Review: Sony Xperia Z3 for T-Mobile
Editor's Note: The Z3 runs an identical OS and UI to the Z3v, so we've duplicated some portions of the text below. We have, however, fully tested this version of the Z3 and its performance.Menus
The Sony Xperia Z3 ships with Android 4.4 KitKat and Sony's user interface customizations. If you've used any Xperia- or PlayStation-branded device in the last year, you'll feel right at home.
There's only one shortcut on the lockscreen and it's for the camera. The camera will open from the lock screen whether or not you have a passcode. The lock screen itself can't be customized at all, but you can access the Quick Settings panel and view notifications.
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There are five home screen panels available for customization. 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. The Z3 carries over the Sony-made tool that lets owners manage the app menu (a control tray that slides out from the left side of the screen.) It's also fairly easy to hide or uninstall apps from the main app menu.
The settings tools function just as on other Android devices, as does the notification tray, though Sony has given them its own look and feel. Sony substituted the white-on-black design of the settings menu with a black-on white background and its own style of buttons and controls. Similarly, the notification tray lets you easily toggle between alerts and quick controls with an easy-to-decipher tool at the top of the screen. T-Mobile has added an account management tool to the notification tray that instantly shows you how many minutes and messages you've used, and how much data you've consumed.
The Z3 also carries over Sony's Xperia Small Apps. When you press the multitasking button, a little strip of apps appears along the bottom of the screen. The Xperia Small Apps 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 small window and remain open on top of any other apps you're using until you close them. The Small Apps can only be launched from the multitasking screen. They can be useful, but I wish you could adjust the transparency of these tools like you can with LG's similar QSlide feature.
The Z3 has a quad-core 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. It's an incredibly powerful processor and it makes mince meat of any task you might assign to it. It chewed through every app, multitasked with ease, and sped through app installs. It's a great processor and Sony's hardware takes full advantage of it.
Sony's phone and contact applications haven't changed much this year. The basic screen includes a dialpad and tabs across the top for access to your contacts and call history. The phone app has the expected features such as mute, hold, speakerphone, and add a line. It's simple to use. The contacts app syncs flawlessly with your Google, Exchange, and Facebook contact databases. There are only a couple of widgets and shortcuts for adding contacts to the home screen. Really, the phone and contact apps are one and the same. The only difference is which tab you see when open the app.
T-Mobile includes WiFi calling on most handsets. It requires you to jump through a few hoops to turn it on, but once you do it works really well. You can connect calls via your home (or other open) WiFI network and transition to the cellular network when you step outside. Once WiFi calling is turned on, the Z3 defaults to making calls over WiFi. WiFi calls sound better than cellular calls, hands down.
The Z3 has the standard set of Android communications tools, including Gmail, email, Messaging, and Hangouts. These apps function just as they do on other devices. The Hangouts app ties into Google+ for video chats, IM, and SMS/MMS if you're brave. Google has yet to figure out how to seamlessly mix SMS and IM in the same app.
The messaging app — which behaves like the standard Android tool but has been skinned by Sony — is the default SMS app. You can switch to Google's Hangouts if you want, or choose something else from the Play Store.
The Z3 has no social networks pre-installed other than Google+, so you'll have to find them yourself.
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