Sony Xperia Z1

For the longest time, the prevailing trend with mobile phones was to take last year’s handset and make it smaller. Shave a few millimeters off, shed a couple of grams, and give users the same experience but in a leaner shell. The rise of smartphones and their incessantly improving spec sheets derailed that habit, but now Sony’s returning to the old ways with its new Xperia Z1 Compact.

In all the important ways, this is still the Xperia Z1. The processor and camera are untouched, the software is identical, and the physical design retains its signature mix of waterproof ruggedness and glossy stylishness. Only the Z1 Compact shrinks it all down to the footprint of a 4.3-inch screen.

As Sony Mobile CEO Kuni Suzuki recently said at CES, “we are Sony, so of course we’ll do things a little differently.” The Compact swims against a tide of ever-expanding Android flagship phones and finds itself occupying a weirdly neglected space between Apple’s 4-inch iPhone and the litany of 5-inch contenders. You can already buy 4.3-inch phones and you can certainly buy top-tier Android handsets, but it’s been a while since you could get both in the same device. Is the Xperia Z1 Compact such a phone?