Sony Xperia Z1: The Camera

, posted: 9-Dec-2013 18:48

One of the features I could not wait to try on the Sony Xperia Z1 was the fact that it was waterproof. With almost all other smartphones (including my current iPhone) you need to avoid water at all costs. If you are going near water then you either need to leave the phone in the car, keep in a waterproof bag or get a waterproof case such as a lifeproof case. None of the options are ideal and it can ruin the experience of using the smartphone if you have to put it in a bulky case.

The Sony Xperia Z1 promises to be different: it has a waterproof body and you can take pictures while swimming in freshwater for up to 30 minutes. You can even dive with it for up to 1.5 meters. It does this with covers overs all the openings, apart from the head phone jack. While the covers can be a bit of a pain, they don’t seem to add any extra bulk to the phone.

Despite the weather not really being hot enough to swim, I took the phone to a pool (which was only one meter deep so no potential issues) and jumped in.

Despite my hesitation the phone worked as expected and it was straight forward to use. Once I got out of the water, I simply dried off the screen and it was as if nothing had changed.

The little video was taken as I jumped under the water and then came out of it.

So is it practical - would I use this feature on a day-to-day basis? Possibly not, but it is good to know that it is available and that you don’t need to worry that having the phone near water is going to risk damaging it.

The ability to take photos underwater is really just a small part of the features of the camera. The 20.7 MP camera with a larger sensor than most current smartphones, combined with the physical shutter button, means that this phone is pitched as those looking for a good digital camera replacement and I suspect Sony wanted to differentiate it from the other smartphones.

There are so many features and options you can select on phone, too many to go through all of them. There are some other blogs that go through it all in detail.

The reality is that in most situations we want to be able to pull the phone out and quickly take a photo and let the phone choose the best settings. The auto settings (or what Sony calls ‘Superior Auto’) the phone does a great job of picking the correct setting based on what the ‘intelligent screen recognition technology’ selects.

If you do want to try something else, there are plenty of options to play with:

One for the kids is AR effect option which lets you select some fun picture options that can add dinosaurs, masks, plants, etc.

There is a flood in our lounge.

My name is Mat (mule on Geekzone) and I am an Accountant in an accounting firm in Napier. I have been on Geekzone for over ten years. I have used a number of different phones, but it is fair to say that at the moment our family is fairly entrenched on the Apple side because it works so well together. In our house we have two iPhones, iPad 2, Macbook Pro, iPod shuffle and two Apple TVs.

The Sony Xperia Z1: initial impressions

, posted: 5-Dec-2013 13:03

I was pretty excited to be given the opportunity to review the Sony Xperia Z1 by Telecom. I have read a few reviews of the phone and it sounded great, so I was looking forward to trying in the flesh. This won’t be a technical review, there are plenty of those around, I am more interested in how the phone works for me on a day to day basis.

Before I start, it is important to put my current technology use into the picture. My current phone is an iPhone 5, before than was two other iPhones. Prior to the iPhones I have had a number of phones including Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Symbian. The last Sony phone I owned was a Sony Ericsson T681, which I think was around 2002. Considering my recent history, it is natural that I will be comparing the Z1 to the iPhone 5.

Before the phone arrived, there was two things that stood out from the reviews, firstly its sharp looks and secondly the camera (and even more so that it was waterproof). When I opened the courier package the first thing that surprised me was the size of the box, it was pretty small and compact considering the size of the phone.

My first impression of the Z1 was that it is a pretty amazing looking phone and despite its size it sits very comfortably in the hand. The curved metal edge around the phone seems to help this. Overall the phone is beautifully crafted, but its size and weight difference to the iphone 5 is noticeable, especially when you put it in your pants pocket.

Starting up the phone I found it fast and responsive, It seemed as smooth in this sense as the iphone. Sony has put their own flavor on top of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but they don’t seem to try and recreate everything, the biggest impacts are the Walkman audio and video playback and an app for using Sony’s media library.

