Sony sentiment, a once mighty player in audio quality brought low by underhanded practices. £500 for a phone they will support for less time than a Ferengi 2nd hand shuttle dealer's warranty.

I remember a mate buying a Sony Ericsson phone and taking it back to the shop 3 days later,

"It takes shite photos!"

"Yes sir, they all do that." said the salesmen. No refund, no replacement, no repeat business.

The 18 month headphone lifespan is particularly shameless, much like the Skullcandy models made out of candyfloss and Dr Dre Beats cans that cost £189 but sound worse than a pair of £40 Sennheiser PX 100 you could buy for as little as £20 from a HMV store if you were quick....

2 Headphone manufacturers stand out for their customer service, Koss give a lifetime warranty on some of their models and Grados Labs offer to repair any of their models for a fixed fee whatever the damage. My Grado SR60i phones are $25 to fix and sound like aural sex.

Sony who? I remember you, in the 70s and 80 when you were good to know.

Paris, expensive, reasonably waterproof, but ultimately unreliable too I suspect.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Should be nice and hackable...

Android though. That OS just sucks so much.

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Re: Should be nice and hackable...

Samsung have generally not been all that helpful to the community, except for specific PR friendly moments making promises that then turn out not to be fulfilled.

It's got to the point where, for instance, the primary maintainers of things like Cyanogenmod have abandoned Samsung devices altogether: http://codeworkx.de/wordpress

I have an i9300 (International S3) myself and run Slimbean on it which works pretty well, but there isn't a stable CyanogenMod 10 (Jellybean) release for it and it doesn't look like there ever will be.

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JDX
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watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

But why for the love of God would you not use headphones?

Just ban built-in speakers on mobile phones, for the benefit of the rest of us (on a serious note would that save much weight/volume?)

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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

I'm absolutely with you on wanting to bash sodcasters about the noggin, but I do regularly use the speaker on my phone when I am out of earshot of other people. Not for music, but for spoken-word podcasts it's fine.

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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

I've sat and thought quite hard and I'm struggling to figure out how a phone can ring, or play some fancy ring tune or MP3 or whatever to alert you to the fact you have a call/text/alarm/etc without the use of a built in speaker, unless you have the volume really loud or plug it into an external speaker.......

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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

I agree with the comments here. I have never used the loud speaker for any length of time to watch a video. Just for showing a youtube clip to the wife so not really bothered about that.

Also - Why should I care that the screen doesn't so good when looked at from the wrong angle? I always watch videos with the device (usually a Nexus 7) pointed roughly at me. And the fact that the colours aren't all over saturated like on the Samsung phones also isn't a minus point.

I also agree with the point someone made about good support for custom ROMs due to Sony being good with open source stuff.

I'd be tempted by this phone if I could afford £500 but with a Nexus 4 available for £280, I'll have to stick with the cheaper option.

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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

>I've sat and thought quite hard and I'm struggling to figure out how a phone can ring,... alert ... etc without the use of a built in speaker

Not sure why you're thinking about that mate - nobody is saying a phone shouldn't have a loud speaker. The reviewer complained it was raucous at high volumes which is fine for alerts. You'd want it to be raucous for alerts if you have it turned up high - that's the point! I'm guessing the reviewer is saying the sound quality isn't so good at high volumes which I don't think is much of an issue myself.

Speaker phone can be handy mind.

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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

@Miffo "Not sure why you're thinking about that mate -nobody is saying a phone shouldn't have a loud speaker." Er, JDX, did say just that, I think it was to him that David Webb was responding.

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JDX
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Re: watching video is surely one of the reasons you’d buy an Xperia Z

Yes I did rather glibly suggest removing speaker entirely and no I didn't think about the phone ringer :)

However let me modify... what if the only speaker was a crappy one used for alert tones only.

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Get back to basics

Actually If I bought it, I'd buy it because its a phone.

Am I the only person here who has noticed how all the phone reviews go on about this feature and that feature yet no longer say how good it is as a phone!

First and foremost it is meant to be a phone so I want to know I'd it holds a signal, how clear the speakers are etc etc.

Maybe the reviewers need to get back to basics?

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Noooooooo!

Micro USB connector still on the side. Have they learned nothing?

