Sony quietly announced the Xperia Z4 smartphone in Japan back in April, and today it's announcing the first version that will be available outside of its home country. The Xperia Z4v, which will be coming to Verizon Wireless later this summer, has a lot of the same features as the Z4, but it's thicker, heavier, and not as elegant as the Japanese model.
The Z4v has the same Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 20-megapixel camera as the Z4. It's also water resistant and dustproof, and supports both Qi and PMA wireless charging. The battery is a large, 3,000mAh unit, and the 5.2-inch display has WQHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution, which beats the 1080p screen on the Z4. The Z4v will run Android 5.0 Lollipop when it launches.
The Z4v is a clunker in comparison to the Z4
While the internal specs and the display match or beat the Z4, the Z4v's design falls far behind. It has more in common with the Z2 from well over a year ago than the much sleeker and slimmer Z3 or Z4. (Last year's Z3v for Verizon was very similar: it was essentially a Z3 inside of a Z2 body.) The Z4v is a full two millimeters thicker and weighs more than half an ounce more than the Z4, making it a clunker in comparison.
The move seems inexplicable beyond Verizon's historical penchant for demanding customized versions of flagship Android phones from second-tier manufacturers that don't have the leverage to fight for an unmodified product. (Verizon is notorious for demanding wireless charging in its devices, which surely drove some of these changes for the Z4v.) But it makes a little more sense when you realize that it was announced in the context of E3. Sony is pitching the Z4v as a companion device for PlayStation 4 owners, which will be able to stream games from their console to the handset when they are on the same Wi-Fi network. It's the same tactic Sony used for the Z3v last year and it's a ploy the company has been using for years to try to differentiate its phones. Way back in 2011, Sony and Verizon launched the Xperia Play, an ill-fated smartphone that actually had a slide-out gaming pad. With the Z4v, Sony is once again trying to remind consumers that you can have console gaming on your smartphone, but it's not clear if smartphone shoppers are going to listen or care any more this time than they have in the past.
The Z4v won't be out for a few weeks (Sony and Verizon are saying it will arrive "this summer," but aren't giving any more detail than that) and it has yet to receive a price tag. It will likely be a competent phone with fast performance, a decent camera, and acceptable battery life. But it won't be Sony's best, which is exactly what Sony needs to offer if it's going to stoke some interest in its phones from people in the US. Maybe we'll get that with the Z5v next year.