Setting up the phone with the information from my iPhone was easy. The Sony sync software transferred everything over from a backup of the iPhone.

A few other things I noticed early on:

- No physical home button, something I am used to on the iPhone to start it up , check notifications
- The power button on the side took a bit of getting used to, probably again because I was used to the way the iPhone worked. But after a while it was easier to remember and you could pick up the phone and turn in on with one hand.
- Side charge port with cover, now I know this is so it can be waterproof, but it is a pain having to flick the cover open and closed. I wonder how long before the cover breaks? Luckily there is an open side port to plug directly into a charging dock that would ease this frustration.
- Flashing LED for notifications. Not exclusive to this phone by any means, but a nice addition as compared to the iPhone

So there you have it, I have the phone up and running, everything seems smooth and apart from learning about the ins and out of Android the phone seems like a good replacement for the iPhone 5. The question is will how will the other features stack up.

The other areas that I intend looking at are:

- The Camera, especially the underwater feature!
- How the kids rate the Z1
- How the Z1 performs for work
- Integration with our other IT devices at home

Let me know if you have any questions or want to know anything else.

My name is Mat (mule on Geekzone) and I am an Accountant in an accounting firm in Napier. I have been on Geekzone for over ten years. I have used a number of different phones, but it is fair to say that at the moment our family is fairly entrenched on the Apple side because it works so well together. In our house we have two iPhones, iPad 2, Macbook Pro, iPod shuffle and two Apple TVs.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3: A phone or a tablet?

, posted: 2-Dec-2013 23:23

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is slated as a phablet – a device that sits between a mobile phone and a tablet – something of a size that it functionally can be both. How well does it succeed?

Well it doesn’t do a bad job!

It is highly useable as a phone, and does not look stupid – obvious, but not stupid. You won’t need to feel embarrassed to be holding the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to your face and using it for calling. And it has the now familiar Android phone interface so if moving from another Android device you’re not going to feel lost.

At 168gm it isn’t the lightest phone out there, but the weight is not a turn off, and the size (just) isn’t. The 151mm x 79mm x 8mm of smartphone fits in the average pants or shirt pocket (just) but care needs to be taken. As with any smartphone, you need to make sure it is well protected so that it isn’t going to get damaged in your pocket or bag.

One handed operation in normal mode for the simplest tasks is just possible for you if you have a larger hand, but you are certainly not going to be able to get stuck into all of the Galaxy Note 3’s functionality with just one hand like you can with the smaller smartphones. BUT WAIT… Samsung have thought of this and the Note 3 sports a fantastic mode called One-handed Operation. Enable this and with a small reverse swipe gesture the entire screen contents is shrunk to put everything in reach! In One-handed Operation you can still swipe through all the screens, run all your apps – everything I tested certainly worked – and do all your social networking. The Menu, Home and Return buttons are available along the bottom of the One-handed Operation screen along with volume controls. Even Multi-Windows is available. The Note 3 need not end your ability to multitask with 2 hands! And flicking back to full screen mode is easy – just touch the full screen icon or use the S Pen stylus.

For me two handed operation is the norm as well as being much easier and far more comfortable. With the size of the Note 3 the S Pen stylus is certainly not required for most operations, and especially not the basic ops.

So, as far as being a phone, it is a great modern mobile that is super responsive and very handy. It is comparatively very light, but it is BIG.

As a tablet, the Note 3 is just so darn handy! This is where the Note 3 really comes into its own. It handles most things people do on their tablets with ease. Browsing the web, reading forums, social networking, research, doing email, watching videos, reading books, browsing photos, playing games – no sweat. If you feel like you are missing out on something when browsing the mobile version of a website, switch to the desktop version with no issue! The definition of the screen means you still get a great quality experience whether you need to zoom in and out and you move around the page, or not.

All this for only a fraction of the weight of most tablets and with ample more portability! And, unlike a tablet – it is with you wherever you go so if you have an unexpected requirement to do/use something on your tablet, or some downtime, then you have it there to jump on.

