back to article Little big phone: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, a toothsome hand-fulla Android

This has been a year of pain for Android phone makers, and Sony has suffered as much in this over-saturated market as anyone. But manufacturers' pain is your gain. Sony's overlooked Z3 Compact is, for you if not Sony, the happy result. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact: the flagship for smaller pockets It’s a …

  1. Stretch

    Wireless Charging

    So as I understand it, Sony claim that the wireless charging knackers the battery. Their solution is to sell you a very expensive http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sony-WCR14-Wireless-Charging-Xperia-Black/dp/B00NCR50CG/ case and dock.

    Annoyingly the case with the "Smart Window" is different, and their is no Copper version of the charging case. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sony-SCR24-Style-Cover-Xperia-Copper/dp/B00N9OC674

    I ordered the cheaper case and after two months of delays and excuses I cancelled and ordered a third party one. Which actually was 20% of the price and is much, much nicer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wireless Charging

      The phones tend to get warm when wirelessly charging. Heat knackers the battery.

      But often in phones there's a heatspreading foil on the CPU which is stuck onto the battery, so its no wonder batteries don't last long.

    2. LaunchpadBS

      Re: Wireless Charging

      What cover did you end up getting?

    3. Bassey

      Re: Wireless Charging

      I went for a cheapy USB adaptor off eBay (about £3). It works, but it isn't great and I wish I'd gone for a Dock rather than an adaptor as the tension in the cable often pulls the thing loose meaning I wake up in the morning to a dead battery.

      It would be far preferable if Sony had just gone with Qi wireless charging. I had it on the Nexus 4 and it is really hard to take the step backwards.

      1. Stretch

        Re: Wireless Charging

        @Bassey The dock I use at home and it really is much better than messing with the water proof covers!

        @AC That is what they claim, yes.

        @LaunchpadBS http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00MEB2BEG/ref=pe_385721_37986871_TE_item

  2. Owain 1

    Z2 Compact

    Doesn't look like it's much of an improvement on Z2 compact which I have. It's a great little phone. Water proof etc, magnetic charge etc. My Z2 gets 41266 on the AnTuTu v5.3 benchmark too, so the Z3 version isn't much faster. My money is on the Z2 compact until the Z3 price drops. Z2 comact battery on stamina mode is currently suggesting I'll get 5 days out of it... I think it's the non-HD screen that really helps. I use my phone for phone stuff, email, minecraft, but not to watch HD movies on - I don't want to go blind. So the HD screen on higher models is a bit overkill methinks.

    1. Locky Silver badge

      Re: Z2 Compact

      It's not watching movies on your phone that makes you go blind. Well, some movies...

    2. Bassey

      Re: Z2 Compact

      Erm, there is no Z2 Compact?

      Bizarrely, Sony produced a Z1, Z1 Compact and Z1 Tablet.

      Then the Z2 and Z2 Tablet - but no Z2 Compact

      Now the Z3, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet

      I think it was because the Z1 Compact was so delayed it only came out a month before the full-sized Z2.

    3. jabuzz

      Re: Z2 Compact

      There is no such thing as a Z2 Compact. There is a Z1 Compact and a Z3 Compact. Probably because the only real difference between a Z1 and a Z2 is the IPS display, and the Z1 Compact has an IPS display already. I have the Z1 Compact for reference.

    4. Shak

      Re: Z2 Compact

      Say again? I don't think there is a Z2C.

      1. Owain 1

        Re: Z2 Compact

        My bad, I meant the Z1 Compact. Yeesh, I use it everyday and I don't even know what it is. Good phone though. Well recommended.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much were you paid to promote this?

    yeah, good phone , shame about the eye gouging price.

    One could buy a Moto G 5 incher for £120 with dual sim and all the blingy features stuff you promote.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much were you paid to promote this?

      > One could buy a Moto G 5 incher for £120 with dual sim and all the blingy

      And one would really want to buy a Motorola phone because Motorola has a stellar track record at supporting their own - mediocre at best - hardware.

      Not.

      Yes, you might be able to buy a Moto G for only £120 now. Problem is, next year, Motorola will stop supporting it, and will expect you to buy another phone.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: How much were you paid to promote this?

        But at a quarter of the price of the Sony, you could afford to get a new phone next year!

