Sony made a splash last year (pun intended) with its water-resistant Xperia Z, but the Xperia Z1s for T-Mobile kicks things up a notch with a completely waterproof design that can shoot photos while submerged. Available January 22 for $0 down (then $22 per month), this 5-inch flagship device also boasts a Snapdragon 800 CPU, 5-inch full HD display and a 20.7-megapixel camera that gives the Nokia Lumia 1020 and iPhone 5s a run for their money. And we're not just talking about image quality.
The Xperia Z1s is fully waterproof because the device is IP58 rated, which means it can survive 30 minutes in nearly 5 feet of water. Plus, using the dedicated shutter button, you can fire images while snorkeling or splashing around in the pool. The Z1s snapped multiple shots while dunked in a small aquarium without a hitch, complete with flash.
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Sony has also incorporated new tracking technology, which means the screen should respond whether your digits or the screen itself gets wet.
We're glad that the headphone jack on the top of the Z1s doesn't need a cover, but there are flaps for the microSD Card slot and microUSB port. While the overall design feels solid, it's a full full ounce heavier than the Galaxy S4 (5.7 vs 4.6 ounces) and thicker (0.34 inches vs 0.25 inches). The aluminum HTC One is 5 ounces and 0.36 inches thick.
During our hands-on time with the Xperia Z1s, prior to CES 2014, we had a blast testing the multiple Xperia Camera Apps. Some are pre-loaded to add functionality to the camera, and others will be available for download. With the Timeshift Burst app, for example, you can capture 61 images in 2 seconds and then scroll to find the exact moment you want to keep. The AR Effect app overlays dinosaurs and tropical foliage on your screen, which is great for kids.
Even in a fairly dark hotel room, the images we shot looked clear, thanks to a new Bionz image processing engine. The Z1s also benefits from a f2.0 G lens with Sony's optical design.
The Xperia Z1s is ready to take on all comers with its fast Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory. In our brief time with the handset, the Z1s offered swift overall performance, although the camera AR Effect took a few seconds to fill the screen.
The 5-inch Triluminous display sports a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, offering vibrant colors. However, like the earlier Xperia Z, the screen looked somewhat cloudy off-axis. The Galaxy S4 and HTC One have viewing angles.
The Z1s should have more staying power than most Android phones, as it's equipped with a high-capacity 3,000 mAH battery. The phone is rated for 15 hours of talk time and 6.75 hours of video playback.
As the first Android phone with the PlayStation App pre-loaded, the Xperia Z1s doubles as a remote control for the PS4. In addition to enabling Second Screen features for select games and to watch your buddies play, you can purchase titles on the go so that they're ready for you when you fire up your console.
To sweeten the deal, Sony is throwing in a $100 gift card for those who purchase of a Xperia Z1s and PS4 during the pre-order period (Jan. 13 to Jan 21). Even if you miss that window you'll get six free flicks from Sony Video Unlimited, 10 PlayStation Mobile games and a 60-day Music Unlimited Trial.
T-Mobile subscribers yearning for an Android phone with cutting edge specs and a first-rate camera should take a good look at the Xperia Z1s. The waterproof design provides peace of mind--along with plenty of fun photo opps. The 5-inch display doesn't quite pop as much as competing flagships, but overall the Z1s looks like a winner. Stay tuned for our full review.