Review: Sony Xperia Z for T-Mobile USA
The Sony Xperia Z ships with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and Sony's user interface customizations. That means the UI looks and behaves just as it does on the Xperia TL and ZL, which Phone Scoop has already reviewed.
There are only two shortcuts on the lockscreen: one for the camera (even if there's a sdcurity code in place), and one for the music player. You can't customize the lock screen at all. You can also access the notification tray from the lock screen, but not if you've enabled a security code.
There are five home screen panels for customization. The Z includes plenty of widgets, apps, and shortcuts with which to fill the various screens. I like that the main app menu lets you view apps alphabetically, by most recently used, by the order in which they were downloaded, as well as user-arranged order. It’s also fairly easy to uninstall apps from the main app menu, as well as share them via social networks. The settings tools function just as on other Android devices, as does the notification tray.
The Z has Sony's Xperia Small Apps feature. When you press the multitasking button, the recent apps you've used appear as normal in a vertical column. However, a little strip of apps also appears along the bottom of the screen. The Xperia Small Apps, as they are called, include a calculator, note app, clock app, and voice memo app. These aren't shortcuts to full-fledged apps. They are miniature apps that pop up as a window on the multitasking screen. They are only accessible from the multitasking screen.
The Z has a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. It provided more than enough power for the Z's software, apps, and user interface. The Z has no problem operating quickly and efficiently.
Calls and Contacts
The phone and contact applications have been spruced up with a new look from Sony, but are functionally identical to the stock tools offered by Android 4.1. The phone app includes the expected features such as mute, hold, speakerphone, and add a line. The Z includes Wi-Fi Calling, which is a feature long offered by T-Mobile smartphones. Owners can take advantage of Wi-Fi networks to place internet-based calls when the cellular network is crummy. I tested this feature, and it worked well. Call quality over Wi-Fi was quite good.
The contacts app syncs flawlessly with your Google, Google+, Exchange, and Facebook contact databases. There are only a couple of widgets and/or shortcuts for adding contacts to the home screen, but the tools taken together are powerful.
The Z has the stock set of Android communications tools, including Gmail, email, Google+, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, and SMS. These apps function fine, just as they do on other devices. The new Hangouts app is fairly robust and ties into Google+ for video chats. The Z, like the ZL, also comes with Sony's SocialLife app.
SocialLife is more like HTC's BlinkFeed than anything else. It’s a socialized reader app that pulls in your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube content, and runs it in a stream that's also interspersed with news items. You can customize the news that appears, and use SocialLife to interact with your social networks, as well as share the content that appears in the feed. If you're the type who likes to manage your feeds in a social way from a single user interface, SocialLife does a pretty good job of it (it also has some decent widgets that accompany the app, too). SocialLife stops short of offering all the messaging features found in the dedicated Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube apps, however.
Lastly, the Z has a dedicated app for Civil Alerts. This app receives emergency warnings, such as those issued by the national weather service or local police departments.