Apple iPhone 5S vs Sony Xperia Z1

Vs Paul Briden 15:48, 16 Sep 2013

How does Sony's Xperia Z1 compare to the Apple iPhone 5S?

If you’re looking for a premium smartphone both the Apple iPhone 5S and the Sony Xperia Z1 have plenty of appeal. Read on to find out the pros and cons of each handset.

Design and build

A big part of the iPhone 5S’s prestige is the fact that Apple creates a product with a premium look and feel. It’s aluminium on the back, glass on the front and very solidly put together, yet at the same time it’s one of the lightest smartphones on the market.

Apple’s aesthetic has changed very little from its predecessor, but that’s no bad thing. It’s clean and minimalist, with rounded corners and balanced proportions. The only major visual changes are the metallic bezel around the Home button and the new colour options, which include space grey with black trim, silver with white trim and champagne gold with white trim.

Sony’s Xperia Z1 walks a similar path of merging metal and glass for that premium effect and it’s also a minimalist affair, but the two devices couldn’t be more different on the outside. While the iPhone 5S is a diminutive little phone with a 4-inch display and a compact form factor, the Xperia Z1 follows the current trends with a larger 5-inch touchscreen. That means it’s a much bigger device, of course, but it’s also much more angular. The corners have been sculpted to soften them a bit, but they’re still not as curvy as the iPhone.

The main body of the Xperia Z1 is an aluminium surround machined from one piece of metal and this separates the front and back panels, both of which are reinforced Dragontrail glass, making the whole device looks like a shiny obsidian obelisk. That’s not a bad look, although the glass on both sides does get a bit smudgy, which taints that prestigious style just a touch.

Again, this is an extremely solid device in the hand. I think anyone who wants a phone which feels well-made and looks like a million dollars would be equally happy with either device here, the issue is one of scale. The Xperia Z1’s larger display makes it great for watching HD films and TV shows but it is a bit of a handful, while the iPhone 5S is nice and compact, but the display could be a bit pokey for multimedia aficionados.


Both phones do very well on the display front, but each takes quite a different approach.

Apple has stuck to its guns on the iPhone 5S, giving the same 4-inch Retina IPS LCD display seen on the iPhone 5. That means it has an 1136x640 pixel resolution at 326 pixels-per-inch. As usual, Apple’s colour, brightness and sharpness are all top notch and the logic goes that you can’t see a difference above about 330ppi while the 4-inch size is optimal for one-handed use but also suitable for multimedia viewing.

Sony’x Xperia Z1 says ‘to hell with that’ and rocks up with a massive cinema-esque 5-inch Triluminos display, leveraging the same technology seen in the company’s TVs. With Sony’s X-Reality Engine and a 1920x1080 pixel resolution at 441ppi it’s something of a treat for the eyes even at this large scale. Colour is rich, sharpness is excellent and brightness is powerful enough to use the handset happily in bright sunlight.

When it comes to display tech I would rather have my cake and eat it, which means a larger screen but no compromise on visual quality. The Xperia Z1 certainly delivers in this regard.


Apple’s iPhone 5S has received an internal upgrade with the new A7 chip. According to some reports it’s still dual-core but with a clockspeed of 1.7GHz and 1GB of RAM, however, the big deal Apple has shouted about is the move to 64-bit architecture and this is the first mobile chip to do so. That should mean a performance boost, but perhaps not a particularly noticeable one in the short-term as Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem are already well-optimised. If developers optimise apps and content for the 64-bit architecture it’s possible performance, at least with things like app load speeds, could also improve over time. Open GL ES 3.0 support also means gaming graphics can become flashier as developers enhance their offerings.

Sony’s Xperia Z1 uses Qualcomm’s latest chip, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2GHz with 2GB of RAM and it is noticeably snappier than any other Sony Xperia Android device to date. In comparison with other Android competitors and Apple’s iPhone 5S it also fares well enough with slick UI navigation, no stuttering and it’s a dab hand at intensive tasks even with many applications at once.

The Xperia Z1 includes 16GB of onboard storage plus microSD support for cards up to 64GB, while the iPhone 5S offers its usual trio of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants with no microSD slot in sight.

Apple’s also added something of an anomaly with the Touch ID fingerprint scanner embedded in the Home button. This is for unlocking the phone and for making content purchases on iTunes, but there’s no further usability outside of that as Apple has locked the functionality away from developers. As a result, I find it difficult to get excited about this feature.


Sony’s previous flagships have not fared particularly well when it comes to battery life, so the company is meeting that issue head-on with a massive 3,000mAh battery which should provide plenty of juice. Of course, the display, camera and processor tech has all been ramped up too, so it remains to be seen whether this makes the difference Sony and its fans will be hoping for.

Apple says its battery inside the iPhone 5S has been improved and it’s now rated at 1,570mAh with 10 hours of browsing or video life and 40 hours of music playback.


Sticking with its ‘less is more’ approach of small, subtle changes allegedly making a bigger difference, Apple has tweaked the 8-megapixel iSight camera on the iPhone 5S. It now carries a Hybrid IR filter and dual-LED flash with both amber and white LEDs and there are a number of enhancements which mean the sensor can adapt dynamically for the best picture quality. In the case of the LED flash that means it adjusts depending on the lighting to get the most natural colour it can. A wider f/2.2 aperture, larger pixel size and improved back-illuminated sensor (BSI) also help to allow more light in and create a more detailed image.

Sony’s drafted in a big batch of camera expertise from its own digital imaging department and the result is that the Xperia Z1 uses a full-size Exmor RS digital camera sensor at 1/ 2.3-inches with an f/2.0 aperture, BIONZ dedicated image processor and aspheric G-lens.

At this point it’s too early to say which camera setup is better, but they’re both making all the right noises. So far though, it would appear that both are designed with the more casual camera phone user in mind, so should prove perfectly capable for good quality snaps for the family holiday or sharing via Facebook. True photography buffs will likely not be sated, however.

Sponsored Links