Samsung and Apple have a certain hold on the smartphone market that makes people wonder whether other companies can even get serious sales. While that’s an exaggeration, the divide exists and Sony as well as Microsoft represent it rather well on the Android and Windows smartphone market. Although both companies release impressive smartphones year over year, they can’t seem to rise to the level that one would expect such products to get a company to. Although preference and marketing blend when it comes to smartphone popularity, the Lumia 950 and Xperia Z5 can’t go by unnoticed.
Microsoft launched the Lumia 950 on October 6, alongside a larger XL variant of the phone, another Lumia 550 mid-ranger and the Surface Book. Sony revealed the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact and Xperia Z5 Premium a couple of days before the IFA Berlin conference. Even though most of the community’s attention seems to be focused on the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, Microsoft and Sony did manage to get people hyped about their new releases. Since these two multinationals are among the many perpetually runner-up companies when it comes to sales in the smartphone industry, yet their two most recent flagships reflect high-end like never before, comparing them seems fitting.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 is not yet widely available, with only hands-on reviews conducted. The Xperia Z5, on the other hand, already has a nice amount of positive reviews from reputable individuals, which might tip the scale in Sony’s favor. Considering hands-on reviews of the Lumia 950 are just as positive, and that Windows 10 is generally appreciated by customers, for the sake of this short comparison, focusing on elements that don’t need long-time user review (such as design) might be the best approach.
With that in mind, the first thing that makes the Lumia 950 an interesting release is Windows 10. Ever since the new OS from Microsoft was publicly released for free, people have been hyped about seeing the OS on a mobile platform. A new Lumia flagship was long overdue anyway and launching the Lumia 950 with an entirely new experience made things all that more exciting. Statistics say that Windows 10 adoption is going rather well, with the OS taking the lead in the face of Mac OS X, Linux and even Windows 8.1. Windows 7 still remains the most popular OS, but we suppose that won’t last for long. Wanting to see a mobile experience that’s as good as Windows 10 is a natural reaction – or at least it is in the world of tech.
Windows 10 – formerly known as Windows 10 Mobile – works great on the Lumia 950 – it’s smooth, animations are minimal, but appealing, the user interface is intuitive and easy to use, and of course, there are tons of new features. If Apple’s iOS has been accused repeatedly over the years for copying Android, Microsoft’s Windows 10 doesn’t really give haters a chance this time. Even though it pays patent fees to Google!
The Lumia 950 comes with universal apps and a Display Dock accessory, which are crucial elements of the Windows 10 experience. The Lumia 950 is essentially a PC. Owners can actually plug it into a monitor, add keyboards, mice and other accessories to it and use it like a PC. And the fun part is that Windows 10 does actually make the experience seamless.
While the Lumia 950 is connected to the monitor, it starts a PC experience – using universal apps and continuum. You can pick up where you left off and you can share the work between the PC interface and the phone interface. That’s because the Lumia 950 can multitask like no other, leaving your phone in the same state as it was before connecting a monitor. It is usable in either way, thus making Windows 10 a truly immersive and universal experience.
Cortana, Hello, Office and live tiles are also part of the experience, making the Lumia 950 the true hybrid of the industry. Once we get to hardware and camera, that will be confirmed once again. Decidedly, the software game is on point with the handset.
Comparatively, Android 5.1 Lollipop on the Sony Xperia Z5 doesn’t sound as exciting anymore. Marshmallow is on its way and the Z5 will most likely be among the first ones to get the new version of Android’s operating system.
Comparing Windows 10 to Android is difficult because each offers an inherently different experience. Android is focused on a multi-faceted approach to usability, making its user interface intuitive for both productivity and entertainment. The Xperia Z5 isn’t specifically designed for special uses, but it is a good gaming machine and Android makes that pretty fun.
At the same time, Lollipop has the benefits of an integrated Google ecosystem which makes for an awesome experience for those that rely on Google services a lot. In essence, Android has its own ecosystem but unfortunately, Google has not yet arrived to the point of Windows 10. With the Pixel C, it might be on its way, but until Google can tweak Android in order to make it a viable desktop experience, Windows 10 takes the lead here.
Regardless, the Xperia Z5 comes with just as seamless of a performance as the Lumia 950. Google Now integration is a bonus and a step in the right direction. Sony’s Xperia UI as well as its Camera app are highlights of the UX, as Sony decided to make a slew of manual camera settings available on the Xperia Z5. While the Lumia 950 does have Hello, an iris-recognition-based unlocking tech from Microsoft, the Xperia Z5 has something that might be safer right now: a fingerprint sensor.
With the fast rise of mobile payments and panic around device privacy and security, fingerprint sensors are getting more popular. Microsoft’s Hello is still in beta, so the Xperia Z5 gets the upper hand in the security department. Hello does seem like a very easy way to unlock a phone, but the conveniently placed fingerprint sensor of the Xperia Z5 seems just as easy. I think Sony chose well when it embedded the sensor in the power button in the middle of the side of the phone.
Even though Android doesn’t offer the features Windows 10 does on the Lumia 950, it still offers a very good user experience. Windows 10 is definitely an interesting option, but it might be hard for those coming from iOS or Android, as the UI is different and everything is operated a bit differently. However, it seems pretty easy to get accustomed to.
