Sony Xperia Z3 Compact vs Apple iPhone 5s: first look

Folks, in case it isn't obvious by now, the 'mini', or 'compact', segment is now a thing. Everyone does it -- LG does it, Samsung does it, and even HTC does it. But none of those get close to the way Sony does it, and we first got the sweet taste of that difference in approach with the original Xperia Z1 Compact.

Where Sony and its competitors differ in this particular tier is simply the level of hardware the company endows its compact flagship handsets with. Unlike the rest, Sony feels like there's an actual market for flagship-spec'd devices that are still relatively comfortable to use with one hand. The just-announced Xperia Z3 Compact continues that tradition, and we're sure that the many of the fans of the original will be relieved to hear that the display has grown to 4.6-inches at essentially zero cost to dimensions.

But how does the Z3 Compact handle a proven device like the iPhone 5s? When we last compared Apple's flagship with the Z1 Compact, the difference in size was pretty negligible. Thanks to Sony's engineering efforts, this is still so, which, again, makes the Z3 Compact one of the most logical alternatives to the latest iPhone So which one should you pick if you find yourself on the fence? Let's take a preliminary look.


Few modern phones in existence say 'premium' the way the iPhone 5s does, and it just so happens that the Z3 Compact is a member of that elite club. Sure, on the whole, we still are leaning towards the latest iPhone in this particular category, but the Z3 Compact is not too far behind.

Perhaps the most amazing part about the Z3 Compact is how Sony has managed to literally fit a larger screen in the exact same body. This makes the Z3 Compact very... well, compact. What's more, while the materials used with the construction are not exactly outstanding (glass and plastic), the feeling of the phone definitely is. We also like the way it feels in the hand, and that, to a large extent, has to do with the pleasantly-rounded corners of the gadget.

Looking at the iPhone 5s, we've gotta say that it's definitely the more premium device in terms of its build. Instead of plastic and glass, Apple has instead used aluminum, and the craftsmanship here is honestly superb. That said, Apple could definitely learn from Sony -- for a 4-inch display, the iPhone 5s is a relatively large device, even though it's still tiny compared with most Android flagships. 

To put the above in context, the dimensions of the Z3 Compact measure in at 5.01 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches (127.3 x 64.9 x 8.64 mm), while the iPhone's read 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm). So the iPhone 5s is definitely the smaller device of the two, but the sacrifice in screen real estate is also there. 


Speaking of screen real estate, the Xperia Z3 Compact has significantly more. Its 4.6-inch, 720 x 1280 pixel resolution IPS LCD display is noticeably larger than the 4-inch, 640 x 1136 pixel resolution one on the iPhone 5s. Better yet, the increased size doesn't come at the expense of image clarity, as the Z3 Compact nearly ties with the iPhone 5s in terms of pixel density: 319 ppi vs 326 ppi.

The one thing we don't yet know about the Z3 Compact's screen is how well it is calibrated, and whether it can go as high as the iPhone 5s when brightness is concerned. What we do know, however, is that the iPhone 5s is among the best in those two categories, so we're hoping Sony has done a good job. Time will tell.


The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and the Apple iPhone 5s are two very different devices, but nowhere is that distinction as obvious as with the software.

That's a given, of course -- after all, we're talking about handsets that run on two completely different mobile platforms, Android and iOS. And while the iOS-faithful will (with good reason) brag about the simplicity and intuitiveness of their system of choice, Sony is among the very few manufacturers that can actually claim that its Android 4.4 KitKat-touting Z3 Compact can compare in that regard.

Indeed, Sony is quite conservative with the amount of features and design changes it introduces with its custom Xperia skin. Quite frankly, the software is very close to what stock Android is all about -- little to no bloat, and no-nonsense approach towards features. To that end, the few extra features you'll find on a phone like the Z3 Compact that you won't find on a Nexus-line device include STAMINA mode for when you're running low on battery, and ClearPhase and xLOUD -- two features that help with the quality and loudness of the earpiece and speaker, respectively.

As for the iPhone 5s, it runs on the latest commercially-available version of Apple's OS -- iOS 7. Like we said before, the UI on the iPhone is very clean -- so clean, that some actually consider it stripped down. And while that has a negative overtone, the hundreds of millions of iPhone users obviously disagree. In other words, it really comes down to what you prefer.

