July 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM ET
We shelter our gorgeous smartphones in bulky cases, cry when we drop them into sinks, and fear using them in the rain — all because we know that their delicate bodies can't handle a bit of water. Well, no more of that, says Sony.
Sony's Xperia Z certainly isn't the very first water-resistant phone — Samsung's Galaxy S 4 Active recently hit AT&T — and it won't be the last, but it is one that you might actually like. It is a tall, slender beauty with a 5-inch display — with a 1920 x 1080 resolution — and a body that's less than a third of an inch thick. Even Apple's king of design, Sir Jony Ive, would likely give this thing a nod of approval. Unfortunately there's a physical downside: The phone can be incredibly awkward to hold and use if you aren't used to the XXL screens which seems to be trendy lately.
Once you get past that part, you've got a great Android device. Sony thankfully didn't go overboard when it came to skinning Google's operating system unlike some competitors — I'm looking at you, HTC and Samsung! — and it threw in a decent camera interface which is rather similar to the one found on cameras in the company's NEX lineup. (Mind you, while the interface is solid, the camera is ho-hum based on some casual snapshots. It's not the best we've seen, nor is it the worst.)
In order to run as long as possible on a charge, the Xperia Z has something called "Stamina Mode." This mode seems to significantly prevent battery drain during standby time by turning off some background functions. After leaving the Xperia Z in standby for several days and finding that it still had enough charge to get me through a boring wait an an airport, I'm a believer in this feature.
All in all, the Xperia Z is a decent Android device. But it becomes a fantastic Android device the first time you take it near water. Want to listen to some music in the shower? No problem. Want to record a video while in the pool? No worries. Want to read an email while running through some sprinklers? Go for it. The Xperia Z can handle everything from a little drizzle to full submersion. (You can dip it in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes at a time.) The only downside is that the touchscreen isn't all that useful while covered in water.
T-Mobile is the exclusive carrier for the Xperia Z in the U.S. and will start pre-orders July 16. The phone comes in black or purple. If you purchase it from T-Mobile, it will require a downpayment of $99.99 and 24 equal monthly payments of $20. Alternatively, you can purchase it from Sony for zero down and $25 per month for 24 months on your Sony credit card. You can also just plain pay $579.99 for it. (Yes, this mess of numbers makes our heads spin a bit, too. When did purchasing a phone get to be so complicated?)
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