Sony Xperia Z1S vs Apple iPhone 5s

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Introduction


Sony been slowly getting the ball rolling with its unique set of Xperia devices – with the Z1S being the latest one. Based on the Z1 that launched last year, this T-Mobile flagship is known for its glass waterproof body and 20-megapixel camera with bigger than average image sensor. It’s a good idea to pit it against Apple’s iPhone 5s – arguably one of the best in the space currently. There’s a lot to love about the two devices in this particular comparison, but it’ll be especially titillating for those T-Mobile customers who can’t quite make a definitive choice on which handset to go with.

Design


Luxury is the name of the game with these two flagships, as they sport eye-catching designs that are complemented by their premium choice materials. Lovely from head-to-toe, it’s rather difficult to say which of the two designs we prefer more – mainly because they have their own set of delectable traits. The iPhone 5s continues the trend from its predecessor by making generous use of glass and brushed aluminum for its casing, but the Xperia Z1S also shines for its hard lines and glass surfaces. Equally so, the construction of the two smartphones are top-notch, showing that there’s a lot of love placed into their designs. However, we have to be mindful and point out the IP58 rating of the Xperia Z1S. Having that in tow, it’s able to survive being dunked in 4.9 feet of fresh water for 30 minutes without any damage. Come to think about it, how often do we come across a flagship that we can use right in the shower or tub?

Without a doubt, we like the form-fitting nature of the iPhone 5s, which looks miniscule in comparison to the larger sized Xperia Z1S. As much as adore the glass finish on Sony’s pride and joy, it just feels too slippery in the hand – and it’s also prone to getting dirty very quickly.

Nowadays, it seems as though more and more flagship phones are stripped of various ports and buttons that otherwise used to be standard. Sure, we have dedicated power buttons, volume controls, and charging ports with the two in question here, but the Xperia Z1S benefits by featuring a microSD card slot, a spot for a lanyard, and a dedicated shutter key – all of which help to give it some flexibility. With the latter, it becomes handy when it’s used under water where it’s impossible to interact with the display.

Sony Xperia Z1
Dimensions

5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Apple iPhone 5s
Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

Sony Xperia Z1
Dimensions

5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Apple iPhone 5s
Dimensions

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

Weight

3.95 oz (112 g)

See the full Sony Xperia Z1 vs Apple iPhone 5s size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Display


Quickly glazing over the two, it’s obvious that the Xperia Z1S’ 5-inch 1080p Triluminos display dwarfs the smaller 4-inch 640 x 1136 Retina display of the iPhone 5s. Doing the math, the Xperia Z1S churns out the higher pixel density of 441 ppi – easily beating out the 326 ppi figure of Apple’s baby. Honestly speaking though, the detail superiority is hardly noticeable unless we’re looking very up close and personal to their screens. In fact, from a normal viewing distance, it’s almost indistinguishable which of the two is sharper.

iPhone 5s has very good display, with accurate tones, while the Z1S in comparison looks slightly blueish and washed out. Outdoor visibility is really good with the two of them, seeing that their respective screens are able to obtain a very high level of brightness. Looking at them squarely from a 90-degree angle, they produce vivid colors that don’t disappoint in attracting our eyes, but the poor viewing angles of the Xperia Z1S is a sour point.



Sony Xperia Z1 360-Degrees View



Apple iPhone 5s 360-Degrees View





Interface and Functionality


Ah yes, it’s that timeless argument of which is superior between the two mobile platforms: Android or iOS? Naturally, it’s a comparison we’re all too familiar with, since we’ve pitted the two several times before in the past. So what do we have here?

Well, on one side, we have Sony’s fashionable Xperia UI that’s running on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Frankly speaking, it’s sporting pretty much the same presentation value from past Xperia smartphones – so we wouldn’t necessarily say it’s “fresh.” Meanwhile, the iPhone 5s is running iOS 7, the biggest change to Apple’s beloved mobile platform since its incarnation. By now, we’ve grown fond of the intimate experience that Apple’s updated platform brings, not to mention the snazzy new eye candy that’s in tow with its presentation.



