Thanks to the guys at Vodafone UK we have had a Sony Experia E3 for a couple of weeks. Although this is an Android device and we are focussed towards Windows Phone we are always interesting to trial some of the other options give the readers a better comparison outside of the Windows Phone ecosystem.
Look and Feel
Out of the box the Sony Experia E3 looks and feels like it is aimed at the premium end of the Smart Phone market although its price mark does not reflect this, placing it in competition with the Nokia Lumia 830 based on its appearance, but more akin to the Nokia Lumia 635 based on its pricing . The Sony Experia E3 weighs in at a measly 143.8 grams and measures 137.1mm x 69.4mm x 8.5mm, compared to the slightly heavier and longer Nokia Lumia 830 at 150 grams and 139.4 x 70.7 x 8.5mm, but is still weighty when compared to the smaller 134 gram, 129.5 x 66.7 x 9.2 mm Nokia Lumia 635. The Sony Experia E3 screen feels a little small for its form factor as it houses a 4.5″ (854 x 480) IPS screen with a large amount of wasted space around the screen in comparison to the 5″ HD720 (1280 x 720) ClearBlack IPS screen provided by the Nokia Lumia 830 and 4.5″ (854 x 480) screen in the Nokia Lumia 635.
The Sony Experia E3 unit we were provided had a sleek silk matte black plastic casing compared with the aluminium edged chassis of the Nokia Lumia 830 and cheaper looking plastic high colour plastic casing of the Nokia Lumia 635. Again all designs are appealing to both the eye and fingertip in different ways, but is should be noted that the Sony Experia E3 silk matte finish shows every fingerprint in high definition. All three devices have removable rear covers, although we were surprised to see this did not enable the removal/replacement of the battery in the Sony Experia E3 which is a missing opportunity in our opinion.
One other dislike we have relating to the Sony Experia E3 is the lack of physical buttons on the front of the device. Although this may be the way of the future enabling maximum use of the screen real estate it doesn’t feel like we are quite there yet. It is somewhat comforting to have a permanent Home or Start Screen button. Although third concept was piloted on the Nokia Lumia 530 we prefer physical primary buttons at the bottom of the screen.
Although all three devices share the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz quad core processor and Adreno 305 graphics processor the Sony Experia E3 feels slightly faster with its Android 4.4 Kitkat operating system when compared with the Nokia Lumia 635 and Nokia Lumia 830 running Windows Phone 8.1 and Nokia Denim firmware but the speed difference is minimal.
A major failing point for the Sony Experia E3 in this comparison with its limited 4GB internal flash memory and support for up to a 32GB MicroSD whist the Nokia Lumia 635 and Nokia Lumia 830 include 8GB and 16GB intenal memory, respectively, and both support up to a 128GB MicroSD. The small amount of internal memory on the Sony Experia E3 is surprising especially when we factor in its puny 32GB MicroSD maximum limit.
Imaging is another area in which the Sony Experia E3 falls over again with a 5 MPix rear facing camera and a basic VGA front facing camera compared to the 10MPix rear facing camera and HD720 (1920 x 720) 0.9 MPix wide angle front facing camera on the Nokia Lumia 830. Whilst both phones can record video is full 1080p HD, the Sony Experia E3 boasts 4 x smooth zoom functionality, but when compared to the Nokia Lumia 830 the Sony Experia E3 zoom is limited and not as smooth.
Although the Sony Experia E3 compares directly with the Nokia Lumia 635 rear facing 5 Megapixel camera which also supports 4 x zoom it wins hands down on the front facing camera as the Nokia Lumia 635 does not have one.
As with many Android phones, the Sony Experia E3 has no dedicated Camera button which has always felt like a negative as we have always used the dedicated camera button on Nokia devices. This being said, the Nokia Lumia 635 also lacks a dedicated Camera button, which is also missing on other low end Lumia devices these days.
The Sony Experia E3 benefits from a 2,330mAh battery providing up to 12.5 hrs talk time, whereas the Nokia Lumia 830 houses a 2,200mAh battery offering up to 12.9 hrs talk time. Although this implies both phones are on par the power management on the Nokia Lumia 830 enables a claimed up to 79 hrs of music playback compared to the 49 hr claim of the Sony Experia E3.
Again, although the Sony Experia E3 has a larger capacity battery it loses against the Nokia Lumia 635 with its 1830mAh battery power management offering up to 14 hrs talk time and up to 58 hrs of music playback.
The long standing advantage of Nokia devices of the competition has been HERE Maps with its on free device maps, but during 2014 HERE Maps expanded to Android meaning that this differentiator no longer exists making both phones on par in this area. Although HERE Maps is not pre-installed on the Sony Experia E3 it can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store. There are, of course, other Mapping and Navigation apps available, but many, including Google Maps, do not provide on-device maps meaning that a loss of mobile coverage results in a loss of map data.
The Sony Experia E3 has the power of the Google Play Store behind it, which has many more apps than the Windows Store with most major companies providing iOS and Android apps abd the Windows Store having to rely on dedicated third party developers to fill the gap in many places. The gap is slowly closing with major investment from Microsoft, but currently the Google Play Store wins hands down.
In addition to the Google Play Store, the Sony provide their own app store in the form of Sony Select. Although this gives Sony more control of certain app availability, but we prefer the Windows Store concept of a single app store with manufacturer specific areas.
Sony Also provide proprietary gallery, video, music and social apps resulting in the standard Android issue of multiple apps performing the same functionality. Although this is not an issue for many we find that it can clutter up the app screens with unused apps.
Both the Sony Experia E3 and Nokia Lumia 830 are marketed as affordable high end smartphones with the Sony Experia E3 currently reduced to £100 SIM free whereas the Nokia Lumia 830 costs a less affordable £281 SIM free. The Nokia Lumia 635 comes in more comparable at £104 with all prices from Amazon UK.
Although the SIM free price is substantially different if you are after the phone with a SIM card, using Vodafone UK as an example, the Sony Experia E3 is available on Pay as You Go for £85 and the Nokia Lumia 830 and Nokia Lumia 635 are available for free on £18.50 pm and £12.50, respectively, 24 month contract.
Although we have only had the Sony Experia E3 for 2 weeks we have been very impressed. Based on its look, feel and marketing we pitted it against the Nokia Lumia 830, resulting in its losing in almost all categories, but when the price is factored in the Sony Experia E3 becomes more impressive with its price pitting it against the Nokia Lumia 635 instead so we added this comparison, where it lost again ,but only by a very small margin.
The only reason the Sony Experia E3 loses against the Nokia Lumia 635 is its extremely limited internal and MicroSD memory and lack of physical front buttons whilst it is redeemed by its front facing camera.
If you are after a good looking, Android phone SIM Free phone and are prepared to accept limited memory (less music and apps) an acceptable camera resolution then the Sony Experia E3 is the phone for you.