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BW Businessworld

James Bond's Phone

The Xperia Z5, makes an appearance in the newest Bond movie. It’s the same Sony formula but now with a 23MP camera

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The xperia z5 may be what James Bond used, but users haven’t exactly been flocking to Xperias of late. If Samsung, with its hefty market share, has been buckling under the strain of Chinese companies offering pretty good budget phones, one can imagine the challenge for Sony, which didn’t have anywhere near that kind of user base for its smartphone division. In fact, both companies are now relying on their other businesses for profits.

But let’s give it to Sony for sheer persistence. The company is back with two flagship phones to take its Xperia Z line forward with the Z5 and Z5 Premium. The Premium will be coming in a bit, but the Z5 is being given its first look by the media.

The Xperia Z5 is very much a product of the Sony formula that all Sony fans are familiar with. Straight cut lines shape the phone, making it seem straighter than any other phone in a design they call “Omnibalance.”

The edges are a little softened with roundness to help the user hold it better, but the glass does jut out a bit above and you feel its edges in the hand. As before, the front and back are glass, but this time the back has a frosted look, very interesting on the pale gold unit I got and even more so on the blue-green unit I didn’t. So, it looks… interesting. Like a big flat gold biscuit. The signature round button that used to power the Xperia phones on has disappeared.

Instead there’s a flat and almost recessed button on the side that actually doubles up as a fingerprint sensor, working quite well, once you get used to its position. In fact, powering on and getting into the phone are just where your finger naturally rests, to make it easier.

As ever, this Xperia too is waterproof and dustproof. The micro USB and other slots are open, but the handset is still protected. Sony warns users though, not to go so far as to submerge the handset in water as there are many conditions that are difficult to control and can cause damage or at least void the warranty. No underwater photography, please, or you may lay Rs 52,999 to waste.

The display on the Xperia Z5 has come a long way from the first phone in the series. Despite all sorts of proprietary technologies, it used to seem like there was a white layer over the screen. But by now, on the Z5, the display has certainly evolved into better quality. You can also make plenty of adjustments to it, including white balance, to suit you, but all the same, when you tilt it, there seems to be a loss of clarity.

When it comes to pictures or video though, the screen starts to look even better with natural pleasing colours. The Z5 Premium, the more expensive of the devices, actually has a 4k screen — for which one will have to pay Rs 62,999.

Low on the right spine of the handset, you have a little button that opens up the camera — and it does so at top speed from a totally sleeping screen. The shutter releases fast, though not faster than Samsung’s Note 5 which I happen to have handy for comparison. The primary camera is a 23MP shooter which by default takes 8MP images.

Their quality however, was a baffling disappointment. Colours were very saturated and warm. Shooting in regular yellow lamp light indoors would turn images a uniform orange while shooting in blue-white light indoors would put a pink tinge on everything. Aiming towards a darkened area of a room immediately brings on a purple haze. This is without the flash and on default auto. Results are obviously better with the flash.

Outdoors, the images are much better but there’s still some saturation and slight over sharpening. There is a way to get great images from this camera, but it would take some fiddling with the settings in the manual mode. The camera app does have several shooting modes, filters and settings. There’s no optical image stabilisation but the software workaround works. For most people, the whole idea of taking photographs with a phone is that it’s quick and painless and there aren’t a whole lot of settings to figure out. Whip the phone out, trigger the camera, shoot, admire.

The problem with the Z5’s camera is that the user will have to see what settings and conditions avoid the problems and get the best images.

While using the camera or shooting video, the device starts to warm up a little. Push it too hard and you get warnings about the possibility that there’s heating going on. This appears with several other applications as well and it’s possible that Sony has been a little overly cautious because of the reputation of the Snapdragon 810 processor and its tendency to overheat. At no time however, did the heating up get out of hand, so to speak. The battery life on the handset is fine if you’re a moderate user. There are battery saving modes that will help if you need to prolong it.

James Bond may have chosen the Xperia Z5, but there’s no escaping the fact that there’s not that much about it that is outright exciting. It’s evolved and been fine-tuned, but it isn’t about to knock the socks off other handsets available in this super expensive category.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 30-11-2015)