The light weight of it means it is easy to sit down and hold the Note 3 in one hand, whilst blasting out email replies, watching videos or playing games for hours – without getting a sore hand/wrist. No more shaky, tired hand whilst trying to read emails.

Whilst on the web with the Note 3 I find I don’t need to zoom in/out anywhere as much as I do on other phones – both because of the screens 5.7 inch size, and its stunning Full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels! Combining these two factors makes Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen something truly incredible to use!

My only gripe using the Note 3 was going to be using a couple of desktop websites (where no mobile alternative was available) for doing some web based ordering. It was a pain because of having to constantly zoom right in to make sure the right information was being entered into the correct fields and zoom back out to move around. But, in the Notes defence – I’d normally do this on a desktop and was caught short without a desktop or tablet in sight, so even though it took 4 times longer to complete, it saved a significant trip across town, and I was able to get the job done with the Note 3. Bravo.

So all in all, the Galaxy Note 3 is a fantastic big phone and an awesome small tablet – but combined together the portability and convenience of only having the one device, and having it everywhere you go makes it a winner in my books!!

My name is Craig and I am an IT Manager and System Engineer  for a nationwide refrigeration systems company. I’m based in the Wellington region and have worked in IT in both public and private sectors for the last 20 years. I was a lurker on Geekzone for five years before I finally signed up as “keewee01” 4 years ago. I’ve used phones across all networks and almost all brands and OS over the years. I am a current user of iOS and Android devices.

Sony Xperia Z1: first impressions

, posted: 25-Nov-2013 18:41

I’ve been following the TelecomTech posts ever since the HTC Sensation series, and as time goes by the top end smartphones get better and better. Now the Sony Xperia Z1 is the latest and greatest, and I’m one of the lucky Geekzone members selected to put it to the test.

Opening the box of the Sony Z1 and a sleek black sheet of glass stares back at you. Picking it up and the phone feels solid, with a glass back and only the power button and headphone jack noticeable around the black and brushed aluminium sides.

It is slightly heavier than expected when first picking it up (at 170g), but you soon don’t notice it, feeling almost reassuringly hefty. It fits in the hand comfortably, and in my opinion is the most stylish looking phone out there. Plasticky is not a word this phone will ever be accused of.


Switching on the phone and the 5.0 inch screen makes an immediate impression. At 1920x1080 pixels it boasts a full HD display which is bright and clear from almost any viewing angle. Coming from a small screen phone to a big screen phone is a joy, mobile browsing has moved from Opera mini (with images disabled!) to a full rich browser experience on Chrome or Firefox.

As a first time Android user setting up was simple enough, with the Sony setup guide taking care of the wi-fi password, Sony Entertainment Network account, Google account and social network accounts. The calendar synchronised with my account, and it also comes with Exchange ActiveSync for easy business connectivity.

Apps and Music services can be accessed from Google Play or the Sony Select screen. The Sony Select screen suggested the Asphalt 8 game, which looks stunning on the Z1 and has vastly improved the quality of my daily commute, in the screenshot below I had just crashed into a bus whilst riding on the bus…

The black bar with three dots on the side of the screen is where the Android navigation buttons are – like the Nexus phones, Sony have dispensed with physical buttons on the front of the device, which I didn’t even notice at first. For some apps like YouTube they disappear altogether until you tap the screen, for others like Asphalt 8 they stay available.

The 20.7 megapixel camera takes impressive pictures and I’ll be exploring the camera functionality more in a future blog post. In the meantime I’ve had good fun with the kids using the Augmented Reality feature, this one was taking Auckland Airport back to the late Cretaceous:

Performing the obligatory benchmark, my AnTuTu score is 33275 which puts it 4th in the overall rankings. This was after installing some apps and using the phone for a while – some other reviews have achieved a score of 35000. This is a ‘real world’ review experience, but still it is nice to know it thinks the phone is ‘Amazing’.