Processor and memory

We already mentioned that Sony doesn't kid around when its 'mini' line is concerned, and the Z3 Compact's Snapdragon 801 chip is a great example of that. The quad-core Qualcomm chip makes use of four Krait 400 cores, clocked at 2.5GHz, alongside an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. This is the most powerful version of the Snapdragon 801, and trust us, when it comes to speed, this configuration just flies.

As for the iPhone 5s, we have a seemingly underwhelming dual-core A7-chip of Apple's own make. The 64-bit silicon utilizes two Cyclone CPU's, ticking at 1.3GHz, a PowerVR G6430 GPU, and 1GB of RAM. And though it may sound inferior to what the Z3 Compact has to offer, it definitely needs to be said that this setup is extremely powerful and ensures no slowdown at any time with the iPhone 5s.

Where the Z3 Compact objectively bests the iPhone 5s, however, is internal memory. Sure, you can always order a 64GB iPhone 5s, but it still won't have the ability to cheaply expand that through a microSD card.


When it comes down to imaging, we again have two very different approaches. Sony, which makes its own sensors for use in its smartphones (along with nearly the entirety of the Android industry), is betting on a 20.7-megapixel CMOS sensor with an LED flash. Obviously, that's a lot of pixels, but keep in mind that, by default, the Z3 Compact will shoot 5-megapixel stills, and use the remaining resolution to enrich the ones that make the final cut through a process called pixel binning.

Looking at the latest iPhone, Apple's traditional conservatism towards camera resolution is obvious -- the 5s makes use of an 8-megapixel snapper. We've come to regard the 1/3'' sensor as great, however, and that dual-tone LED flash plays a part in that. 

Obviously, we haven't had the chance to put the stills of both devices side-by-side, so it will be awhile before we can conclusively say that one is better than the other.


Looks can be misleading, and with the Xperia Z3 Compact that rings true more than ever. Sony dared to, once again, do what no else has dared to so far, and is refusing to compromise with its comparatively petite new flagship 'mini'. After all, the 5.2-inch Xperia Z3 isn't everyone's cup of tea -- just ask the millions of people sticking to Apple's iPhones.

Indeed, if anything, the Z3 Compact is one of few devices that can claim to be a very direct competitor to the iPhone 5s. And while its impressive specs sheet speaks for itself, there's no denying the superior build of the iPhone 5s, and it's appealing, clean software.

In the end, it really comes down to taste and preferences.

Related phones

Xperia Z3 Compact
  • Display 4.6" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2600 mAh(14h 3G talk time)
iPhone 5s
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A7, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1570 mAh(10h 3G talk time)



1. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is many times better than Apple iPhone 5s.

21. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Those revolutionary iBezels on the 5S make it almost the same size as the 4.6" inch Z3 Compact.

31. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

The upcoming 4.7 iPhone will be taller than z3 compact if the leaks are true . Sony should have made these available worldwide if they want to compete withe apple , still will hold on to my Z2 for now and wait for Z4 or Z5. Best of luck Sony.

32. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

This comparison article is not really comparing the 2. A lot has not been said . Battery IP cert noise canceling Sforce Sd card upto 128gb. Maybe you should not compare it in the first place if you ignore all functionality and what a smartphone can do and can't do.

36. bored_guy147

Posts: 43; Member since: Jun 11, 2014

This is just a hands on comparison and doesn't go into too much detail about that extra stuff.

40. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Then about what this comparison is? About visual design?

42. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

It's basically about the areas that the iPhone 5s wins or is equal. They won't go near the areas that the iPhone 5s loses. That's just how the icult works to create their image.

47. Anymal

Posts: 15; Member since: Feb 22, 2009

Stupid bezels, Sony and Apple, please grow up

2. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Wow the size difference is smaller than I thought it would be! Z3 Compact is an amazing phone! iPhone 6 won't have a chance against it! (yaya still will sell more unfortunately)

9. darkkjedii

Posts: 31618; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Art, when you say it won't have a chance against it, but will still sell more. What exactly do you mean? I mean, for the companies money/profits is the bottom line, that's why they try to make the best possible device, so people will shell out for it, and for us the consumer, it's all about satisfaction, so we'll buy it's successor. I'm just asking, not trying to argue dude.

12. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Well. It's difficult to explain. But I think we can all agree on that sometimes a better product still gets topped by an inferior product due to different reasons, like marketing, launch, recent history of the company and so. Ok maybe we all won't agree on which products are inferior and witch superior, but still. Yeah. That's how it goes :)

18. darkkjedii

Posts: 31618; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Good answer. +1

23. justrt

Posts: 446; Member since: Jul 10, 2014

Apple still have the ecosystem + brand recognition. They can start selling wood blocks as cell phones and they will still sell like hotcakes

26. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Its just as much about misinformation as well. The years of drilling marketing points into the US public through the media and direct marketing have made them easily manipulatable. A good number of fanboys in the Apple corner don't even know about the alternatives. Since it was there first, a large number of iPhone users only know about iPhones. Android and WP users though came from the iPhone and BB.

39. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

WP user, i came from WM, then to android (since 1.x till now 4.4). I could make the exact same statement. Hell i could make that case by simply walking into a store and asking what phone they recommend for a teen. I have done that week after week (for job purposes) and each time i get sent to a low cost droid, with no reason as to why, but simply because 'it is android'. Not telling the consumer about the pros/cons.

43. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

That's just how sales works these days. The highest grossing sales people, not necessarily the best for the consumer but best for the owner, are super efficient. Meaning there is no time to fully explain anything when you could be using that time for another sale. So the key is to just offer an expensive package and just say this is the one we recommend and only explain as much as needed to secure the sale yet at the same time remaining professional and polite. This works because consumers generally don't care either and want decisions made for them. They just want to walk in and walk out with something their teens won't be upset about. So that's basically an Android, usually Samsung because it has pretty much every feature available, even the mid rangers. If I was a teen and my parents got me a blackberry or windows phone I would be disappointed. So the sales person did what he thought was best regardless.

45. jukkis

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

Apple does it really wrong if they discontinue with smaller phone. Lot of people, especially women buy iPhone 5s because of it´s small size. The the only choice would be Z3 Compact when wanting a powerful phone with smaller size.

3. Utopian

Posts: 32; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Z3 compact rules!

4. jeeta444

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 24, 2014

Z3 compact wins.…5s is nothing in front of this beast. Z3 Compact also packs amassive 2600 mah you forgot pa?

5. WendyFromCircus

Posts: 40; Member since: Sep 02, 2014

IPhone 5s iChoose you :)

7. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yet another Wedny Troll? Wow these just keep coming nowadays!

10. darkkjedii

Posts: 31618; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

So does your choosing the Z3 make you an Art troll? Why can't people simply like the iPhone, cause it suits there needs the best. I have my note 3, but still prefer my iPhone over it, even though the note 3 is better in several areas. The main thing with my iPhone is, it's a lot more comfortable to hold in one hand.

13. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

No I don't mind but just they way he said it and the fact that Wendy is a popular name for PA trolls made me say that.

19. darkkjedii

Posts: 31618; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I think that's the same Wendy, as in Wendy Garrett, and Twendy Wendy.

27. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

I think he was just referencing a known troll. Still, they can choose what they want but what they get ridiculed for are the reasons usually. Those reasons that are true and specific to their needs are fine. But those reasons that are marketing BS or ones that are hypocritical are going to be mocked and rightly so.

29. darkkjedii

Posts: 31618; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Go away.

46. jukkis

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

For work i have Z1 and for private 5s. Z1 is too big, for work next phone is z3 Compact. For almost everything i use 5s, even web browsing. Z1 one is great, just too big.

37. bored_guy147

Posts: 43; Member since: Jun 11, 2014

Well you're messed up

6. MistB

Posts: 581; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Didn't like Sony before but they've come a long way in making such a premium experience, looks/UI are very refined, I did try the z1 compact and boy did it change my opinion of Sony, I prefer the compact to the z3 and wanna get the green z3 compact.

24. justrt

Posts: 446; Member since: Jul 10, 2014

Kaz Hirai is a good CEO

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.