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Got an Xperia ZL from ShopBLT and ... (first impressions)
Been using my C6506 (USA LTE) ZL for the past day and some change now -- ordered from ShopBLT. AT&T's LTE works great so far. I've never gotten top speeds where I live, but I'm in and out of areas with better LTE coverage, so I'll see about that when I have a chance.
First impressions of this phone are spectacular. It should be noted that the notification LED has a known bug where when you add your Google account, if you allow it to restore an account's settings, the LED will not work correctly (it will light when charging and when viewing photos in the gallery/album app, but not when you receive email, SMS, etc). The trick is to untick the backup and restore box for your Google account when you add it (and skip the initial setup guide and add the Google account after).
Despite the widespread cries of mediocrity, I actually quite like the camera on this phone. I'd say what it's most guilty of is over-sharpening images during post-processing. I'm planning to fiddle with the camera settings to see what I can manage. Having a dedicated camera button and using the volume rocker for zoom, it truly feels like you're operating a point-and-shoot, which I find pretty impressive. Pressing the camera button while the phone is unlocked launches the camera app, too, so it's a quick way to snap a photo.
I also find that the cries of "ewww" over the screen's viewing angles are largely silly. I took some photos of this phone under a very bright daylight bulb (a product photography setup) and even at sharp angles, you can certainly still read the screen. The problem comes in when the auto-brightness dims the screen significantly and you lay it on a desk -- it can get difficult to read, but not impossible. Impossible to read would be my SGS3 screen mid-day on a sunny day. The screen on the ZL is quite crisp, the colors are realistic (and not super-saturated like an amoled), which I appreciate. I've had mostly Samsung phones thus far, so I can see why people think this screen has a washed-out look, but in reality, it just isn't super-saturated.
My only complaints thus far have been a few spontaneous restarts of my phone, but i'm not sure what's causing them. I may have some memory card corruption (my SGS3 LOVED corrupting my microSD cards *sigh* -- it totally killed a 16GB class 4 card, and I'm seeing evidence that it may have also corrupted my 32GB class 10 that I'm now using).
Other than that, this phone is quite snappy -- certainly snappier than my SGS3. I like the near-vanilla appearance of the UI, too -- it's half the reason I went for a ZL. I really strongly dislike touchwiz, but I'm not an enormous fan of rooting and ROMs while my phone is under warranty (if it dies, I'd really like to be able to have it repaired without feeling guilty for duping a company, no matter how easy it is to reset a Sammy device's flash counter).
The ZL is about a half ounce heavier than the SGS3, too, and honestly, when I first picked it up out of the box, I thought "wow, this is kinda heavy". But then I picked up my SGS3 and realized that the difference was actually pretty negligible. The hardware design is quite nice -- the power button is absolutely the best power button I've ever used. It's such a pleasure to press (that I just feel like locking and unlocking my phone constantly!). The notification LED design is also another little detail that I think Sony did a stellar job with -- it looks like something out of Star Trek.
Battery life -- so far, it's just fine for me. In fact, the lack of drain while the phone is in standby is awesome. My SGS3 would drop 15% overnight just sitting there. The ZL drops MAYBE a percent. Yeah. A whole percent. OK, maybe it dropped 2 last night, not entirely sure. When in use, the battery drains pretty fast, though I'm not sure if it's more or less than my S3 just yet. I know that during a phone call, it's less so far. I made a one-hour long call that drained the battery only about 5-6%. My S3 normally dropped 10% or more for a similar call. Definitely the jury is still out on the battery, but that's going to take time to notice.
Overall it's the little details. That's what I think Sony got so right with the ZL. The little details -- hardware design (the textured back looks and feels so good that I don't want to put a case on it, along with the dedicated camera button, the gorgeous power button, and the unique LED), an un-intrusive UI (the app drawer is the biggest departure, IMO, from stock android, and even that... I kind of like what they did, and notification toggles that are skinned with the UI themes rather than just one big ugly green and blue thing that is Touchwiz's notification toggles). It's in the details. Whatever software bugs there are, Sony has done something right, at least for me.
Hope this helps anyone out there who's looking at the ZL! I'm test driving it for at least a week or two, and then I'm going to decide if I'm keeping the ZL or going back to my SGS3. Right now, the ZL is winning by a landslide, but it's only been a day and a half.
NOTE: See the following attached photos for some idea of what the screen angles are like (one head-on shot, and the other is at a sharp angle -- both were taken using a bright product photography lighting setup).