Review: Sony's Xperia XZ smartphone is a winner in the selfie stakes

Sony’s Xperia XZ is the Japanese firm’s best flagship smartphone in several years, with a fresh premium design and improved camera, even if its display continues to lag behind its competitors.

With the XZ, released in the UAE last month, Sony has fin­ally ditched the tired design of its Z range. In its place comes a far smoother metal and glass casing with perfectly rounded edges and joins, that looks particularly impressive in the new “forest” blue shade.

Like last year’s Z5, the XZ sports a 23MP rear camera, which now uses “triple image sensor” technology to create that extra-special image. That’s fine in theory, but in reality images are OK but not spectacular, especially compared with the likes of the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7 range.

What has improved, however, is the XZ’s front-facing camera, which has been upgraded to 13MP, and, more importantly, a wider-angled lens for an all-round better selfie experience.

Many of the XZ’s other features are holdovers from the Z5, for better or for worse. On the plus side there’s IP68 dust and ­water resistance, as well as a nippy fingerprint reader conveniently placed on the right-hand edge. Less happily, the XZ’s display is virtually identical to the Z5’s, which in turn was little different from the Z3’s display before it.

The same old 5.2 Full HD display is fine, with nice colours and smooth action scenes in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, it simply can’t match the Amoled display of the S7 Edge and the Super LCD5 of the HTC 10 for sheer wow factor.

It seems, however, that Sony is less concerned with competing directly with the S7s of this world, focusing instead on a slightly cheaper market segment. The X5 retails for Dh2,299, Dh400 below the Z5’s starting original price, and well below that of the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7.

The Xperia XZ’s average display prevents it from being an out and out winner, but its long overdue design overhaul and brilliant selfie camera make it Sony’s most compelling high-end phone in ages.

Q&A:

Yay, water resistance. So I can take it scuba diving with me?

Not so fast. Sony advises you not to expose the handset to seawater, saltwater, chlorinated water or drinks. Still, it’ll survive the odd spill better than most.

How’s the battery life?

Sony also claims the (non-removable) 2900mAh battery will last twice as long as its competitors, thanks to intelligent charging based on the owner’s indivi­dual usage patterns. In reality, battery life is solid but not particularly spectacular.

What else should I know about the XZ then?

It ships with Android Marshmallow, with an upgrade to Nougat expected before long. There’s 32GB of memory, expandable to 256GB through one of the two Sim slots. The 3GB of Ram and Snapdragon 820 processor make the user experience nice and nippy.

A 5.2-inch display is a little large for me. Is there anything smaller available?

Sony unveiled the X compact at the same time as the XZ, with a 4.6-inch display. Sadly you’ll have to go to Saudi Arabia to buy it, where it’s available for 1,699 riyals (Dh1,663). If you don’t fancy the trip, the Z5 Compact is still available in the UAE.

I’ve never associated forests with being particularly blue. Are there any other colours available?

It’s a very nice shade of dark blue, whatever it’s called. It’s also available in “mineral” black, platinum and “deep” pink.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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Review: Sony is back with a winner in its Xperia XZ smartphone

Sony’s Xperia XZ is the Japanese firm’s best flagship smartphone in several years, with a fresh premium design and improved camera, even if its display continues to lag behind its competitors.

With the XZ, released in the UAE last month, Sony has fin­ally ditched the tired design of its Z range. In its place comes a far smoother metal and glass casing with perfectly rounded edges and joints that looks particularly impressive in the new “forest” blue shade.

Like last year’s Z5, the XZ sports a 23MP rear camera, which now uses “triple image sensor” technology to create that extra-special image. That’s fine in theory, but in reality images are OK but not spectacular, especially compared with the likes of the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7 range.

What has improved, however, is the XZ’s front-facing camera, which has been upgraded to 13MP, and, more importantly, a wider-angled lens for an all- round better selfie experience.

Many of the XZ’s other features are holdovers from the Z5, for better or for worse. On the plus side there’s IP68 dust and ­water resistance, as well as a nippy fingerprint reader conveniently placed on the right-hand edge.

Less happily, the XZ’s display is virtually identical to the Z5’s, which in turn was little different from the Z3’s display before it.

The same old 5.2 Full HD display is fine, with nice colours and smooth action scenes in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, it simply can’t match the Amoled display of the S7 Edge and the Super LCD5 of the HTC 10 for sheer wow factor.