        Personally I'm running Cyanogenmod so I don't have to worry about if/when Motorola decide to update my phone. Unfortunately the official Cyanogen port for the Moto G hasn't been updated since May (excluding nightlies), oh well.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: How much were you paid to promote this?

          I've had the Z3 Compact for about a week, and it's great. It can be had for under £400. However, the LG G2 - 5", Snapdragon 800, etc - has been seen for £150... Would I say the Z3C is twice as good? Not on paper, but it's hard to compare, because personally I wouldn't want a bigger phone than the Z3 Compact ( I can reach 2/3rds of the screen easily with my thumb, whereas I can only reach 1/3rd of the screen on a Nexus 5). My last phone was one of the few Androids that was the same size as a iPhone 4 - it wasn't the best for reading the Reg, but was a great size for using as a phone. Tch, all form engineering is compromises...

          The official Sony case for the Z3 Compact is a bit of a disappointment. "PU Leather" is not a "premium material". It uses a popper - not a magnet - to hold itself shut (which adds bulk and is a faff), and there is no cut-away for the Z3C's handy notification LED (easy enough to fix, I guess). I wouldn't nit-pick if it was a tenner, but it cost Euro 40.

          The window in the case might be the reason the reviewer noted that the Sony widgets wouldn't go full-screen.

          I have a lovely 1960's Sony pocket radio with a black leather case with white stitching. What was extra cute was the matching 'piggy-back' case that contained a pair of earphones. My iRiver H320 came with a very similar case, as if in homage to classic Sony.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much were you paid to promote this?

      Oh yeah, the waterproof 20meg pixel camera 2 day battery lifing Moto G. It's almost feature identical!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How much were you paid to promote this?

        And PS4 compatability, built in hardware noise cancelling, instant screen on with double tap, "eyes mode for screen off", and a whole load of features that I can't recally right now...

        Seriously, this phone is liternally LEAGUES ahead of the very good, but still entry level, Moto G.

  4. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Damn

    Of all the companies to produce a sensibly sized flagship phone why did it have to be Sony?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably anything you store on this phone is immediately uploaded to Pastebin for general consumption and your voicemail PIN is hard-wired as 1111, in case anyone else needs to check your messages.

    Sony: "Share Everything With The World Right Now"(tm)(r)(c)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Sony is not Sony Pictures (or Playstation Network), any more than the Samsung that makes phones is the Samsung that makes armoured personnel carriers. Related, yes, but not the same.

  6. LaunchpadBS
    Thumb Up

    Price is high??

    It's already come down to £330 which makes it an awesome phone for the money!

    I jumped ship from the fruity phone when they released that oversized dinosaur. It's one of my only life choices that hasn't come back to bite me so far

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Questions...

    1) Does it come with any bloatware apps? e.g. Facebook

    2) If so, can they be removed without rooting?

    (based on experience with previous Xperia which is running out of memory due to unremovable crapware)

    1. petur

      Re: Questions...

      There's some bloatware, most of which I disabled. Phone still has plenty of memory but maybe you installed other bloatware in return ;)

    2. ST Silver badge

      Re: Questions...

      > Does it come with any bloatware apps? e.g. Facebook

      Unfortunately, yes. Bloatware-a-plenty. From Facebook, Google and Sony.

      > If so, can they be removed without rooting?

      Unfortunately, no. But the Xperias can be rooted relatively easily.

      I own a Z1, not a Z3 (the Z3 is currently on my "drool over" list :-)

      I rooted my Z1, installed Root Toolbox Pro and Disable Service. Root Toolbox Pro is a pay-app but it's well worth the money. Uninstalled Facebook and Google Play Music. Disabled a whole bunch of other Google Play Service services, plus Enterprise Services and Exchange Services and battery life increased by 150%.

      Gotta be careful with which Google Play Services you disable. Generally, Bluetooth and Location Services are the most power-hungry. Google for 'Disable Service safe to disable' and several lists will show up.

      Also, never set Location Services to High Accuracy - it's another shameless battery drainer. Battery Saving Location mode is very adequate, and battery consumption is indeed very low.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Questions...