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Alert

Re: Get back to basics

Page 2 second para from bottom.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get back to basics

"Am I the only person here who has noticed how all the phone reviews go on about this feature and that feature yet no longer say how good it is as a phone!"

In a minority, certainly. A lot of people don't actually like the noisy, intrusive attention-demanding nature of voice calls, when emails/texts/whatever social network bollocks is nicely asynchronous. Not having to drop everything you're doing to answer a voice call is progress.

I am usually quite shocked when my phone actually rings rather than bingles with a message, and people generally get the hint that there are other forms of communication with minimal fuss.

Plus, it's not exactly hard to make a phone that manages adequate voice calls. I can't remember the last time that I had a mobile that failed here. It's unremarkable for the phone to work for voice. I'd expect the reviewer to mention very clearly if it sucked for voice (dodgy antenna, poor earpiece/mic), of course. However, crapping on about the fact that it makes decent voice calls is a bit... 1990s.

Maybe if you don't want to read about smartphone features, you should stop reading smartphone reviews? Just a thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Noooooooo!

>Micro USB connector still on the side. Have they learned nothing?

er... that it 'does a Backberry' and acts a horizontal alarm clock?

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Re: Noooooooo!

My Xperia P works very well for voice calls, and I've heard good things about other Xperia handsets... Don't know what the Z is like.

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Meh

Icon says it all

As much as I'd love to see Sony pump out some beaut phones, their flagships seem to always be almost-but-not-quite as good as the competition. They've come to be the phone that people have in their top four but knock it out of the running first.

Plus the features seem haphazard - a special camera mode, waterproof, custom menu - their phones just appear...lost.

And I share the author's lament of the absence of xenon flash on the Xperia (and, to be fair, every handset out there from every manufacturer). My 3.2Mp Sony Ericsson K800i which I have sitting in a desk drawer somewhere still manages to put new "flagship" handsets to shame in nighttime flash shooting, thanks to the Xenon flash - sure, it takes up valuable internal room, and probably drinks battery, but If Sony were looking for a way to *truly* differentiate their phones (and add value to the "cybershot" brand) that would be the way to do it IMO.

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Re: Icon says it all

Curious... Esskay appears to be a sensible human being, so it must just be a matter of taste and individual user needs: I'd personally consider waterproofing to be a better feature than a xenon flash.

The sensible way to implement better flash on phones would be to make the flash a separate unit, remotely triggered by the phone camera - not only would a xenon flash be available to all those who want it, but it would also be more flattering to the subjects by reducing the 'albino rabbit in headlights' look.

Right, I'm off to see if there is anything approaching an Android feature request list ...

: D

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Re: Icon says it all

On the contrary, I've always gone for the Sony/SonyEricsson alternative to "king of the hill", as they are generally much nicer to use. Their overlays avoid all the bloat and rubbish of Sense / TouchWiz, and recently their enhancements have been just that - enhancements. I use my phone as a music player a lot, and I must say the Walkman player on my Xperia S is an absolute joy. Slick, powerful, and sounds great. It makes the iPod on my works iPhone look decidedly old fashioned. The photo album and video gallery are similarly well put together, and have really come on leaps and bounds since Sony took over from SE.

Unless you simply must have the last 0.001 % of performance available or insist on having a day-glo AMOLED screen that turns everything green, the Xperias make a hell of a lot of sense at the moment.

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Xenon Flash

I agree I'd much rather have this feature, it's something really missing IMO.

I've never dropped a phone down the toilet or into a bucket of water so that feature is neither here nor there for me.

I wonder how long those flaps will stay attached anyway, considering most would be getting this on a 2 year contract.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Icon says it all

The point is of course, is you don't NEED Xenon flash on Xperia phones, the low-light performance of the EXmor RS sensor is so much better than any other phone out there.

I just wish these things were reviewed by people that know what they are talking about, rather than reading form the spec sheet and filling in the blanks with made up stuff.

The Xperia Z easily has the best camera of any smartphone on the market today, anyone that suggests otherwise has been either tainted by the Sony-hate that's been spewing out of redmond for the last couple of years, or didn't bother actually testing it out.

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Re: Icon says it all

I'd check out side by side photo comparisons before agreeing with AC... there have been a few reviews that suggest the camera isn't as great as the specs suggest, but maybe the reviewer missed a trick. Who knows.