It seems, however, that Sony is less concerned with competing directly with the S7s of this world, focusing instead on a slightly cheaper market segment. The X5 retails for Dh2,299, Dh400 below the Z5’s starting original price, and well below that of the iPhone 7 or S7.

The Xperia XZ’s average display prevents it from being an out and out winner, but its long overdue design overhaul and brilliant selfie camera make it Sony’s most compelling high-end phone in ages.

Q&A:

Yay, water resistance. So I can take it scuba diving with me?

Not so fast. Sony advises you not to expose the handset to seawater, saltwater, chlorinated water or drinks. Still, it’ll survive the odd spill better than most.

How’s the battery life?

Sony also claims the (non-removable) 2900mAh battery will last twice as long as its competitors, thanks to intelligent charging based on the owner’s indivi­dual usage patterns. In reality, battery life is solid but not particularly spectacular.

What else should I know about the XZ then?

It ships with Android Marshmallow, with an upgrade to Nougat expected before long. There’s 32GB of memory, expandable to 256GB through one of the two Sim slots. The 3GB of Ram and Snapdragon 820 processor make the user experience nice and nippy.

A 5.2-inch display is a little large for me. Is there anything smaller available?

Sony unveiled the X compact at the same time as the XZ, with a 4.6-inch display. Sadly you’ll have to go to Saudi Arabia to buy it, where it’s available for 1,699 riyals (Dh1,663). If you don’t fancy the trip, the Z5 Compact is still available in the UAE.

I’ve never associated forests with being particularly blue. Are there any other colours available?

It’s a very nice shade of dark blue, whatever it’s called. It’s also available in “mineral” black, platinum and “deep” pink.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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Aramex third-quarter profit 3 per cent lower at Dh72.2m

Aramex profit slipped 3 per cent during the third quarter, attributable to a slowdown economic activity in the Arabian Gulf and a large number of public holidays during the period.

The logistics firm said it was confident in its strategy to transform itself into a leading technology enterprise, but remained cautious in its outlook because of global economic uncertainties. Aramex said on Monday that net income for the three months to the end of September reached Dh72.2 million, compared with Dh74.6m a year earlier.

Revenues grew 15 per cent to Dh917m during the quarter, thanks to growth in the Asia-Paci­fic region.

“Looking ahead, we are pursuing partnerships with innovative logistics and technology companies to further transform Aramex into a leading technology enterprise, grow our e-commerce proposition and sustainably expand the business,” said the Aramex chief executive Hussein Hachem.

“While we remain confident in this approach, we are also cautious in our outlook due to global economic uncertainties.”

In August during the third quarter, Australia Post acquired a 4.5 per cent stake in Aramex for about A$100m (Dh279.3m).

Aramex also signed a partnership with Dubai-based NewBridge Pharmaceuticals in Aug­ust to provide a range of logistics services across the Middle East, Africa, Canada and the UK.

The company announced in September that it had sold its stake in Australia’s MailCall Couriers for US$32.85m.

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Aramex third-quarter profit 3 per cent lower at Dh72.2m

Aramex profit slipped 3 per cent during the third quarter, attributable to a slowdown economic activity in the Arabian Gulf and a large number of public holidays during the period.

The logistics firm said it was confident in its strategy to transform itself into a leading technology enterprise, but remained cautious in its outlook because of global economic uncertainties. Aramex said on Monday that net income for the three months to the end of September reached Dh72.2 million, compared with Dh74.6m a year earlier.

Revenues grew 15 per cent to Dh917m during the quarter, thanks to growth in the Asia-Paci­fic region.

“Looking ahead, we are pursuing partnerships with innovative logistics and technology companies to further transform Aramex into a leading technology enterprise, grow our e-commerce proposition and sustainably expand the business,” said the Aramex chief executive Hussein Hachem.

“While we remain confident in this approach, we are also cautious in our outlook due to global economic uncertainties.”

In August during the third quarter, Australia Post acquired a 4.5 per cent stake in Aramex for about A$100m (Dh279.3m).

Aramex also signed a partnership with Dubai-based NewBridge Pharmaceuticals in Aug­ust to provide a range of logistics services across the Middle East, Africa, Canada and the UK.

The company announced in September that it had sold its stake in Australia’s MailCall Couriers for US$32.85m.

