I used the Sony Xperia Z5 for a month and it's a complete mess

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

So a dog broke my smartphone. As in, it pulled on the charging cable attached to my phone—a Xiaomi Mi 3—and the result was a shattered touchscreen, which effectively rendered it useless. Unfortunate as that was, unlike most people, I don't really get too emotional when something like that inevitably happens, as there are stacks upon stacks of very recent, very high-end smartphones on a special shelf at the office, and I can pick whichever I fancy to use as a personal device. It sounds like a perk of the job—and it is—but the idea behind this laissez-faire arrangement is for the people who bring you reviews, comparisons and stories related to these very devices, to actually spend 1-on-1 time with them. Nothing beats personal experience.

In the past few months, I've been cycling between a few devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, the iPhone 6s, and finally: the Sony Xperia Z5. The truth is that I couldn't wait to go back to the Note 5, as my experience with the Xperia Z5 was nasty to say the least. And the real shocker was that I actually really fancied it when I first touched it at IFA 2015 in Berlin. I truly, really wanted to get that phone for myself, so the plan was to get a taste and see how it goes, as I had a few concerns. Unfortunately, all of them—and more—materialized as serious issues that honestly have no place in a flagship phone.

Seeing as how our review of the Xperia Z5—which I now believe ended up being a bit too forgiving—was widely considered as unfair by our readers, and with my experience in mind, it was obvious that I have to break my silence and say it out loud: the Xperia Z5 is a disappointment, and especially coming from a legendary company such as Sony.

It just never got better

I'll be the first to admit that while most of the stuff that proved a thorn in my eye had to do with the software loaded on the Xperia Z5, there are some important considerations relating to the hardware as well. More importantly, however, the unit I had on hand received a software update during my time with it, which I had high hopes would take care of the niggles I had in mind. It didn't, and even if it did, these issues wouldn't be any more acceptable.

Now, I know some of our readers like to point out that software bugs are something that can easily be taken care of through over-the-air updates, and nobody who understands smartphones can disagree with that statement. What I disagree with wholeheartedly, however, is whether that ought to weigh in on every score we notch for any product that goes through our halls. And my answer is a resounding no. A product—any product—should be put to a high enough standard so that when it's released to the public, it's operating as one would expect. Yes, bugs are a fact of life, but when you have them in such quantities (I'll go through them in just a bit, don't you worry) it raises a lot of questions—especially when we're talking about a company's flagship product.

In short, the issues I encountered with the Xperia Z5's software never got away, even if some of them were sporadic and seemingly resolved at one time or another. The truth is that they always came back sooner rather than later, and it was hard not to get annoyed—a rarity for somebody who doesn't believe in relieving stress through physical abuse of inanimate objects.

Flagship products warrant a flagship experience, not this

Okay, so enough with the general talk. By now, most of you will be looking to glean the insight of my experience, and that means specifics. Lucky me, after a while I just knew that I have got to start taking notes in order to have the substance needed for this editorial. Unlucky me, the Sony Xperia Z5 is probably the only darn smartphone under the sun that doesn't feature a note-taking app out of the box. I found this highly amusing, and all kinds of ironic. Anyways, a short trip to the Play Store later, I was ready for action.

My first note is the most general one, though from a purely chronological point of view, it was actually something I realized only after I gave up on the Xperia Z5: it's not a very fast phone. I know that's a weird conclusion given the potent silicon on the inside, and it's positively bizarre that I found a phone with Samsung's notoriously sluggish TouchWiz interface more responsive, but that's just how it is. Seriously, since I had gotten used to the pace, I didn't pay much mind to any slowdowns in accessing various menus or apps, but it was crystal clear once I picked up the Note 5 again—and that's not a device I'd go on record as characterizing as butter smooth. 