Apple might’ve changed up the way multi-tasking is viewed with iOS 7, but the Xperia Z1S has a slightly more realistic implementation with its various multi-tasking widgets. Indeed, we’re able to quickly switch between apps with the two devices, but it’s only the Xperia Z1S that offers a real multi-tasking experience.

Other aspects on how the two platforms function are actually almost identical, just like how they handle notifications – they’re aggregated in a centralized spot that’s accessed at any time my doing a swipe down gesture from the top bezel. On the surface, their core organizer apps have pretty much the same features, but there’s just more unification with Google’s ecosystem. Better yet, Google Now easily blows away anything that Siri has to offer.

Although we’re given a more spacious on-screen keyboard with the Xperia Z1S, it doesn’t prove to be any more advantageous than the one in the iPhone 5s. They’re both responsive, but we prefer the auto-correct feature of the iPhone 5s more.



When it comes down to it, iOS 7 continues to be the more straightforward experience between the two – enabling first time users to quickly adapt. It’s simple, easy to learn, and doesn’t try to overpower us with redundant features. Conversely, the customized Android experience of the Xperia Z1S is far more diverse and deeper with its functions. In fact, it’s more akin to appease power users who want more control.

Processor and Memory


As we know, the iPhone 5s is unique in the mobile space for featuring a 64-bit based dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A7 processor. Still, we can’t quite count out the piece of silicon under the hood of the Xperia Z1S, the always familiar quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC. No doubt, the two processors are speed demons in every capacity – handling even intensive gaming with no fluff. However, there’s still just a smidgen more snappiness seen with the iPhone 5s’ performance. It’s not dramatic, but rather, it’s enough to show us that it has the better response time.

Apple’s prodigy, as we know, is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities. In comparison, there’s only a single model of the Xperia Z1S, which is stuffed with an ample 32GB of storage. Mentioning it earlier, Sony’s flagship has more flexibility due to its included microSD card slot.

Internet and Connectivity


The default browser on the Xperia Z1S is Google's Chrome, while the iPhone 5s is naturally sporting Safari. Both browsers work very quickly and fluidly, though the lightning quick response of the Safari browser remains unsurpassed to this day. The text-size inflating feature of Safari also seems to work better in certain scenarios. As you probably know, Flash Player is not supported by any device.

Both handsets feature LTE connectivity, and in theory, they can achieve faster speeds with their LTE Cat4 downlink of up to 150 Mbit/s. Of course, HSPA+ is there for those users who don't have access to LTE yet, which, we guess, is most users out there in other parts of the world.

GPS and Glonass are supported by both devices, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and all the latest Wi-Fi protocols, except for '802.11 ac', which is only supported by the Z1S. NFC and DLNA are only available on the Z1S, though right now there isn't really that much use for them.



Camera


Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s briefly recall the camera gear stuffed within these two handsets. Certain to pique more interest, the Sony Xperia Z1S is outfitted with a beefy 20.7-megapixel 1 / 2.3” sensor, Sony’s own G Lens and the wider aperture of f2.0. Oppositely, the iPhone 5s isn’t a slouch either with its 8-megapixel 1/3” sized sensor and f2.2 aperture lens. The 1 /2.3” sensor of the Z1S is 64% larger than the 5s' one, allowing for high resolution, while maintaining standard pixel size.



In terms of features, the iPhone 5s is bare-bones as always, as it only features a few settings to let you enable the HDR shooting mode, display a grid, and change the LED flash mode. Meanwhile, on the Xperia Z1S, you get a lot more control over the camera thanks to the Manual mode, which lets you tweak a host of different settings. In addition, there are several fun camera modes that helps to liven up the experience – like its info-eye, social live, timeshift burst, and AR effect modes.