        Early reviews of the Z3 series said that rooting it caused advanced firmware to delete itself. The obvious loss was in camera quality. Later models seem to have a permanently locked bootloader to make rooting impossible via normal means. Full instructions are here:

        http://developer.sonymobile.com/unlockbootloader/unlock-yourboot-loader/

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Questions...

          >Also, never set Location Services to High Accuracy - it's another shameless battery drainer. Battery Saving Location mode is very adequate, and battery consumption is indeed very low.

          Basically, those are the new terms for 'GPS on' and 'GPS off' - and annoyingly there isn't a quick toggle built in - seems to be a KitKat thing. Same idea as before - use GPS when you need to, don't when you don't. Easy.

    3. Nadjau

      Re: Questions...

      1) Does it come with any bloatware apps? e.g. Facebook

      Yes

      2) If so, can they be removed without rooting?

      Yes. In my experience (UK SIM-free unlocked).

      It's a great phone. No quibbles at all to date.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a Sony, is it hack proof ?

    1. ISP
      Joke

      ...is it hack proof ?

      Well it survived Orlowski...

  9. thomas k.
    Facepalm

    the lens protrudes slightly

    If they just can't avoid making the lens protrude slightly, why not put an ever-so-slightly

    raised lip around it to protect it from scratches?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: the lens protrudes slightly

      They have - the flange is ever so slightly higher than the lens - I've just run my fingernail across it to confirm, since I can't tell by eye. Still, I have a case now.

  10. David Austin

    I think I may have chosen.. poorly

    Wanted a small phone over a powerful phone with the last upgrade: Went for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, but thinking the S2/S3 Compact should have got more attention from me...

    1. petur

      Re: I think I may have chosen.. poorly

      Yes. It's a great little phone. As a moderately heavy user, with all options on and no stamina-modes, it still manages 2 days (still 30% after >6 hours of screen time), a coworker who only uses it for chat and mail manages to recharge every 4 days.

      I read somewhere that the glass isn't maybe as good as Gorilla glass, so I went for a thin case + screen protector. I would have taken the latter anyway since I hate reflective screens.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I think I may have chosen.. poorly

        The screen protector included in the box with the Z3C is slightly matt, and feels nice to the touch.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Usb charging flap

    I've had the Z1C since it came out at the beginning of the year and the charging flap is still securely attached to my phone despite the flap being opening every other night (sometimes every night if I've been playing games on it because I've forgotten where my N7 was) for charging.

    If only the battery on my company S4mini would last as long as this....

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Usb charging flap

      I was going to say the same. The article is correct that the feel of the waterproof flaps doesn't inspire confidence, but over a year after I got my Z1 it's still just as solid as ever.

      Unfortunately, the article is certainly not correct about all the bloatware that comes with it. I don't know why the Reg keeps praising them so much, Sony's media apps are by far the worst I've ever had the misfortune of using. If you actually want to have music on your phone, you're much better off dropping a couple of quid for a decent Android media player (I use PlayerPro, I haven't found a single free one that's even half decent) and transferring files using Windows explorer instead of some pointless crapware that only lets you "sync" in some way that it's decided you can instead of letting you tell it what to do. Even if you don't care about any of that, stock Android is still so much better than Sony's efforts it's not even funny.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Usb charging flap

        You can use Windows Explorer to transfer music to Sony phones - the Walkman app will still play them fine. An older version of the Walkman app wouldn't play WMA, I haven't tested the one on my Z3C yet.

      2. calumg

        Re: Usb charging flap

        Yup - I've had a Z3 compact for months now, and the Walkman app just failed me somehow, whereas the stock Android music player did what I wanted flawlessly. There's a lot of apps like Xperia Lounge which basically require you to rape your privacy and agree to various additional terms and conditions, which are basically just marketing vehicles. I've not been bothered to disable them yet, so they just pop up "marketing news" from time to time. Utter tripe.

        All that said, Sony's customization is quite understated, and the bloatware doesn't spoil the Xperience too much.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the foot of the article...

    At the foot of the article... Sponsored: Security management 2.0

    Oh, the irony!

