Small phones are alive and well in 2017

by Haadi Bakar
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Sony has been lagging behind with their Xperia smartphones lately. Their latest flagships are stuck with 2013 design while everyone else is going bezel-less.

But despite looking dated, I still have a soft spot for small-sized premium phones, and Sony is the only company that makes them.

So when the Japanese tech giant announced the new Xperia XZ1 Compact at IFA in Berlin last week alongside the XZ1, I breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing that small phones aren’t dead yet.

In a sea of giant screens, the Xperia Compact series stands out as a compelling alternative for those who don’t want big phones.

Big screens are nice, but not everyone needs them. Even bezel-less phones don’t seem to help shrink the phones down to a comfortable size for one hand use (I still struggle reaching the top of the Galaxy S8’s screen with my thumb). The bezel-less trend is mostly style over substance right now.

As for the Xperia XZ1 Compact, the 4.6-inch screen is just comfortable enough for your thumb to work around. It’s neither too big nor too small. Hey, remember how the first iPhone was considered big 10 years ago?

For the money, you just can’t finD any other phone this size that’s as good as the XZ1 Compact.

I had owned last year’s Xperia Z5 Compact and I actually loved using that phone as my daily driver. It wasn’t just the best small smartphone, it was also one of the best phones I’ve used in years.

I’ve used several big phones in the past and so switching back to a small phone felt liberating. It was a lot lighter on my hands and less atrocious in my jeans pocket. I was also able to use the Compact stealthily than I was on my old Galaxy Note.

The 4.6-inch Xperia XZ1 Compact (left) next to the 5.2-inch XZ1.

The new XZ1 Compact retains the same “omnibalance” design as the previous X Compact model it’s replacing, and that’s a good thing. Sony is sticking to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula which works in their favour with its Compact lineup.

The XZ1 Compact gets most of the upgrades under the hood – it’s powered by the same Snapdragon 835 SoC chip and 4GB RAM used across all its 2017 flagships, so performance is just as fast as the XZ1 and XZ Premium.

While the 4.6-inch screen only pushes 720p, it’s really not that bad for a display panel this size. 720p is sharp enough on a 4.6-inch screen that you wouldn’t even notice the difference when put the XZ1 Compact side by side to a Full-HD phone.

Opting for a lower screen resolution also means less drain on power, something that a lot of big phones are often battling with despite carrying bigger batteries.

But the main headliner of the new XZ1 Compact is the 19-megapixel “Motion Eye” camera sensor, which Sony claims is five times faster at processing images than rival smartphones. It uses a 1GB memory-stacked camera module that allows for more photos to be placed into the buffer before going to the main memory.

And if you’re impressed with the XZ Premium’s 960 frames per second “super slo-mo” video recording, that feature is available on the XZ1 Compact too! Name me one other phone with 960 fps video recording that’s not from Sony.

The new camera can also produce 3D scans, which, along with an included 3D Created app, allows for some really cool effects not found in any other smartphones right now. You can scan someone’s head and face or an object and the phone creates a 3D image that can be shared online or even sent to a 3D printer.

The XZ1 Compact is also getting the latest Android Oreo software out of the box, and it’s also IP-68 water and dust resistant. On-board memory is 32GB with support for expandable storage.

The phone also features hi-res audio support with upscaling for low-bitrate tracks.

The XZ1 Compact comes in Black, White Silver, Horizon Blue and Twilight Pink. It will go on sale next month for US$599.99.

For the money, you can’t get any other small phones in the market as impressive as the XZ1 Compact. Sure, it would be nice if Sony could give its flagship phones a radical redesign, but sometimes, a solid, no-nonsense phone is just what we really need.

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