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Could The Sony Xperia Z Be The Best Choice On T-Mobile?

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Volume rocker, unique power button and SIM slot/cover Volume rocker, unique power button and SIM slot/cover
The waterproof covers for the USB port and microSD slot The waterproof covers for the USB port and microSD slot
The unique power button and the waterproof cover for the SIM slot The unique power button and the waterproof cover for the SIM slot

T-Mobile recently did two things of note here in Los Angeles. They officially launched their LTE network and the Sony Xperia Z, which is an LTE Android handset. Both are awesome in their own way, though only one is widely available. Should you pick up the Xperia Z? Were you thinking about switching to T-Mobile in the wake of their "Uncarrier" branding and JUMP program which allows you to pick up a new phone every six months? Today, I offer you a "twofer" and will answer both questions as we review the Xperia Z with some thoughts on the LTE network here in Los Angeles.

Though I haven't travelled all of Southern California in search of amazing LTE, I can tell you that much of the Los Angeles metro area is covered and it is FAST! Hollywood, Beveryly Hills and the Pico area (BH adjacent), Glendale, Canoga Park and parts of Downtown and Santa Monica all seem to be in the right spot as far as my own travels are concerned. You will see 10Mbps or better in this area and though that isn't the fastest of all LTE currently available from carriers, it is more than enough for 90% of the things you will probably be doing with your phone. Pandora, Google All Access, Netflix, streaming, uploading selfies on Instagram, checking or sending email and surfing the web... you're covered. The great thing about the network on T-Mobile is that where you don't get LTE, you'll fall back to their other "4G" network (HSPA+) which is slower than LTE but fast enough for the services I mentioned above. They're still expanding here in SoCal, so if you aren't experiencing the speeds, have no fear you may be in the path of near future awesomeness! At the bottom of this post, I'll give you the full list of areas they've recently rolled out to and I'd love to hear what the coverage is like in your part of town in the comment section.

If you're in an LTE area, there is a phone you should definitely be checking out at T-Mobile, Sony's Xperia Z. For a rectangular slab, I have to say that this phone with its high gloss glass surface all the way around is beautiful even though gloss comes at a cost, making the unit a fingerprint magnet. You'll want to keep a microfiber on standby if you plan on rocking the phone sans protective case. And speaking of protection, this is actually a phone you won't feel hesitant giving to your teens as it is water and dust resistant so no worries about someone getting pushed into the pool with the phone in their back pocket (I couldn't be the only one who's heard that excuse?). Sony has always had some of the best TV displays on the market and the display on the Xperia is no different! It features a 5" 1920x1080 display which means you get full size HD which I'm sure you'll be quite pleased with. Color reproduction is beautiful and brightness, even in direct sunlight is great. The biggest complaint I had with the Z's display was black levels. There are times when the image on screen looked a little washed out to me but even with that, movies and pictures looked spectacular. Most of the time that I noticed the lack in contrast, it was a menu or some other use of the phone which didn't have anything to do with looking at or watching media.

Looking at the hardware further, the power button and volume rocker are all on the right side of the phone, which is a great configuration, even if you're a lefty like me. Also on the right is the sim tray. The left side of the phone gives you access to the microUSB and microSD/SDHC slots, after you've pulled out the plastic strips which have gaskets to help give the unit its one meter depth waterproofing. The headphone port is on top, up front you have a 2.2 megapixel front-facing and around back you'll get Sony's new 13 megapixel Exmore RS camera which is supposed to allow for HDR video recording along with a 10 frames-per-second burst mode which will capture images at 9 megapixels. Though you don't see it on the outside, the Xperia also comes equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC), DLNA for connecting wirelessly to your television and Playstation3.

Other than some of the built-in Android apps like "Gallery," Sony has kept the phone fairly close to stock Android (minus the bloatware). Thanks to that and the processor, of course, the Xperia Z is a snappy device with little or no lag apparent in day-to-day use. Of the phones available on T-Mobile today, I'd have to say that this one should be in your short list if you're currently looking to pick up a new handset. While it doesn't have all the features of a phone like the Galaxy S4, I think that is its strength. Most people won't use 3/4 of what the S4 can do so before you buy you really should play with both in store and ask yourself if you're really going to use all of what the S4 can do, or if the Xperia has all that you need. The only let down on the software side for those of you who stayed glued to the latest happenings in tech is that the phone does not ship with the latest Android OS. For now, you're stuck with 4.1.2 though 4.2 has been promised, with Sony saying that they would upgrade the device to newer versions of the OS. As most of us have learned when it comes to manufacturers, whether or not they'll follow through remains to be seen. Speaking of software, you'll get the typical T-Mobile bloatware along with more from your pals at Sony. As I stated earlier, the Z is equipped with NFC and Sony has included a pretty cool app called Smart Connect. With this app you can set up rules which will make your phone perform certain functions automatically when you tap your Xperia Z on a programmable NFC Smart Tag and if you own one of Sony's Bravia HD televisions, you need only touch your remote control to push audio and video to your television.

While there are some great phones potentially coming to T-Mobile in the fourth quarter of this year, Sony's Xperia Z is definitely a premium handset that is well worth a serious look. You get a speedy device, running on T-Mobile's speedy LTE and HSPA+ networks (where available) that is life-proof and good looking. Whether you're buying for yourself, or looking for a device for your accident prone teens you can pick up a Z at T-Mobile exclusively for $0 up front, $23 a month for two years on an equipment payment plan, or for $552 full retail. T-Mobile is currently advertising that you can pick up a free Sony wireless bluetooth speaker with purchase of the phone. See their site for full details on that.

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