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How Sony got the mini recipe right with the Xperia Z1 f

We have been fans of the Xperia Z1 f from way back when it was still known as the Honami mini. When the device was finally revealed last week by the Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, it lived up to the almost ridiculous expectations we held for it. It is, in almost every way, and certainly in every significant way, simply a smaller screened version of the Xperia Z1 flagship. While the price may still be high, Sony has tapped into the right recipe for mini smartphones that every other manufacturer has messed right up.

AndroidPIT Mini Collage
The major league mini smartphones. / © AndroidPIT/Sony/Samsung/HTC

Why did Sony get it right?

By putting all the same incredible hardware in a smaller device, Sony are essentially giving potential customers a very simple choice: same tech, different sized screens. So whether you have huge hands or huge pockets, or small hands and small pockets, Sony has a flagship device for you with all the premium hardware you'd expect of a top of the line smartphone. Another key point is that if you're going to produce a small-screened handset you simply have to consider the Apple factor. That is, any mobile in the 4.3-inch screen range is, like it or not, going to be seriously weighed up against the iPhone, at the very least by consumers if not manufacturers. Considering the iPhone always packs the best Apple has to offer, making a similar-sized smartphone with limited specs and a flagship name makes no sense at all.

xperia z1 f design
Everything about the Z1 f is attractive: size, specs, colors. Price? / © Sony Mobile

Why did everyone else get it wrong?

Two reasons: the mini smartphones offered by HTC and Samsung are simply too expensive for what you get. The HTC One mini had to have its price drastically cut in Taiwan just two months after its release due to lackluster sales and strong competition in the mid-sized, mid-range smartphone market. You simply cannot take a flagship, cut down its dimensions and size and still charge way more than other competitively priced handsets of a similar size and spec sheet. If you're going to offer a device under a flagship name at those prices, you really need to pack flagship specs into it to set it apart. Even Apple has received considerable flak for pricing the ''cheap'' iPhone, the 5c, too high.

The second reason is that they rely too much on the performance of the flagship model, which is a false economy because they don't really share that much in common. Take the S3 mini, which Samsung introduced to much hype and excitement last year. At the time the S3 was the smartphone to have, and the move made perfect sense, but then the S4 appeared just ten months after the S3 and was not received as well as Samsung had hoped. So both the S3 and the S3 mini almost immediately became outdated and yet, the S4 wasn't that big a performer. Hence, the S4 mini seemed even less impressive: just an overpriced smaller version of an uninspiring flagship. The S4 may be Samsung's biggest selling smartphone, but its performance has negatively impacted the S4 mini's sales as a result and the S4 mini further waters down the Galaxy S series brand.

display sizes teaser
Differentiation is important, but so is giving the customer what they want. / © AndroidPIT/Apple/Sony/Nokia/Samsung

What now?

We'll just have to wait and see how Sony's Xperia Z1 f performs when it hits the market later this year. While it seems likely that it will sell well in comparison to the S3 mini and S4 mini, it will have a huge battle ahead of it if it truly hopes to tackle the might of the iPhone 5s, which is, after all, it's only true rival. But considering Sony generally sells less smartphones than Samsung and Apple, the Z1 f's performance is going to be a hard thing to judge on a level playing field, especially if it is highly priced.

Perhaps we'll need to take a look at the ratio of full-sized flagship to mini sales to get a true picture of how well the Z1 f is received in comparison to its larger inspiration. The Z1 f isn't even slated for release outside Japan yet, but there's certainly a lot of consumers who want high-end specs in a small-screened smartphone and this could just give Sony the edge over Samsung and HTC and pave the way for those companies to follow suit.

xperia z1 f displayjpg
The future looks bright for mini smartphone lovers. / © Sony Mobile

Are you a fan of Sony's Xperia Z1 f? Do you think it will change the way mini smartphones are made in future? How do you think the price point needs to be handled to make it a success?

