SONY UNVEILED its latest top-end smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z3+ this week, with an updated, slimmer design, which has a lighter and sleeker frame compared with its predecessor, the Xperia Z3.
Sony said that the name change is down to a focus on individual markets to drive sales in each region.
Nevertheless, in terms of hardware and software, the Sony Xperia Z3+ delivers a quite impressive array of new features, despite the name suggesting minor updates.
The first noticeable thing about the Xperia Z3+ is that it is slightly thinner and lighter than the Xperia Z3. It's only 8g lighter, but this is really noticeable when you pick it up and play around with it.
As you'd expect, the Xperia Z3+ is very similar to the Xperia Z3, which in terms of design is no bad thing as we're fans of its sleek appearance.
Even better, Sony has made its edges even sleeker with fewer seams on the frames, so it's less boxy-looking than previous iterations, such as the Xperia Z2.
This means it's also easier to hold, while still managing to pack the same sized 5.2in screen into the bezel.
The firm has made it slimmer by 0.4mm. It now measures just 6.9mm, although it's not as much of a noticeable difference compared with the weight change.
Another great feature of the Xperia Z3+'s design is that, like the Xperia Z3, Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z1 before that, the Xperia Z3+ can be dunked in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5m, Sony claims, owing to its dust-resistant and waterproof IP65 and IP68 certification, the highest possible waterproof rating.
However, the biggest design change is that the Xperia Z3+ comes with a capless USB port, making it easier and more convenient to charge while remaining waterproof.
The display on the Sony Xperia Z3+ remains one of its most impressive features, with the same 1080x1920 pixel count as its predecessor in a 5.2in screen.
Images appear crystal clear and it is stunning to use. Text and images look sharp and touch operations are smooth on pages and apps.
Performance and software
The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, compared with the Xperia Z3's quad-core Snapdragon 801, coupled with the existing two-day battery life that Sony has bragged about since the launch of the Z3. The device, unsurprisingly, will run Android 5.0 Lollipop.
In our short hands-on, we found that these updated specs translate just as well in the real world as on paper. The device is very nippy, with no lag whatsoever even when playing and recording 4K video. However, it does get a little hot during this task.
As for software, the Xperia Z3+ runs Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop Kitkat mobile operating system right out of the box.
However, Sony has skinned Android with its own custom user interface. We've never been huge fans of Sony's custom UI, finding it overbearing compared with a vanilla Android user interface, but some of the added apps are a bonus.
The Xperia Z3+ also arrives with Sony's Walkman and PlayStation companion apps as seen on the Xperia Z3, as well as many new augmented reality camera features and built-in noise cancellation technologies to help block out background sounds while listening to music.
Another impressive feature on the Xperia Z3+ is its rear-facing camera, which features the same 20.7MP sensor as seen on its predecessor and the same 4K video recording, but sees the arrival of a 25mm wide-angle Sony G lens with Bionz, a mobile processing engine with superior auto capabilities.
This means it now recognises up to 52 different scenarios and adapts the camera settings automatically. One of these is a 'Gourmet mode' claimed to make food shots look better.
Still images taken with the 20.7MP camera were just as impressive as on the Xperia Z3, appearing crisp, clear and full of natural colour.
Sony has also updated the front camera, bringing Superior Auto for selfies, including Soft Snap, Backlight Portrait, Night Portrait and Infant settings.
The firm has put its SteadyShot technology with Intelligent Active Mode in the front camera for higher quality front-facing video capture, and another 25mm wide-angle lens.
It's not too noticeable when trying this out, but it would have to be studied side-by-side with the Z3 to see the real improvements.
We were very impressed overall with our first hands-on with the Sony Xperia Z3+, but the handset's success will depend partly on its price, which Sony has yet to reveal.
The Xperia Z3+ will be launched globally sometime this summer. However, online phone shop Clove has cited a "late June" release on its website and has the device on pre-sale for £549 including VAT.
Check back with The INQUIRER soon for our full Sony Xperia Z3+ review. µ