Still, it outperformed the Xperia Z5, and it was pretty obvious. And yes, you can look into synthetic benchmarks all you want, contrast and compare scores all day, but that's my anecdotal experience. And it was twice validated once I picked up the iPhone 6s again, which just flies through its interface in comparison. Still, for most intents and purposes, the average user will find the Xperia Z5 to be a snappy phone.

But it's buggy as hell.

Yep, I don't mind going to an extreme on this one, as the type of missing/messed up functionality allowed to fall through the proverbial Q&A cracks is just absurd. Don't believe me? How about...

  • Orientation switch—something as basic as that—simply doesn't work most of the time. Like, it honestly just doesn't work, no matter how forcefully you flip the phone in the hope that the sensors inside will pick up the idea. Even in Sony's own, built-in Gallery, landscape regularly wasn't an option. And yes, all the right settings were turned on. Funnily enough, every once in a while, it would work just this one time, and then die again. And now, three weeks after I first started jotting down notes for this editorial, it's back to working. Let's hope it's permanent.
  • Launching the camera app through a third-party app meant a viewfinder stuck in Portrait mode. That's right, have fun sharing those sideways photos on Facebook and Viber, because landscape just doesn't work.
  • The camera app is seriously slow to launch. Like, absurdly slow, especially when launching it with the physical shutter key. And even after it does launch, it takes a second or so for the Xperia Z5 to find its footing and actually allow you to snap a photo.
  • For a company that supplies most of the camera sensors in use with smartphones, Sony sure falls short of optimizing the software to deliver a kick-ass camera. Even a casual observation was enough to determine that highly dynamic scenes, or ones where light is poor, are inferior to what I was able to achieve with the Note 5 under Auto.
  • The keyboard—whether the built-in Sony one or Google's own flavor—is prone to freezing. Seriously, this happens just often enough to annoy the hell out of you, but is just a tad less common than required to prompt you to return the phone. 
  • Speaking of the built-in keyboard, I personally find it repulsively un-utilitarian. But that's more personal opinion than an easily demonstrable fact.
  • "You don't seem to be logged into any account. Please make sure that you are logged in to your account in order to use the app."—the error that I consistently got despite everything working correctly and having normal app functionality. It gets real old real quick, especially since you get to deal with it about 3 to 5 times a day.

The hardware is no better

Fun story: when I tried out the Xperia Z5, I had absolutely nothing negative to say about the handling experience. At the same time, Ray—our senior editor—was in shock with the sharp rear edges and the slippery matte glass on the back. I didn't see it then, but just a week in, it was so obvious I couldn't believe I actually thought this device was well-designed in the first place. The sharp edges of the frame are a nasty—but ever-present—reality, and the back is crazy slippery. In concert, this made handling the Xperia Z5 simply unpleasant, as there was always that nagging feeling that I'll drop and mess up the phone sooner rather than later. It's not the kind of stuff I want going through my head when using a flagship product, though other manufacturers are equally guilty of terribly poor calls alike to this one. Yes, Samsung, I'm looking at the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge's still ridiculously-prone-to-fingerprints-and-general-nastiness-rear-glass-from-hell.

For somebody who doesn't like phone cases, this is a huge turn off. Oh, and by the way, those sharp edges, because they stand between the back and any surface you place the Z5 on, have already started what I suspect will be a painful process of slow discolorization. That's not all, however.

