iPhone 5C vs Sony Xperia Z1 Compact: The best 'baby brother' for you
27th Feb 2014 | 19:31
But maybe baby isn't the right word...
Design, camera and screen
In the quest for searching for a new handset there are only a few handsets that actually stand out, but with their bright colours the chances are you've seen the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and Apple's iPhone 5C.
If after reading our full in depth reviews of both you're still struggling to work out which one of these 'cut down' handsets is right for you then you've come to the right place.
Here we give each of these handsets another run through and pit them against each other in order to answer that all important question: which handset it right for you?
Both handsets follow a similar design DNA as their larger siblings, although that is slightly less pronounced on the iPhone 5C.
Its plastic chassis doesn't come with the same premium feel that is found on the iPhone 5S where the Xperia Z1 Compact still comes with the metallic and glass exterior that made the Xperia Z1 so stylish.
In terms of sheer size the iPhone 5C comes out smaller all round, the curved plastic back wrapping around makes it smooth and really comfortable. Measurements of 124.4 x 59.2 x 9mm and 132g means it sits very easily in one hand.
That's not to say that the Xperia Z1 Compact is uncomfortable, measuring a mere 127 x 64.9 x 9.5mm, so still very similar in size. The extra 5g in weight is also barely noticeable; it would take a lot to call the Z1 Compact heavy.
The biggest difference is the whole feel that you get when holding the handsets, something that is particularly noticeable when holding an Xperia Z1 Compact, where the iPhone 5C takes an "unapologetically plastic" approach that many have equated with cheap.
A glass and metal frame alludes to a high end device even when holding the lime green or pink options, although we'd struggle to say the effect isn't slightly muted .
This means that it fits into an office environment much better and will suit those that don't wish to look so conspicuous when out and about.
The colours of the iPhone 5C (white, pink, green, yellow and blue) help the Apple handset stand out a lot more, something that is vital in the evil world of playground politics or for those that really want to express themselves through their phone.
Elsewhere though the Xperia Z1 Compact trumps the iPhone 5C thanks to its IP58 certification. This means that it comes with enough waterproofing to survive being dropped in a puddle, a bath or even the kitchen sink (although we're never going to advise making calls whilst in the shower).
Covering of all the vital ports with the genius idea of leaving the headphone port exposed really gives the Xperia Z1 Compact something extra to shout about, as well as coming with the ability to take photos underwater with thanks to a dedicated camera button.
A dedicated camera button certainly hints that the camera isn't something that can be ignored on the Xperia Z1 Compact. Other clues might also have given it away; Sony crowing about the massive size (a whopping 20.7MP), the G Lens and Exmor sensor.
On top of that it should be clear that the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is gunning for the compact camera market, something that is abundantly clear within the naming strategy.
Apple hasn't left the iPhone 5C to suffer though, even if the 8MP sensor brought over from the iPhone 5 seems more than a little diminutive when stood in direct competition against the monstrous 20.7MP of the Sony.
Even the front sensor of the compact Xperia is much larger than that of the iPhone 5C, coming with a 2MP offering rather than the 1.2MP that comes with the Apple.
Sony has kept the same camera that graced the Xperia Z1 on the Compact and with it has also brought over the same revamped camera app.
This means that the AR Mode, varying filters, superior auto and Timeshift modes all make an appearance as well as Social Live which allows for live broadcasting over social media.
These modes will prove very handy when it comes to showing off your latest snaps to the likes of Flickr or Instagram.
Budding photographers won't be left disappointed with the iPhone 5C though; its stripped back camera app provides little in the way of customisation but there are still a few filters that can be applied.
Where the Sony provides oodles of camera gizmos, Apple has taken it the other way.
Both just about border on providing too much or too little but it is to both of their credit as they both provide a unique experience with the Xperia Z1 Compact allowing you to explore to your heart's content and the iPhone 5C providing you with a really simple easy to use app.
In terms of performance there was always going to be a difference even if you don't subscribe to the 'more megapixels means better imagery' scenario.
In short, while the iPhone 5C provides a more-than-adequate mobile camera experience the Xperia Z1 Compact comes as one of the best handsets on the market for taking photos.
There are a few things that mark both the iPhone 5C and the Xperia Z1 Compact as smaller handsets.
For the Apple it is as simple as being an iPhone; (in)famous for smaller screens when the likes of the 5.2-inch LG G2 and 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Android handsets have really pushed the boundaries of what people expect on a mobile flagship.
On the Sony the smaller nature is highlighted with the name, you don't call something "Compact" and expect it to be huge.
Size-wise there is little to choose between the two. The Xperia Z1 Compact comes with a 4.3-inch screen making it marginally larger than the 4-inch iPhone 5C, as well as packing in a larger resolution.
While not full HD (that would have been wishful thinking) we're treated to a HD 720 x 1280 screen that gives a really respectable 342ppi.
On the Apple is a smaller 640 x 1136 resolution which gives the 5C a smaller 326ppi, although there is still a lot to be said about the iPhone's screen.
It comes 'Retina' branded meaning that Apple feel that any higher ppi is indistinguishable by the human eye at the intended use distance, and it is still razor sharp.