Moving on to design, the Xperia Z5 takes the lead from the start with its water-resistant chassis that’s made of metal and glass. The phone is less of a fingerprint magnet and it looks and feels quite a bit more premium than the Lumia 950 does. Button placement and sizing are very important and the Xperia Z5 seems to have nailed it with buttons placed on the lower side of the phone. The volume rocker and power button rest atop a dedicated shutter button, which is a trait the Xperia Z5 shares with the Lumia 950.
Comparatively, the Microsoft Lumia 950 looks a bit cheap with its all-plastic chassis. The two phones are actually quite similar when it comes to their size, as both are made according to most popular preferences (5.2-inch displays). The Xperia Z5 measurements are: 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm, while the Lumia 950 measurements are 145 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm. While they’re very close in similar in width and height, the Lumia 950 is considerably thicker. They’re also almost the same weight: 154 grams for the Xperia 950 and 150 grams for the Lumia 950.
The Lumia 950 design is actually pretty bland. It would have been nice to have a removable back that users could switch to add some neat colors, but smartphone skins are cheap and easy to find, so I guess settling for that should be good enough. The good thing is that both the Lumia 950 and Xperia Z5 design include thin bezels on the sides, which are usually appealing to most.
The Xperia Z5 display measures 5.2-inches and comes with an FHD resolution of 1080*1920, adding up to 428 ppi pixel density. The IPS LCD display of the device is super bright and crisp, even though its resolution might not sound high-end at first. Outdoor viewing is great and the lower ppi count makes for a good autonomy, which is a fair trade-off. Although some would have liked to have a QHD display, most people seem to be happy with what Sony came up with.
The Xperia Z5 places considerable emphasis on durability, too, with a scratch-resistant glass panel with an extra oleophobic coating on top. Add to that the IP68 water- and dust proof certification of the handset and it sounds like a rather good combination of features for the urban environment.
The Lumia 950 display goes all out, comparatively. Microsoft slapped a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with a QHD resolution of 1440*2560 resolution (564 ppi) on the device. The screen is wonderful and Microsoft even engineered it to save power by turning off the majority of pixels and lighting up only the most important ones – on the lock screen that is. It’s an interesting and power-saving feature that isn’t present on the Xperia Z5, so it gives the Lumia 950 a boost. It lost a couple of points in the design department.
Performance is key with both these phones and both have had great demonstrations. The Lumia 950 performance seemed to be rather good in most hands-on reviews and we know that the Xperia Z5 works marvelously, even with Sony’s skin on top of Android. Hardware-wise the two aren’t too different, so it’s safe to say that the Lumia 950 will most likely perform exemplarily.
The Lumia 950 comes with a Snapdragon 808 hexacore processor backed by 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage. There’s a microSd card slot available which can hold up to 256 extra GB of space, in case someone needs it. Microsoft emphasized at the Lumia 950 launch event that everything on the phone is automatically saved to the cloud, making physical storage just an optional feature.
The Xperia Z5 comes with a Snapdragon 810 processor,3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage. The handset is also compatible with microSd storage up to 256 GB, so Sony offers up essentially the same configuration as the Lumia 950. Android might take up less of that space compared to Windows 10, mind you. Regardless of what’s on paper, expect both these phones to perform great. I do wonder if there will be any serious bugs in Windows 10.
Camera was very important for both companies when making these flagships, hence both added dedicated shutter buttons to them. The Xperia Z5 comes with a beautiful 23 MP camera with phase detection autofocus and LED flash on the rear and a 5.1 MP camera on the front. 4K recording is super-smooth and photos are excellent even in low light.
Microsoft promises similar things, as the Lumia 950 camera is outfitted with Carl Zeiss optics, a 20 MP sensor, optical image stabilization, autofocus and triple-LED RGB flash on the rear and with a 5 MP camera on the front. The camera of the Lumia 950 is supposed to be the champion of low-light photography and image stabilization, but we’ve yet to put that to a serious test.
Both Sony and Microsoft are recognized for their devices’ cameras and the Xperia Z5 and Lumia 950 are no exception. Both have great cameras with great features, but Microsoft’s option is more appealing because of that RGB flash. RGB flash will actually help your photos reflect true, life-like colors in the most dimly lit conditions, which is certainly appealing.
Pertaining to the new standard, the Lumia 950 comes with a USB Type C cable, which allows for fast charging, using the Display Port, and transfers data insanely fast. The battery within the phone measures 3000 mAh and Microsoft promises up to 18 hours of use on a 3G data connection.
The Xperia Z5 doesn’t come with USB Type C, but it does feature fast charging for its slightly smaller 2900 mAh battery. The battery life on the Xperia Z5 seems to be rather decent, ranging from one day on heavy use to three days with regular use in most cases. That should be on par with the anticipated battery life of the Lumia 950. Microsoft’s handset has the benefit of Qi-enabled wireless charging, though.
Last, but not least, pricing. The Lumia 950 price is set at about $600, while its XL version costs $650. The Xperia Z5 goes for a considerably higher premium at about $850. The Xperia Z5 Premium costs about $1000, but that’s got a 4K display. The Lumia 950 seems like the winner here, once you get to its pricing. Although it’s still not cheap and you can find phones that boast with similar features (apart from the software right now) for more affordable prices, the Lumia 950 offers a bit more than the Xperia Z5 does. Windows 10 is not reserved for Lumia phones, so we are expecting to see other flagship smartphones showing up soon enough (maybe from HTC?). The Xperia Z5 does have its design, battery life, camera and water resistance as a plus, but it feels like it’s even more overpriced than other devices out there. Price-wise, the Lumia 950 seems more balanced, even though it’s still a bit of an expensive option. Which would you choose?