  • The Xperia Z-line of old used to stand for great battery life. Whether due to the Snapdragon 810 processor or something else, the Xperia Z5 proves a rather mediocre performer when endurance is concerned. I immediately noticed an improvement after switching to the Note 5, and the same happened later, when I went for the iPhone 6s.
  • While display brightness is truly excellent, color balance is completely off the mark. I immediately felt the need to use the built-in white balance calibrating feature to offset some of the exorbitant blue present with the screen—not that that's anything approaching a real fix.
  • The side-mounted fingerprint scanner is really convenient to reach when handling the phone, but super annoying to use when the Z5 is laying on a flat surface. Worse, however, despite my initially positive impression of its accuracy, I ended up being disappointed by its reliability. It's definitely a worse performer than the best in this class.
  • Call volume is seriously problematic. Even moderate levels of environment noise had me straining to discern what was being said, despite having volume maxed out.
  • I'm the type of person that doesn't much use headphones, but loves to pair his phone to his car stereo (AUX) in order to jam some tunes from SoundCloud. I do this with all phones I use, and so I have a pretty good idea of what works well. Unfortunately, due to its seriously disappointing output through the 3.5mm jack, the Xperia Z5 just couldn't provide the oomph I'm used to when getting crazy in the car. Even at 100%, volume strength was underwhelming.
  • The front-facing stereo speakers aren't much better, either, with rather low output. Since I don't listen to music that way, I guess I don't really care, however. What I do hate is that the two, super-narrow slits on the top and bottom collect dust and all kinds of debris like crazy. To date, I've taken a toothpick to them twice to remove crumbs and such, but there's nothing I can do about the accumulated dust.

Drawing a line

Considered together, the above niggles and shortcomings add up to a hefty ticket as far as the Xperia Z5 is concerned. If you think about it, they span all major categories, including design, display, processing and battery performance, audio, and software. And sure, it's possible that some of these issues will be alleviated in a future software update, but that's not much of an excuse, and if even if it was—it'd only account for some of the issues I had with the Z5, and certainly not all.

I didn't write this piece to slam Sony, nor is any of this personal or at all inspired by emotion. I haven't paid a cent for this phone. After so many years and so many phones going through my hands, I can't say I care to swear allegiance to any one company. I like what I like, regardless of who made it. And in the case of the Z5, I honestly, truly desired it. There's still stuff that I like about it, including the non-standard, rectangular design. As a previous Xiaomi Mi 3 owner, some of you might have guessed correctly that I like using stuff that's not in everybody's and their mom's hands. Unfortunately, the Xperia Z5, while different, is also inferior to some of that more "standard" stuff. And quite frankly, I was happy to finally sign out from all my accounts, wipe my personal data, and retire it to the shelf, next to dozens of other unused phones that are gathering dust.

It's becoming harder and harder to keep the hope alive, but I'm still convinced that Sony can do better—a lot better.

Related phones

Xperia Z5
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 23 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2900 mAh(17h 3G talk time)



1. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 298; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Agree - Sony really needs to go back to the drawing board with their Mobile phone design Z5 is just plain shocking...

24. Kumar123 unregistered

Sony has the potential to take Samsung in the flagship price range. I read a gsmarena article that state Sony makes more money per set than Samsung. Which is a surprise because all the articles makes me think Sony mobile is dying. That article also explain why Samsung paid trolls are so negative about Sony. Sony is clearly a competent company that sells lots of premium phones. After the HTC mess up the android world needs a true premium and I think Sony can make fill the void. I'll put my full support behind Sony's phones. Plus praising Sony's phones will make samsung's paid trolls and fanboys angry. So its a win win situation for me.

36. keithtae

Posts: 564; Member since: Mar 25, 2015

But earning more per handset basically means sony keeping their price high while the manufacturing cost is low, causing it to have a high profit margin, that's basically what the article means. Nothing more than that. And higher profit margin doesn't equal to sales, which sony is obviously lacking at. Moreover, sony has been using the same old design for years, theres no surprise that their manufacturing cost will be much lower than samsung's especially samsung always try their best to bring someting new to the table. I dont see your point here really. That post is just a longer way to tell us that Sony phones have higher profit margin.and don't forget, samsung has heaps of other low to mid rangers. And that post was based on average price.

50. Vickytan

Posts: 21; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

Lmao, you don't even know what you're talking about. Higher ASP (Average Selling Price) simply means: 1. Sony sell their all their phones at a much higher price than others, including their midrange phones. 2. Sony sold extremely low volume of phones to a point where their average selling price doesn't even get affected by their sales volume. In this case, sony is overpricing their products + terrible sales for their mobile division. The article you mentioned about was nothing but just to prove how bad sony really performed. Lol Higher price per unit but still ends up in loss = low manufacturing cost BUT extremely low sales volume.