The Sony Xperia Z1 has a waterproof rating of IP58, meaning it can be submerged up to 1.5 metres underwater. I can’t dive down that far without popping my ears, but we’re going swimming at the weekend so with not a little trepidation I’ll be taking some underwater photos to see if it really is as waterproof as it says it is..

About the Author:

Jon Bielby (JonB) is a keen follower science and technology, living in a house with Windows, iOS and Android gadgets. I’m working as a software tester in the healthcare IT field in Auckland, and have been an owner of Sony Ericsson phones since the K750i, with a W705 as my smartphone before upgrading to the Sony Xperia Z1. You can be one my first twitter followers at @j1blb

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Gear Combo: my initial impressions

, posted: 20-Nov-2013 16:13

Samsung continue to excel with the presentation and delivery of their products. The faux wood grain presentation boxes that both the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Samsung Galaxy Gear come packaged in are very stylish and impressive – fooling several nearby onlookers.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has some impressive specifications: 1080 x 1920 pixel 5.7 inch screen, 3Gb RAM and 32Gb storage, 13MP camera, Quad Core processor and more connectivity than you can shake a stick at! So am I looking forward to putting it through its paces.

Opening the box for the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 my first impression was “WOW!”. Having just played with a range of other Samsung phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, I was keen to see just what the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was about. I was pleasantly surprised on how light the Note 3 was when I removed it from the box! I expected it to significantly gain weight when the battery was installed, but – no. This phone is so light for the size – weighting nothing like what you would expect – only 168gm.

The Galaxy Note 3 come with a USB 3.0 Micro-B port for faster transfers and charging, and luckily this port is back-ward compatible with standard Micro USB so you won’t get stuck without a charging option.

Setting up the phone from scratch was a breeze – as is to be expected with any Android phone. I ran through the standard setup (not using Smart Switch) and was up and running in no time, with all my apps, contacts, etc installing automatically to the phone. And after the annoyance on my last few phones of having to flick between alpha and numeric soft keyboards, finally – alpha and numeric all on one. This saves so much time and hassle when entering usernames and passwords with not having to manually flick between alpha and numeric keyboards all the time.

I was immediately impressed by the screen – 5.7 inches of Super AMOLED touchscreen. The 1080 x 1920 pixel screen is to die for – the quality and clarity it delivers are just amazing! The sensitivity of screen is so high that it can pick up gestures more than 1cm away from it! And so much real estate to play with. Everything is just so much easier – from email and Facebook to games and YouTube.

Next was getting the Gear watch up and going, and synchronised. The Gear was not the over-sized monstrosity I was expecting. The Gear is bigger that most normal watches, but then it packs a lot more into it also – how many watches can record video? It took several attempts for the watch and phone to link, but on the 3rd attempt it worked. The link between the Gear and the Note 3 is create via NFC, and there after maintained via Bluetooth. Whilst wearing the Gear, wander away from your Note 3 at your own peril - you will be badgered with constant reminders that your watch has become detached from your phone! But then again, your watch will remind you of that appointment you have coming up – without having to remove your phone from your pocket.

Battery life on the Note 3 is fantastic, going three days or more between charges – and that is with all communication mediums switched on constantly. The Gear on the other hand averages about 3 days also. Most of the time I am getting 4 days (or just over) from the Gear, but if I use it for anything other than the basics – say taking some short movies – then I find I have to charge it every second day. For a watch device I would have expected a longer period between charging, but then I’ve not really got my teeth into the watch yet.

My name is Craig and I am an IT Manager and System Engineer  for a nationwide refrigeration systems company. I’m based in the Wellington region and have worked in IT in both public and private sectors for the last 20 years. I was a lurker on Geekzone for five years before I finally signed up as “keewee01” 4 years ago. I’ve used phones across all networks and almost all brands and OS over the years. I am a current user of iOS and Android devices.

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Telecom New Zealand
New Zealand

Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?


Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.

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Sony Xperia Z1: first impressi...
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