Source: DigiTimes


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  • You of course have a valid point @Pawel, but I do too. It is absolutely correct that many smartphone owners really don't care, or notice, the specs in their device and the minis with lesser specs than the flagships are perfectly fine for many. But the fact that noone thus far has offered high-end specs in a mini version has been a problem discussed at length by many, many people who do actually care about specs and know what they mean, as well as people who either simply cannot handle a 5-inch+ device or afford one. That's why I'm interested in the price point too, but I fear we are both correct and it will be way over the $500 barrier. But if you want a sub-$500 handset you've got half the Android market to choose from. I wouldn't let ''looking like the flagship'' be the thing to sway me into buying a watered down mini. But I am one of those phone geeks!

  • Sorry but some of the words used here in this article are pretty stupid. "Considering the iPhone always packs the best Apple has to offer, making a similar-sized smartphone with limited specs and a flagship name makes no sense at all." Well, actually, it does, because then you can sell it for sub $500 which is something Apple never does which is what keeps me from buying Apple. Even a brand new iPhone 4s is still above $400 here in Australia which is complete joke in my opinion. Hence i completely disagree with this statement as well, "any mobile in the 4.3-inch screen range is, like it or not, going to be seriously weighed up against the iPhone,".

    There are people like me who want a good mid-range phone that have the same aesthetics of the flagship and don't actually see a need for the latest technology in a smaller package as this sends the price above $500 which im sure the Zf1 will be (if they do it for less then credit to them). This was my reason for picking up the S4 mini recently, managed to get the i9195 model for $380, any higher than $400 and i would've stayed well clear.

    Sure i agree that the z1f looks to be amazing with its specs and well done Sony for accomplishing that however i don't really care if it has a better CPU more RAM etc, only thing i see myself caring about is that camera. I personally think its getting to the point where you don't actually need these amazing specs and its just bragging rights for phone geeks (not having a stab as i may possibly be one..), but the specs that are in the S4 mini are perfectly fine for anything you throw at it plus more.

    And this obsession with ppi, its actually stupid, unless your face is in the phone you wont notice a huge difference. Computer monitors have way less ppi and still look great... The addition in price for that increase in ppi is too much in my opinion..

    In the end of the day, if my prediction is correct and the Zf1 will be over $550, it will only be competing against the iPhone and possibly the HTC one mini as these people don't mind paying for the latest and the "best". But I don't believe itll compete against the Samsung and anything else that is "mini" and under $400 as i think this market is price sensitive and just want a phone that works.

  • Glad you like your Z1. I think it's a great phone but I just don't like the blocky feel of it. I first handled it alongside the G2 though, so I guess that tainted my opinion! The Z1S should be a stormtrooper though!

  • I owned an Xperia Z1 for three weeks. It is truly an amazing phone! It has premium built quality & 1st class appearance. All commands & apps work buttery smooth. Playing games is so much fun, no lag, no hang, no over-heat. The display is sharp & clear, so easy to view tiny text & high resolution images. Camera is the most compelling feature. Images taken especially under low light & night scenes are amazing. Now I'm very excited to know there is Z1 mini version. Can't wait for this one, I'll definitely buy one for my wife.

  • Hey @Amat, well so far there's no plans to release it outside Japan, but if it sells well there might be motivation to release an international version. The conversion from the Japanese price is about 730 USD though, which I think is pushing it for a mini. But the iPhone 5s is only a little cheaper (650 USD I think) so it's in the ballpark of what people are happy to pay. Although the ''happy to pay'' threshold is quite different for Apple and Android owners.

  • I want z1.but the price still expensives.wait for a few more month

  • I mean top end device.

  • I think the pricing has to be right, due to the perception already created by the crapy minis gone before it. But I'm seriously looking forward to this phone, I think I will buy it. I would love a proper 4.3" to end device. The Galaxy S II was amazing.

  • Amy R. Oct 15, 2013 Link to comment

    The price makes a big difference. I simply can't dish out the cash for something that equates equivalent to having major work done on my car. It just wouldn't pan out. It kind of reminds me of going to one of those ritzy restaurants and spending oodles of money for gram sized appetizer. Wether it's worth what you pay or you pay what it's worth, for someone financially better off, that's in their ballpark. ........

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