67. kabiluddin

Posts: 278; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

That article makes perfect sense because Sony mobile was profitable last quater. They made $201 millions profit despite their lower revenue. http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/IR/library/fr/15q3_sony.pdf They sold less products but sells more higher priced products. That's why they were profitable. I did see articles mentioning their slower hardware sells but hardly any articles mentioned that their profits is up significantly ( profit is actually 133.2% up from last year). "The article you mentioned about was nothing but just to prove how bad sony really performed. Lol" LOL, your comments proves that you read but your comprehension level is below average. That article was written to make sense/explain how Sony mobile was profitable despite selling less products.

108. keithtae

Posts: 564; Member since: Mar 25, 2015

Hmm looks like someone doesn't even know what he's saying. http://www.engadget.com/2016/01/29/sony-earnings-financials-q3-2015/

110. kabiluddin

Posts: 278; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Yeah, someone doesn't even know what he's saying and that someone is you. Even the link you provided clearly stated this - " mobile: Sales decreased 14.7 percent compared to the same period last year — Sony says this is borne out from it's decision not to pursue scale in mobile phones for profitability, and why operating income improved significantly for the section." Yes, they clearly reported that their operating income IMPROVED SIGNIFICANTLY for the mobile. So, clearly I know what I'm talking about. So, maybe next time you should read the full article instead of just reading the headline and jump to conclusion OK.

64. tedkord

Posts: 17413; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Making more per handset doesn't mean much when you're selling 1/100th as many.

98. TerryTerius unregistered

You're conflating two things. Sony's mobile division is and has been losing money for a very long time. That being said, the average selling price of their devices is higher than Samsung's, because they don't sell as many low end phones as Samsung. The bulk of their sales come in at a higher price here as a result of that. You're mistaking that for meaning that Sony is making more money in mobile than Samsung or anyone else is, which is definitively not true. In other words, you are really misrading what that number means.

99. TerryTerius unregistered

My mistake, didn't realize my point had already been made. That's the price I pay for not scrolling down a little bit further. But yeah, all those other guys are right.

118. AppleVersusAndroid unregistered

They make more money per phone, but I don't see them selling nearly as many phones as Samsung does. Also, their design looks good online, but when you see it up close it's very ... lackluster. It's so plain, it could use a few tweaks here or there or maybe just a complete re-design. I like Sony, but I feel like the Playstation is the only place where they are successful these days. The PCs are gone, the TVs don't sell as well as Samsung, LG, or even Vizio for that matter. When I thought of Sony, I thought of a quality Japanese product, but now when I think about Sony, I just think of how they fall short.

123. cheetah2k

Posts: 2271; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

It's incredible that the sharp frame on the Z5 "sneaked" through the cracks and apparently didn't raise a flag. Its incredible that such poor grammar snuck through the cracks too. Chris P - another iphony phanboy with really poor English

149. isogashii

Posts: 1; Member since: May 09, 2016

Sneaked is the original past tense and past participle for sneak. If you're going to be snarky, you should at least learn what you're talking about. (I have no horse in this race; I just came here to remark on the grammar of the person incorrectly remarking on grammar.)

133. KONICHIWA-ANNYONG unregistered

...and yet another SOny fanboy, who automatically assumes that anyone, who says anythihg bad about Sony, is a Samsung fanboy lmao

116. hockc17

Posts: 13; Member since: Apr 01, 2014

I agree with a lot of the problems stated in this article, my previous phone was a Z3 and it got buggy by the end of its life. I completely agree with the AUX volume, it was pathetically weak, but Bluetooth didn't have any issues. I got the S7 and its so much better. I loved it but hated it sometimes, it got very hot whenever I used the camera and would shut down.