Neither screen lend themselves heavily to intense movie watching sessions whilst out and about, those are and will always be the preserve of the larger 'phablets' or even tablets.
Instead these screens are far more suited to light web browsing whilst on the train or for playing casual games such as Angry Birds or any of the Flappy Bird clones.
Again the Sony has a small trick up its sleeve in its ability to use the Xperia Z1 Compact with a pair of gloves on. Thanks to nifty screen technology the Z1 Compact recognises touches with a (rather annoying) circle on screen when the sensitivity is enhanced. It's only a small feature but it's one we can see being rather important when out in the cold.
OS, performance and verdict
Perhaps one of the biggest deciding factors of the Xperia Z1 Compact and the iPhone 5C will be the OS that comes supplied. Where the Sony comes with a heavily skinned version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (although an upgrade to KitKat is on the horizon), the iPhone comes with Apple's proprietary iOS7.
One of the greatest features of iOS has always been its very heavily populated App Store, although there is no doubt that today this is under serious threat from Google's Play Store. Both now provide innumerable apps to solve pretty much every smartphone problem that you could ever imagine.
iOS is a rather heavily locked down system, coming with the bonus that a regulated app store means that there are no virus' wandering around and that when OS updates are made available they can be grabbed almost instantly.
It is also one of the simplest mobile OS' to learn and use thanks to its icon based system, control centre (that can be accessed with a swipe up from the bottom from the screen) and a very unified feel.
Apple's guidelines on how to make apps fit in with the iOS7 style really means that moving from apps from different developers doesn't come with a massive jump.
Android is completely different thanks to the open source nature. Sony has had its chance to throw on many tweaks including a revamped notification centre than gives access to the same quick toggles that are found in Apple's Control Centre, as well as coming with a dedicated app drawer and widgets.
Widgets are possibly one of the biggest draws to Android as they allow access to a plethora of information without having to physically open up an app. Another area that Android excels is its almost infinite customisability. Don't like the keyboard app? Get a new one. Don't like the SMS app? Fine another that suits your needs.
In all there is a lot on offer from both OS' with both making an equally strong case. The simplicity of iOS tends to lend itself more to younger and older audiences thanks to its ease of use with the Sony's OS more appropriate to more intense users that want to be able to change things and at the drop of a hat.
Performance and Storage
In terms of performance there is little to choose from. Looking at the sheer specs you would think that Xperia Z1 Compact would completely blow the iPhone 5C out of the water. This isn't the case though thanks to the way iOS7 has been built.
As we said, specs wise the Xperia Z1 wins hands down thanks to a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU that pumps out 2.2GHz of goodness backed up by 2GB or RAM. Apple's iPhone appears to lag a fair bit behind, graced instead with Apple's dual-core 1.3GHz CPU A6 chip and 1GB RAM.
In day to day use the iPhone doesn't suffer though. Swiping between home screens is equally fluid, as is opening up the messaging app or calendar. Even casual gaming is as smooth on both handsets.
Storage wise both the Xperia Z1 Compact and the iPhone 5C come out relatively even. Both come in 16GB options with Apple also providing a 32GB option should you decide that you want a little more storage for your vast music or film collection.
Instead of offering a larger storage option the Sony offers microSD support instead. This does give the Japanese handset a slight advantage as the meagre 16GB can be boosted to a pretty massive 80GB, a whole 64GB extra.
One area that both the iPhone 5C and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can compete is in their wide range of colours. The plastic build of the iPhone means that Apple offer it in five colours to show off your personality, as well as coming with some equally bright 'Connect 4' style cases.
Should you opt for it, there are white, blue, green, yellow or pink versions of the iPhone 5C. Interestingly there is no black version, but it's clear that the iPhone 5C is being targeted at a younger audience that is unlikely to want a boring black handset.
The black and white versions of the Xperia Z1 Compact both come with the industrial feel that accompanies the more premium feeling Sony, although there is also the ability to get the Xperia in a lime green (which looks almost yellow in most cases) or pink hue.
These are less suited for the business professional but seem much better for students.
The choice between an Xperia Z1 Compact and iPhone 5C won't ever be an easy one. The larger camera of the Xperia makes it far more appropriate to those that are looking for a true replacement to the compact camera that they have to carry around.
This is something that we can see being essential to property surveyors or other professionals.
The Sony is also more appropriate to those that want to be able to heavily customise their handset or who want to play more intense games on the more powerful CPU.
There is little doubt that the Sony is targeted towards the professional market in its black or white colours but also has enough appeal for a younger audience with its pink and green hues.
Apple however has taken a far different tack. Where Sony has offered a shrunk down offering of the Xperia Z1, Apple has taken what makes its flagship so popular and wrapped it up in a cheaper chassis and aimed it at a market that might otherwise have been unable to get its hands on the iPhone 5S, although the Sony Xperia Z1 is cheaper to own.
This is highlighted by the plastic build which is comfortable in smaller hands, the rounded edges not being as industrial and sharp, as well as the bright colours of the chassis that will help the handset stand out against the sea of black mobiles.
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact caters to every market with its more premium feel and will always target the more professional and more intense user, but if you're looking for something that keeps things more colourful and simple, the iPhone is likely to be your best bet - especially if you want a larger and better equipped apps store (but only just).