That said, I'd agree with AC in that I try avoid flash in most circumstances, and that if I have to use it I try to bounce it or diffuse it somehow.

Hmm, just found some photos taken on my Xperia P on Friday night in a dark pub... the images are grainy, but recognisable - the camera seems to have made the most of its limited capabilities.

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I miss my xenon

I had a satio cybershot, and then fell for the ol' exmor R is much more sensitive in low light hype and got myself an Xperia S. Yes, it is more sensitive and can take pictures in low light, but the overall quality is much less appealing that the satio cybershot, which I still pull out of retirement for gigs/concerts (or at least I did until i decided to just give up on camera phones and buy a real camera). so yes YOU DO NEED A XENON (or at least I do). I like Sony products, but please PLEASE PLEASE can I have a xenon flash black??!

I won't be bothering with the xperia Z as my xperia S still does me proud, but I may be adding a tablet Z to my shipping list.

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@Dave 126

Undoubtedly, it's a case of horses for courses - waterproofing is high up on some people's lists, with good reason - it comes down to how we use our phones. But after having Xenon flash on a phone 5 or so years ago, going back to LED is kind of annoying (athough I'll admit the torch feature of the LED is valuable in it's own right).

A seperate flash unit would be great, but then it's another thing to carry around. Still, it's a good way to deliver it to people who want it :)

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Re: Icon says it all

Totally with you on the K800i - on of the best pocket cameras I've ever had. It would surf passably and even make calls. Android smartphones make much better pocket computers but do not impress as cameras. Luckily they can still make calls.

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Re: Icon says it all

Completely agree on the Xenon flash - it would certainly raise up any phone on my possible purchases list if it had a decent sensor and a proper flash.

There's also no reason why it couldn't cope well with redeye etc - there's no reason for it to be mounted next to the sensor - smartphones are all 10cm+ long, so the flash could be mounted at the opposite end to the sensor.

I don't like the idea of a separate flash unit though - the whole point behind having good cameras on smartphones is to enable you to capture those moments when you weren't expecting something; when you don't have your proper camera with you for example. At those times you probably don't want to be bumbling through your pocket, switching on your FlashPod (TM), waiting for it to link to your phone by BlueTooth, firing up the third party camera app that uses it, before finally being ready to capture that moment that passed 30 seconds before.

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Why is it £500?

You wouldn't expect to pay anything like that for a similar spec tablet. Why does the price shoot up when the telephony module goes in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why is it £500?

Probably because that telephone module puts the device into a different classification which then means your device needs more testing?

If you screw up your wifi router that's no big deal, if you screw up a 3G cell then lots of people will be pissed off.

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Stop

Re: Why is it £500?

More components (e.g. either individual or combined 2G, 3G and LTE radio).

Smaller case requiring more compact hardware designs that don't overheat, requiring more prototyping.

As already said, more testing (both software, baseband, firmware and hardware).

More certification.

Many more licenses for intellectual property.

That said, does it add up to a £300 price differential over a Nexus 7?

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Re: Why is it £500?

The whole thing falls down as long as the Nexus 4 exists. It seems like everyone just wants to charge a lot SIM Free BECAUSE they can.

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Off the top of my head..

Challenge accepted:

Last year: The U (cheap), the P (less Cheap), S (higher end), T (big screen), TX (big screen, swappable battery), Go (like the U but waterproof), this year the Z. I may have missed a few, though.

Sorry, I only know this cos I've been searching the web for when Jelly Bean wobbles towards my handset (end of this month, apparently... )

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FAIL

After so many many SE phones...

... starting with the then brilliant K750i through the K800/K850i and the (frankly best all-round phone ever) W995i right up until the current Xperia Mini pro, there is just nothing in Sony's line-up to entice me.

Touchslab phones are the norm now. Where's the innovation?

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

>Touchslab phones are the norm now. Where's the innovation?

That's a charge that has been levelled at all the phone makers... you could read Sony's inclusion of waterproofing as an acceptance of this, that phones have matured and should be refined to be durable. I mean, the only wristwatches that aren't waterproof these days seem to be ludicrously expensive status symbols.