2. yoosufmuneer

Posts: 1518; Member since: Feb 14, 2015

Sony get your S**t together

3. Subie

Posts: 2388; Member since: Aug 01, 2015



Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Nice hit piece, dude

6. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

I've used the Z5 for quite some months now: - It DOES have a note-taking app, it's called sketch -I find it very fast, it really flies on 6.0 -I don't recognize any of your bugs, accept for a few slow-downs on 5.0 -better baterry on the Note 5 and iPhone 6? -WOW did the FF speakers collect dust? No way! -what a stupid niggles

48. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Some random downsides are automatically thrown to the article by PA.

73. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

It is a "featured" article too, so it clearly is there for a purpose and that is to perform some sort of hit job. I have a Z5 compact and it literally flies performance wise when it comes to UI. Comparing it to TouchWiz is the most laughable thing I have read so far. The rest of it is down right lies if the software on the Z5c is anything even close to the Z5 (might be a bit off but can't be that much). The battery life is ridiculously good, but that might just be the compact. The marshmallow update just came out, so the timing of this piece is suspect seeing as how he can't have used MM on the Z5 for more than a day or two max before this hit piece. Sadly, people will eat this right up and PA will have their sponsorship money in the bank without incident.

79. majp89

Posts: 182; Member since: Jun 18, 2013

Wow...All the tinfoil-hat wearing psuedo-intellectuals on this website never cease to amaze me. Did it ever occur to you that this is a website that receives many devices, some that are good and some that are terrible? The bar for a good smartphone certainly has been raised in the last two years, so a phone like this that may work well for some of you might be seen as lagging behind the competition from these guys simply because they've reviewed phones that are better. I mean my God, I think this website should take the route that The Verge did and disable comments on most articles and leaving that choice up to the editor to enable them. The amount of stupidity in these comments never ceases to amaze me.

95. hboy857

Posts: 367; Member since: Jun 03, 2013

You are right this site is full of tinfoil-hat wearing psuedo-intellectuals. You are definitely one of them.

89. insyt

Posts: 52; Member since: Sep 16, 2015

True, still using Lollipop and apart from the camera app being slow, everything is all OK including UI responsive with Nova, screen orientation, keyboard, downloading note taking apps, etc. The very slightly raised edges are to protect glass. Oh yes and the frosted glass is no less slippery than the Galaxy glass. The real problem are the following which the article makes no mention of. On Lollipop : Adaptive brightness is a bit iffy. Marshmallow seems to fix this. On Marshmallow : Lack of Stamina due to Google restrictions. Hopefully there will be a work around to this.

105. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

The camera app is truly horrendous with speed, that is just a given. The camera itself takes good pictures but once again, slowly and that sucks no doubt. But his UI comments are utter BS. The slippery phone can be said about samsung and especially the iPhone as well. The dust collection on the outside is of course exclusive to this phone too apparently (some dust proofing he must be thinking). This is a week where 2 authors have their revelation to switch to iOS, a "what I hate about the S7" article where the always on display was a problem that they couldn't just turn off, and a hit piece on the Z5. If HTC or LG had released their phones already I would be reading about how those were getting people killed.

60. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

Except* Excuse me.

137. Enceladus

Posts: 3; Member since: May 17, 2014

Agree. Why does it seem to me that he got a defective Xperia, the bugs didn't happen to mine. Poor Chris :/

8. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Sony's mobile division needs to be made a separate company totally. This will allow more focus and accountability for the product managers. Once a company goes too big, it loses the nimbleness/agility of a smaller startup. They need to change their philosophy and culture to regain the brand image. It's not only about technology, but more about focus and managerial decisions.

9. josephnero

Posts: 783; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Sorry for typo. Sum not some

12. 100rabh7791

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 28, 2016

What a crap article..... I have used z5 and it's completely a flagship phone.. With no such things mentioned by the reviewer... Maybe he is just a sony hater... Lol get a life dude

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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