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Aramex third-quarter profit 3 per cent lower to Dh72.2m

Aramex profit slipped 3 per cent during the third quarter, attributable to a slowdown economic activity in the Arabian Gulf and a large number of public holidays during the period.

The logistics firm said it was confident in its strategy to transform itself into a leading technology enterprise, but remained cautious in its outlook due to global economic uncertainties.

Aramex said on Monday that net income for the three months to the end of September reached Dh72.2 million, compared with Dh74.6m during the same period last year.

Revenues grew 15 per cent to Dh917m during the quarter, thanks to growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Looking ahead, we are pursuing partnerships with innovative logistics and technology companies to further transform Aramex into a leading technology enterprise, grow our e-commerce proposition and sustainably expand the business,” said Aramex chief executive Hussein Hachem.

“While we remain confident in this approach, we are also cautious in our outlook due to global economic uncertainties.”

The third quarter saw Australia Post acquire a 4.5 per cent stake in Aramex in August for around A$100m.

Aramex also signed a partnership with Dubai-based NewBridge Pharmaceuticals in August to provide a range of logistics services across the Middle East, Africa, Canada and the UK.

The company announced in September it had sold its stake in Australia’s MailCall Couriers for US$32.85m.

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Saudi shares rose again for an eighth consecutive day on Sunday, with positive market sentiment from the kingdom’s sovereign bond issuance showing little sign of wearing off.

Qatari stocks fell sharply, while indexes in the UAE were little changed.

The Tadawul All Share Index ended the day 0.7 per cent higher at 5,977.98, making its current winning streak its longest in more than two years.

Banking stocks led gains, with concerns over the country’s liquidity crisis easing following the record US$17.5 billion bond sale this month.

“The fact there was $67bn worth of bids for the issue showed how much untapped demand there was for Saudi debt,” said Sanyalak Manibhandu, a research manager at NBAD Securities.

“That’s proved encouraging for investors who had been concerned about the country’s fiscal deficit.”

NCB, the kingdom’s largest bank by market capitalisation, rose 7.8 per cent on Sunday, with Samba and Al Rajhi closing up 3.0 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Shares in Qatar, by contrast, had their worst day in about six weeks, closing down 2.2 per cent. CBQ shares closed 3.8 per cent lower, after the bank announced plans to increase its capital by up to 17 per cent.

Shares in Dubai closed 0.08 per cent higher at 3,320.92, with gains by Emaar Properties and Arabtec cancelled out by falls from du, Dubai Investments and DXB Entertainments.

Amlak Finance shares had their best day in eight months, rising 5.9 per cent to Dh1.24.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index fell 0.1 per cent to 4,286.34 despite gains by FGB and NBAD.

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More foreign investors will drive transparency in Saudi economy

Increasing foreign participation in Saudi Arabia’s stock market, the Tadawul, will lead to an increase in transparency and corporate governance among Saudi companies, according to its chief executive, Khalid Al Hussan.

“Institutional investors, as you know, need to know more about the [inner workings of] your company,” Mr Al Hussan said yesterday. He was speaking in Dubai at the second regional forum hosted by the Pearl Initiative, a regional corporate governance organisation, and the United Nations Global Compact.

“We [as an exchange] have an important role to play in encouraging companies to adapt enabling frameworks and become more transparent, and need to prove to them that doing so will benefit their businesses.”

Saudi Arabia introduced a framework for qualified foreign investors (QFIs) in May last year, enabling international investors to directly buy Saudi equities for the first time. The regulations were subsequently relaxed further last month, widening the definition of the QFIs permitted.

Total foreign ownership of Saudi stocks stood at 4.07 per cent of total market capitalisation as of October 20, according to data from the exchange.

Mr Al Hussan said the MSCI’s Emerging Market ESG Index, which gave greater weighting to companies with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, had outperformed the standard MSCI Emerging Market Index over the past 10 years

“So there is evidence that institutional investors are looking for companies that adopt good governance [practices] and a high level of transparency and sustainable practices,” he said.

The Pearl Initiative was founded in 2010 by business leaders from across the Arabian Gulf region, to encourage the adoption of higher standards in corporate accountability, transparency and governance.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, urged the region’s private enterprises to commit to sustainability practices in the forum’s opening keynote address.

“A critical bottom line for the [UN’s Sustainable Development Goals] is that private enterprises must be somehow persuaded to commit to sustainability,” Sheikh Nahyan told delegates.