Let’s not argue that they’re indeed capable devices that can snap amazing looking photos, especially when it boils down to detail. Seeing that we have more than double the amount of pixels with the Sony Xperia Z1S, it really delivers the better detail between the two, although its photos have some artifacts when viewed in real size.

Even though the pictures from the iPhone 5s look very pleasing, it must be noted that Apple's handset tends to boost the contrast and color saturation a bit in order to produce those fancy results. On the other hand, the color reproduction in the Z1S’ photographs is slightly more natural and true-to-life in its better photos. It's worth noting, however, that the Z1S doesn't always get the exposure right. This problem isn't observed with the iPhone 5s.

Furthermore, our observations notice that indoor shots taken with the iPhone 5s are a smidgen brighter – while being less prone to blurriness. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that we prefer the iPhone 5s for the occasion.


There’s no denying that they’re also effective enough to record some spiffy looking 1080p videos, making them visually pleasing to the eye. For the most part, they match one another in many categories, but the Xperia Z1S does a better job of honing in the audio to our voice – as opposed to the scenery. Under low lighting, the iPhone 5s seems to perform better, as it’s less noisy looking than the Xperia Z1s. We should also note iPhone 5s' great slow-motion implementation.


Multimedia


While the iPhone 5s sports a brilliant 4” display with a 16:9 aspect ratio that's ideal for video playback, the Xperia Z1S offers a more suitable screen for the purpose. Thanks to its massive size of 5 inches, watching video and enjoying various other types of multimedia, including games, will be a lot more comfortable and fun on the Xperia Z1.



The Z1S comes with Sony's favorite music player – the Walkman. It looks modern and functional, and allows you to quickly find additional data such as lyrics and artist information on the internet. Of course, it also features an equalizer and displays album art. The same thing goes for the iPod player on the iPhone 5. Once again, it works extremely quickly and treats us to a beautiful new design. In addition, it now sports iTunes Radio, which is a new streaming radio service similar to Pandora.

Playing the same song on the two devices, we hear a stronger volume output with the iPhone 5s – essentially overpowering the output of the Xperia Z1S speaker.



Call Quality


Generally speaking, phone calls are handled okay with enough emphasis on clear voices. Using their speakerphones, however, the Xperia Z1S drowns out under noisier conditions – something that’s not an issue with the iPhone 5s, though, there’s just a hint of distortion to voices.

Battery


Partly because it’s sporting the beefier 3000 mAh, in comparison to the smaller 1570 mAh battery of the iPhone 5s, we’re able to get a considerable amount of battery life out of the Sony Xperia Z1S. Power users will especially be pleased by the all-day battery life it’s able to churn out – whereas with the iPhone 5s, it’s something that requires a mid-day charge to keep its output spaced throughout an entire day.

Conclusion


Finalizing things up, let’s quickly talk about pricing for a moment. Since the Xperia Z1S is exclusive to T-Mobile in the US, we’re going to look at their pricing with the carrier. Looking at their full retail price, the Xperia Z1S and iPhone 5s are priced respectively at $528 and $600. Essentially, they both are $0 down, but the iPhone 5s requires customers to pay $25/month for the next 24 months – while it’s $22/month for the Xperia Z1S.

With the savings on its side, we can’t help to point out the obvious value you’ll be getting with Sony’s flagship smartphone. Throw in the fact that it’s armed with a very serious 20.7-megapixel camera and an IP58 rating to make it waterproof, it surely packs in enough quality elements to make its lower $528 price tag seem more valuable than it is. Conversely though, there’s always a premium to stick with Apple’s pride and joy. Indeed, there’s a cool Touch ID fingerprint sensor on board it and it has a very consistent performance throughout each and every category we put it through – making it a well versed all-around smartphone.

If savings and having a waterproof nature is something you prize, then stick with the Sony Xperia Z1S. If not, there’s no wrong in picking up the iPhone 5s either, since it’s always an admirable offering in the space.

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