I note that Sony's tablet is waterproof, as well. Only on Sunday I went to a cafe, and the lass behind the counter had an iPad on a cook-book stand, wrapped in clingfilm. I don't know if she was using it for recipes, stock control or simply playing music... but it seems there is a demand in the real world for something that doesn't mind a bit of gunk.

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

The innovation was last seen when they buried the R800 (Xperia Play) in a shallow grave...

Though I'm not convinced having around 14 unremovable apk's supporting FaceBook is innovation worth having ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: After so many many SE phones...

Which "ludicrously expensive" status symbol watch is not waterproof?

I have several "ludicrously expensive" watches (think annual salary as the price), and it very definitely says 60M and 120M in the manual. I am seriously curious.

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@AC 13:21

You're missing a zero or two at the end of your price!

Check out the Harry Winston Opus series, for example. I'm pretty sure the Opus V and 12 aren't waterproof.

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Re: @AC 13:21

Yeah, I was thinking of the watches with complications that are sold for prices akin to a new Rolls Royce or Bugatti.... y'know, the kind that are favoured by Russian politicians:

" Take the Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Vladimir Resin. His DeWitt La Pressy Grande Complication is worth a whopping $1.03 million. The head of Russia’s state bank VTB rocks a $240,800 Patek Philippe. The CEO of the state’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, sports a $112,100 Breguet. The brutal leader of Chechnya’s Bovet goes for around $300,000. President Dmitry Medvedev’s $32,200 Breguet seems almost modest. And the list goes on."

-http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2009/10/russian-officials-sporting-watches-worth-up-to-1-million/

An extremely waterproof Rolex Submariner? Tch, a 'mere' £5000.

Putin's wristwatch collection is estimated to be worth six times his annual salary.

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

Waterproofing may not be an innovation, but nobody else is doing high end waterproof phones right now. After getting caught in an unexpected rain shower which caused my Nokia N8 to die there's no way I'd buy a non-waterproof phone again.

I currently have a Sony Xperia V (waterproof version of the Xperia T) which is a great phone, but unfortunately its camera is hugely inferior to the N8 camera (better colour reproduction in low light, less general colour noise, dedicated camera button with half-press for focus, reasonably powerful xenon flash). From what I've read, the Xperia Z has a better camera than the V (exmor RS rather than R), but not spectacularly so.

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

>but nobody else is doing high end waterproof phones right now.

Well, there was that recent Reg article that suggested that a waterproofing process is applied to quite a few handsets, to reduce returns. However, it isn't usually advertised, as the first thing some people do is to 'test' it by deliberately dunking it it water.

I remember being in school and playing baseball in a classroom using a tack hammer as a bat and a Casio G-Shock as a ball. No harm done. A few years later I deliberately dropped another G-Shock from a first-floor window onto concrete, and having to get it fixed on warranty (which was honoured, but the parts took an age to come from Japan).

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

Yes, they need to bring out the Xperia Pro II with QWERTY slider. Auto"correct" on touch-only keyboards is driving me nuts!

However, I do find much of this review overly negative and subjective. E.g. (one out of many) I don't find the Sony software skin "dated" at all, and much prefer it to Google's efforts. (much of the ideas for which were taken from the Sony skin in the first place).

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Re: "nobody else is doing high end waterproof phones right now"

Sony certainly do high end pricing however I don't believe they do real high end devices. More halfway between mid and high range with a hefty Sony branding tax.

They're firmly down in 5th place because few believe the Sony brand justifies a 10-20% premium.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 13:21

I didn't check them, but I know the DeWitt La Pressy Grande is waterproof. I would imagine some of the others are too, but too lazy to check.

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Re: After so many many SE phones...

Xperia Pro is a great device. Agreed that this needs a refresh.

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Complex Model Portfolio

"Personally I blame a ludicrously complex model portfolio as much as lacklustre hardware. Can anyone list the current crop of Xperia handsets off the top of their head? No? Thought not. "

I completely agree, yet it doesn't seem to have hurt Samsung too much - there's a bewildering array of "Galaxy" models out there. Similar situation with HTC, who have even gone as far as repeating model names (*cough* One *cough*) in their recent lineup.

Why none of the major Android OEMs have stuck to a simple naming strategy I have no idea.

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