Sony's answer to the iPhone 6 onslaught has arrived in Australia at last, with two models at different sizes featuring a range of standout features to challenge all competitors, be they running iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
The headline features have already been mentioned in the intro - IP68 water and dust proofing, outdoing the IP67 rating of the Galaxy S5 and the non-waterproof nature of most other smartphones.
As Sony notes, providing that the side ports are firmly closed, both models are "dust tight" and are "protected against low-pressure jets of water from all practicable directions in compliance with IP65; and/or can be kept under 1.5 m of fresh water for up to 30 minutes in compliance with IP68", which is pretty impressive whichever way you look at it.
There's the 24-bit audio capability making Sony ready to ride the coming high-res audio wave that should finally banish mp3's into the 56k modem dustbin of history.
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|Sony's Xperia Z3|
A 20.7 megapixel camera with 25mm wide-angle lens and autofocus with the world's first smartphone camera with ISO 12800 sensitivity for the best possible photos even in low light.
The camera also takes 4K video and naturally has "steady shot" technology to minimise handshakes and produce smooth video.
There's also the two-day battery life, another feature Sony has long trumpeted in many of its technologies with the term "battery stamina" also helps both Z3 models outdo competitors.
Coming in November, both models also support PS4 Remote Play, and are the only Android smartphones to offer this capability. We tried this out at Sony's launch event and by using a $39.95 connector that effortlessly clips to the standard PS4 controller and holds the Z3 (and presumably Z3 Compact) securely in place, the Z3 (which was connected via 802.11ac) played the vision from the larger TV the PS4 was connected to flawlessly, without stuttering
In its IFA 2014 press release, Sony Mobile's President and CEO, Kunimasa Suzuki said: "At Sony Mobile, 'flagship' now means offering a choice to consumers of enjoying a large screen Xperia Z3 for immersive entertainment or a more compact, lighter Xperia Z3 Compact that doesn't ask you to compromise on features
"Consumers demand and deserve greatness from their smartphone - in design, camera and battery life. That's precisely what we aim to deliver with Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact, at the same time as delivering leading innovations such as unique Sony camera experiences and, for the first time, PS4 Remote Play in two beautifully designed, fully waterproof smartphones," concluded Mr Suzuki.
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|The Xperia Z3 Compact|
'Demand Great' is Sony's tagline for its phones, just Apple has its "bigger than bigger" tagline, and it's clear that the battle for smartphone supremacy is only intensifying.
The Z3 is 7.3mm slim, just a couple of millimetres more than the 7.1mm iPhone 6 Plus, and weighs 152 grams.
Meanwhile, the Z3 Compact is a little thicker at 8.6mm but lighter as you'd expect at 129 grams.
Both models feature the same 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, with the Z3 sporting 3GB of RAM and the Z3 Compact packing 2GB of RAM.
This means that the performance of both models should effectively be identical. It's also good to see both the large and smaller versions using the same processor, unlike the HTC One M8 and the HTC One Mini 2 which have 800-series and 400-series processors respectively.
Both also offer full 4G LTE capabilities and can operate on Telstra's new 700MHz 4G LTE-A spectrum, which is handy seeing as they are part of Telstra's 2014 smartphone lineup.
When it comes to the aforementioned 24-bit audio capability, which is also called "Hi-Res Audio", you will need to purchase Sony's new Hi-Res Audio MDR-1A headphones (or presumably some other Hi-Res compatible equivalent), but when we listed to some hi-res tracks with the MDR-1A headphones, the audio naturally sounded incredibly rich and full, with none of the tinniness that highly compressed MP3 files can deliver.
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|It works with Sony's new SmartWatch 3, which will arrive in stores before the end of the year and is powered by Google's Android Wear 2.0|
Sony also uses what it calls DSEE HX technology, which 'upscales' the fidelity of your MP3 or AAC music collection. It also does this for playlists on Sony's cloud-based digital music service,Music Unlimited8, to near High-Resolution quality.
If you buy Sony's MDR-NC31EM Noise Cancelling in-ear headphones, you get ambient noise reduced by up to 98%, with the Z3 doing noise cancelling processing.
Like the HTC One series, Sony's Z3 also has front-facing stereo speakers with "S-Force Front Surround" for great audio direct from the phone's own speakers.
Sony also says its smartphone screens are ultra-bright using its Triluminos technology that is "sharp and vivid even in bright sunlight", and while we haven't seen the screen in the sun's direct light yet, there's no question the displays are rich and vivid.
We did mention the fact that people online (including a friend) who owns a Z2 have experienced unexplainable screen cracking, but Sony's reps weren't able to shed any light on those claims, with a Sony PR person saying they were able to send me a previously released statement on the issue.
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|The PS4 Remote Play feature coming in November to both the Z3 and Z3 Compact.|
Xperia Z and Z2 screen cracks appears to be the Sony version of the iPhone 6's Bendgate scandal, and if it happens to you, contacting Sony's customer support is what you'd want to do, as well as making sure you buy a case and likely a screen protector as well, as many people do for the phones they own.
Sony UK did issue a statement to the BBC (as reported at Xperiablog) that: "In a small proportion of cases, screens have indeed cracked with no identifiable cause and in these instances the phone has been repaired for free" and I'll be interested in seeing the statement I was offered, but it appears that both Z3 models are now using Gorilla Glass 3, so hopefully, the issue of screen cracks is a thing of the past - we'll certainly find out from the world's Z3 owners over the next few months.
Telstra was first off the mark to confirm that both models will arrive from the 14th of October and can be pre-ordered from the 7th of October.
Sony's press event noted that 400 PS4's are up for grabs to be won by those pre-ordering this handset, with Telstra confirming it has 100 PS4's available to pre-orderers who go to Telstra's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages or comment on its blog post.
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|You can swim with your phone! Just don't drop it when you're in the ocean...|
You then need to tell Telstra "what your favourite Xperia Z3 or Z3 Compact feature is using #TelstraZ3 to make sure your entry is counted", with the most creative answers to win. The competition will run from 7 October 2014 until 13 October 2014, with Telstra urging those who pre-order and enter the competition not to forget to read the terms and conditions.
Telstra is also offering those who pre-order the Z3 (but not the Z3 Compact) a Sony SmartBand Talk as a gift with purchase. It is waterproof with sensor technology to log your activity, has a 1.4 inch black and white E-Ink display and is compatible with a range of Android app extensions.
Telstra is also offering its "New Phone Feeling" offer as well as its Trade-In and Telstra Upgrade offers to those who pre-order, you'll no doubt find out if you qualify (which you probably will) during part of the pre-rder process.
Telstra will offer the Z3 is black, white or copper colours on a range of plans, while the Z3 will be availablw in black, white and exclusively in orange.
The Company will also sell the Z3 outright for $816, and the Z3 Compact outright for $600.
I also spied something I'd never seen before from Telstra - the fact that it is calling its LTE-A network "4GX" rather than plain ol' 4G.
Telstra says that in "4GX areas", typical download speeds are 2Mbps to 75Mbps for 4GX category 4 devices.
Outside 4GX areas, the Company says "you will switch to our fastest available 4G or 3G speeds. Speeds vary for reasons like location, distance from base stations, terrain, user numbers, hardware/software configuration, download source and upload destination."
No doubt we'll hear from Optus, Vodafone and others on their special deals for the Z3 and Z3 Compact sometime on October the 1st or soon thereafter.