  13. Robert Caldecott

    Serious mobile data bug with some Three users

    I had one of these, bought from Clove the day it was released. Loved it: the best Android device I've used. But after two weeks I had to send it back due to a nasty issue where the mobile data connection would often disappear and only a reboot would bring it back. On my device it seemed to be related to using Bluetooth. Tried all the usual Sony advice, like repairing it (i.e. flashing a factory image, which deletes all your data), but the problem persisted. There are plenty of people complaining about this on the official Sony forum and all the UK users have one thing in common: we're all on the Three network. Hopefully Sony will fix this in a future firmware update but as it stands today I would be very careful about getting one of these if you're on Three and you use Bluetooth for anything. Sob. What a damn shame.

  14. Mister Justin

    Z3Compact experience

    Got this for the lady of the house. She's quite pleased with it. Though, she did experience a cracked back within a month of ownership. There was no obvious damage because, well, there was no damage. Just a nice long crack on the back glass plate. Made the inevitable call to Sony Xperia support. They sent a shipping label and packed it off to a local depot for repair. Was turned around in one day, back plate replaced at no cost. There is some noise on the internet about the back plate fragility, and it appears in my experience to be a possible flaw. But, the service for replacement was seamless, effortless and incredibly fast.

    Just my two cents.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picked up mine for £320 from Clove

    Before people woke up to how good Sony phones are and the price went up.

    Love mine, it's fantastic. Infact I regularly drop it in water deliberately when around iPhone users, just to annoy them,.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Infact I regularly drop it in water deliberately when around iPhone users, just to annoy them

      Bet that drives them wild! I know I'm envious of wet phones, especially with my hot ear problem.

  16. theOtherJT

    If the tracking site is to be believed mine should be delivered on the 22nd, so I guess I'll hold off on digging in until it gets here, but I hold out hope.

  17. dj.si

    Compact smartphone with full flagship spec!

    Sony is currently the only manufacturer to offer a compact/mini smartphone which has pretty much the same performance as their full-size flagship, unlike HTC and Samsung where the spec is cut down if you opt for their mini models. I bought a Z3 Compact as soon as they became available (late September) for £350, and the price has dropped further since. Given the spec similarities with the iPhone 6, only a dedicated Apple follower would fork out the extra 200 quid. Regarding the Quick Settings, the options which appear can be changed by using the Edit button. I also bought the well-designed Gel Shell Plus case by Roxfit (whose cases are certified by Sony) which gives excellent all-round proection.

    Having used the Z3 Compact for more than 2 months now, I am still very pleased with it - no regrets at all in choosing this phone. The performance and battery life are excellent. Anyone looking for a great Android phone that fits nicely in the hand should give the Z3 Compact some serious consideration.

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    FAIL

    Broken microSD and locked bootloader

    I just had to return my Z3 because the microSD card is read-only except for per-app cache directories. Those cache directories are extremely dangerous for storage because they're erased when an app's data is cleared or the app is removed. With this new phone, my 128GB card was rendered useless for the things that external memory is meant for.

    This microSD problem is essentially broken KitKat feature from Google that various phone makers are supporting or rejecting. The Z3 had absolutely no way restoring microSD write access other than waiting for a Lollipop upgrade. The bootloader came permanently locked to prevent custom updates.

    I figured a timely Lollipop upgrade wasn't happening with all the issues Sony is having.

    1. cd

      Re: Broken microSD and locked bootloader

      Thanks to your comment I found out that it has external storage. Before reading this review I was unaware that Ladies Home Journal and The Register had merged.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Broken microSD and locked bootloader

      The crippled microSD-functionailty is indeed a "feature" of KitKat. And yes, was a bit disappointed to notice Es File Explorer didn't work with it. However, the bundled (and non-removable) file manager, i.e. "File Commander" has write access to the card. WRT Lollipop, it should be coming early next year, at least that was the plan originally. Still waiting for it for my LTE 2013 Nexus 7 though.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Broken microSD and locked bootloader

        I don't know when the Z3C will get Lollipop, but my Sony Xperia P was updated twice, first to ICS and then to JB - so Sony have done me well, so far. It was hardly a common phone, either.

        Oh yeah, in addition to microSD, the Z3C comes with a USB OTG cable (microUSB male to USB A female) in the box.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sounds like....

    A nice phone crippled by awful software. If you could get one with WindowsPhone on it I would buy it in a flash.

  20. clockwork.satan

    Xperia? No ta.

