The iPhone 6 and the Xperia 3 Compact - High performance in a neat little package: source mob.hr
With smartphone makers following the ‘bigger is better’ mantra with every new flagship release, finding smaller physical handsets that deliver the same top tier performance is no mean feat.
While most of the premium tier handsets have moved to 5-inches or more, two handsets recently released provide hope for those that value a pocket friendly design and one-handed operation without compromising on performance.
Apple’s 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and Sony’s 4.6-inch Xperia Z3 Compact are two handsets that deliver all the power and functionality of their bigger brothers but in a much smaller physical footprint.
So, which one should you buy?
Physical design, build quality and size
Both the iPhone 6 and Z3 Compact are great looking handsets.
Apple’s meticulous attention to detail is on show with an all aluminium chassis and elegant metal curves that seamlessly meet the edges of the glass screen. The camera lens is encased in sapphire glass to prevent scratching and the iPhone 6 also happens to be one of the thinnest handsets on the market at only 6.9mm.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the slipperiest with our review unit regularly acquainting itself with the floor until we finally slapped a case on.
The Z3 Compact on the other hand is much easier to hold thanks to a substantially smaller footprint which comes in at 127.3 x 64.9mm versus the iPhone 6’s taller (138.1mm) and wider (67mm) dimensions. In fact, the Z3 Compact is closer in size to last year’s iPhone 5s despite housing a larger 4.6-inch display.
The tempered glass on the front and back of the device means that the Z3 Compact is less prone to scratching in comparison to the aluminium build of the iPhone 6. It also features a completely sealed design with an IP68 rating that makes the handset dust proof and water resistant.
While the iPhone 6 edges out the Z3 Compact in the premium materials and aesthetics department, it’s less practical in comparison. The Z3 Compact provides a secure grip and is a joy to hold in the hand while also providing best in class protection against the elements.
The iPhone 6 and the Z3 Compact offer comparable IPS LCD displays with the former sporting a 4.7-inch 1334 x 750 pixel display and the latter coming in with a 4.6-inch 1280 x 720 resolution panel.
Both screens are incredibly bright and offer fantastic legibility in the sun. The Z3 Compact exhibited a bit more contrast which was especially noticeable when viewing videos and images while the iPhone 6 had slightly better viewing angles.
Under the hood/hardware
The iPhone 6 is powered by Apple’s own A8 chip, which consists of a dual-core 1.4GHz Cyclone CPU, a PowerVR GX6450 quad-core graphics, 1GB of RAM and a motion co-processor that allows the iPhone to function as a basic fitness tracker. The powerful GPU coupled with Apple’s new ‘Metal’ API means that game developers can eke out more rendering power for better looking graphics and improved performance.
While iOS 8 runs happily with 1GB of RAM there are instances where the lower memory ceiling can bite as evidenced by the constant reloading of webpages when switching between multiple open tabs in Safari.
Like most Android flagship smartphones on the market, the Z3 Compact uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 chipset, made up of a quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 CPU, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM.
In real world use, both handsets run smooth like butter.
The camera on the Z3 Compact is capable of taking 20.7 megapixel shots and boasts ISO sensitivity of 12,800 for better low light performance. While it lacks the iPhone 6’s ability to capture footage at 240fps for some dramatic slow motion video, the Z3 Compact does offer 4K/UHD resolution recording. It also features a dedicated physical two stage camera button.
But despite the bells and whistles, the iPhone 6 provides a better point and shoot experience overall. Firstly, the auto focus on the iPhone 6 is blazing fast which means you’re much less likely to take a blurry photo. You’re also less likely to miss a moment thanks to the substantially quicker shot to shot time.
Most users will appreciate the simple point and shoot interface of the iPhone 6 which produced excellent results most of the time whereas the Z3 Compact camera UI is suited to more advanced users who are willing to invest the time in learning the various modes and settings.
As you would expect, the Z3 Compact is tied heavily to the Sony ecosystem from Playstation through to the enormous library of music and movie streaming content which is overlaid on top of similar services provided by Google. The result is a UI experience that isn’t as clean as iOS 8 with duplicate apps that provide the same functionality. For example, there are three apps preloaded on the phone to view video with Google’s Play Movies, Sony’s Video Unlimited and Movies.
That said, the Z3 Compact offers functionality that you cannot get on any other handset such as the ability to stream your existing library of Playstation 4 games over Wi-Fi and effectively turn your smartphone into a portable PS4 with ‘Remote Play’.
There’s also High-Res Audio playback support and the ability to upscale regular MP3 or AAC tracks in addition to built-in digital noise cancelation. Both these features require the use of compatible Sony headphones. NFC enabled Sony accessories such as headphones and docks can be paired with one touch and similarly, the Z3 Compact display can be wirelessly mirrored to select Bravia televisions.
The Z3 Compact also comes equipped with front firing stereo speakers which means you are less likely to muffle the sound while watching videos or playing games.
The iPhone 6 rewards those who are already in the Apple ecosystem with features like ‘Continuity’ and ‘Handoff’ which allow you to work seamlessly between a Mac or iPad and your handset. For example, with Handoff you can make and receive calls from your Mac or your iPad while your iPhone is another room or buried in your bag. Continuity allows you to resume working on a document or email with a single swipe from the lock screen.
Apple’s fingerprint scanner, TouchID, offers a secure and fast means of unlocking your iPhone and authenticating app purchases. There’s also Apple Pay, which is due to hit Australia sometime next year and will allow you to pay at the register with just a single tap of your iPhone.
Regular globe trotters should also note that the iPhone 6 boasts support for 20 different 4G/LTE bands - the largest ever on a handset - enabling you to use your Australian bought iPhone all over Europe, United States and Asia with fast download speeds.
The Z3 Compact manages to squeeze in an enormous 2,600mAh battery while the iPhone 6 chassis houses a smaller 1,810mAh. Under normal use (continuous syncing of multiple email accounts, social media, light web browsing, 30 minutes of GPS navigation, occasional picture taking and music playback) we found that the Z3 Compact effectively doubled the runtime of the iPhone 6.
The iPhone 6 struggled to get through a day of use whereas the Sony comfortably got us through two full days. What’s more, the Z3 Compact offers additional power saving modes that can substantially extend the runtime.
Price and storage
At $699 outright, the Z3 Compact is a $170 cheaper than the iPhone 6 starting price of $869.
Z3 Compact customers looking for more storage options will be out of luck, however, the handset does support the use of microSD cards of up to 128GBs in capacity.
The iPhone 6 offers more internal storage options so long as you’re willing to plunk down more cash, with a 64GB ($999) or 128GB ($1,129) model available for sale.
If you’re looking to buy the Z3 Compact on contract, than your choice of carrier is limited to either Telstra or Optus whereas the iPhone 6 is available on all of the four major carriers.