“Corporate leaders must develop a new, shared understanding of what sustainability leadership requires, or face the prospect of becoming irrelevant.”

In a video address to the forum, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, said the adoption of proper sustainability standards made good business sense for private sector enterprises.

“Governance failure, humanitarian crises and persistent economic inequality have devastating consequences,” he said.

“More and more leaders understand that sustainable development is not just the right way forward, but serves [the] long-term interest of business and stakeholders by improving stability and prosperity.”

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Etisalat reported flat profit for the third quarter of the year, coming in below analyst forecasts.

The operator said its group profit for the three months to the end of September was Dh1.9 billion after federal royalty, equivalent to 22 fils per share, in line with its net income for the same period last year.

Etisalat said the figure represented a 16 per cent year-on-year increase after adjusting for the impact of the sale of Sudanese fixed-line operator Canar.

The profit figure came in below an average forecast of Dh2.2 bn from analysts surveyed by Reuters.

Revenue across Etisalat’s businesses grew 3 per cent year on year to Dh13.2bn, the operator said in a statement.

Etisalat, which operates in around 18 countries, said that profit for the first nine months of the year rose 9 per cent to Dh6.2bn.

The operator sold its 92.3 per cent stake in Sudan’s Canar for Dh349.6 million in August.

Etisalat shares closed 1.0 per cent lower at Dh19.35 Wednesday, ahead of the announcement of the results.

The company’s shares are up 20.1 per cent for the year to date. That compares with a decline of 0.9 per cent in the Abu Dhabi Securities Market General Index for the same period.

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Shares in Saudi Arabia extended their winning run to six trading days, despite a fall in international oil prices.

Dubai shares closed lower, with Abu Dhabi little changed.

Brent crude futures fell by 1.8 per cent to US$49.95 per barrel late in the afternoon on reports of rising US inventories and concerns that an oil production deal to be agreed at next month’s Opec meeting may come unstuck over Iraqi opposition.

The Tadawul opened lower in the morning but recovered ground to end 0.04 per cent higher at 5,884.99, thanks to gains from Jabal Omar Development and NCB.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index closed lower for the second day in a row, as investors booked profits following gains earlier this week.

Emaar Properties shares weighed on the index, closing 1.9 per cent lower at Dh6.72, with Arabtec Holding and DXB Entertainments also closing lower. Shuaa Capital and Deyaar Development were the pick of a handful of gainers, closing up 4.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent.

In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index opened slightly lower in the morning but recovered ground to close 0.03 per cent higher at 4,265.83, ahead of a series of big-name quarterly earnings announcements.

Shares in FGB ended the day 2.8 per cent higher at Dh10.85, before the bank’s announcement of a 31 per cent jump in net profit to Dh1.86 billion for the third quarter. Etisalat, the heaviest-weighted stock on Abu Dhabi’s headline index, closed 1 per cent lower ahead of the telco’s third-quarter results announcement in the evening.

In Doha, the Qatar Exchange ended the day 0.4 per cent ­lower.

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Shares in Saudi Arabia extended their winning run to six trading days, despite a fall in international oil prices.

Dubai shares closed lower, with Abu Dhabi little changed.

Brent crude futures fell by 1.8 per cent to US$49.95 per barrel late in the afternoon on reports of rising US inventories and concerns that an oil production deal to be agreed at next month’s Opec meeting may come unstuck over Iraqi opposition.

The Tadawul opened lower in the morning but recovered ground to end 0.04 per cent higher at 5,884.99, thanks to gains from Jabal Omar Development and NCB.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index closed lower for the second day in a row, as investors booked profits following gains earlier this week.

Emaar Properties shares weighed on the index, closing 1.9 per cent lower at Dh6.72, with Arabtec Holding and DXB Entertainments also closing lower. Shuaa Capital and Deyaar Development were the pick of a handful of gainers, closing up 4.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent.

In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index opened slightly lower in the morning but recovered ground to close 0.03 per cent higher at 4,265.83, ahead of a series of big-name quarterly earnings announcements.

Shares in FGB ended the day 2.8 per cent higher at Dh10.85, before the bank’s announcement of a 31 per cent jump in net profit to Dh1.86 billion for the third quarter. Etisalat, the heaviest-weighted stock on Abu Dhabi’s headline index, closed 1 per cent lower ahead of the telco’s third-quarter results announcement in the evening.

In Doha, the Qatar Exchange ended the day 0.4 per cent ­lower.

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