    I'm afraid to say that I wouldn't touch another Xperia with a barge-pole after witnessing my other half's Xperia Z fail spectacularly in several key areas - notably the charging pin/slot snapped (an issue which, if you google it, has happened to many, many Xperia Z owners), the 'scratch resistant coating' got horribly scratched and started to peel, a system updated completely screwed it until Sony finally decided to fix it after about 3 months and the final nail in the coffin recently was that the screen cracked while she was just using it normally.

    I don't know if they've improved any as my first Android phone was the Xperia X10 a few years back and it was great, but the new ones? No thanks.

  21. MJI Silver badge

    Littel Big Phone

    I saw what you did there!

    BTW we are looking at new work phones and the one feature I would like is remote play!

  22. cipnrkorvo

    Magnetic charging is great!

    The best magnetic charger adapter for the Xperia is the Magnector X-203 (it sticks much better than the other Chinese things). That's really nice because you don't need to open the flaps and all.

    The Z3 compact is also great because it accepts 5-connector audio jack, which means you can plug high quality stereo mics (like Sony's own STM10), making it a real video camera.

    I just wish Sony would let you change the battery. That's it's biggest problem.

    I agree with "Anonymous Coward", Android is very limited (even with 500 apps installed to try to make up for it), and will probably feel like a toy once there's Windows 10 on phones.

  23. cipnrkorvo

    The best magnetic charger adapter for the Xperia is the Magnector X-203 (it sticks much better than the other Chinese things). That's really nice because you don't need to open the flaps and all.

    The Z3 compact is also great because it accepts 5-connector audio jack, which means you can plug high quality stereo mics (like Sony's own STM10), making it a real video camera.

    I just wish Sony would let you change the battery. That's it's biggest problem.

    I agree with "Anonymous Coward", Android is very limited (even with 500 apps installed to try to make up for it), and will probably feel like a toy once there's Windows 10 on phones.

  24. cipnrkorvo

    Magnetic charging is great! Android is super limited, though.

    The best magnetic charger adapter for the Xperia is the Magnector X-203 (it sticks much better than the other Chinese things). That's really nice because you don't need to open the flaps and all.

    The Z3 compact is also great because it accepts 5-connector audio jack, which means you can plug high quality stereo mics (like Sony's own STM10), making it a real video camera.

    I just wish Sony would let you change the battery. That's it's biggest problem.

    I agree with "Anonymous Coward", Android is very limited (even with 500 apps installed to try to make up for it), and will probably feel like a toy once there's Windows 10 on phones. One of the biggest 'facepalm' actions from Google was to disable apps from writing on the SD card, making the SD pretty much useless. Shows how Google itself considers Android a gadget and not a real useful tool.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget the sports features

    Like other Sony Xperia Z phones, this features an ANT+ receiver which is perfect for pairing cheap wearable sensors. I'm thinking this + waterproofness + a Quad Lock adapter would make it ideal for mounting on a bicycle...

    1. Neal Stephenson
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't forget the sports features

      Are you reading my mind?

      I purchased one of these for my wife who is planning a multi day bike trip next May.

      I would recommend Viewranger with open cycle map maps, these show excellent detail and all the National Cycle Routes are highlighted in red.

      Did a test ride a week or so ago, set the screen to "always on" daylight visibility excellent. Battery was at 87% at the start of the ride and at 47% at the end of the 6+ hour ride.

      I was looking at the Quadlock but will play around with a spare Garmin mount and some epoxy resin as I am a bit of a cheapskate.

  26. Alan Edwards

    I'd give the Z3 Compact a miss

    The Z3 Compact is basically the same as the Z1 Compact, which is going for £270 on Expansys.

    The Z3 Compact is 4.6" rather than 4.3" (but still 720p) and is 300Mhz faster. The rest is the same.

    The Z4 Compact is due out soon too, which ups it to a 4.7" 1080p and 64-bit Snapdragon 810.

  27. Greg 16

    Great phones

    I have a Z1 compact - for my needs it's almost the perfect phone.

    The Z3 seems very similar except for screen res and PS4 remote play, so if you aren't bothered about those things, it might be worth looking at a Z1. You can pick them up brand new for under £150 unlocked at the moment if you shop around.

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