"The Sony Xperia C3 Dual is a smartphone with a focus on selfies. Our review"
The self-portrait has been around since the 15th century, with famous artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Frida Kahlo and even Vincent Van Gogh portraying themselves as the main subjects in their paintings. Fast forward to 2014 though, and the once-acclaimed art genre has given way to duckfaces and pouts seen in the so-called selfies, a blasphemy that would no doubt cause Van Gogh to cut off his other ear, were he still alive.
The current generation doesn't see it that way though, and has embraced the innocuous fad as a way of life. It's not uncommon anymore to find a smartphone’s front camera being used more than its rear snapper. Even the group photo, which previously required the assistance of another person to take, is now being handled by the front camera – just look at Ellen Degeneres’ famous Oscar selfie.
Smartphone manufacturers have been quick to recognise this, leading to a spate of new "selfie-smartphones". Sony is the latest brand to dip its toes into selfie waters, with the Xperia C3 Dual “ProSelfie” smartphone. Featuring a 5-megapixel wide-angle front camera accompanied by a soft LED flash, Sony hopes that this will be the ultimate self and group photo tool. We've been snapping ourselves to glory over the past few weeks, and here’s our thoughts on the device.
|Short on time? Check out the Sony Xperia C3 Dual review in pictures|
At first glance, the C3 Dual looks exactly like a smaller version of Xperia T2 Ultra Dual (review). The large bezels above and below the display are the same, as is the chrome detailing around the edges. The plastic back panel sports a matte finish though, unlike the T2 Ultra’s glossy veneer. The rather uninspiring Sony OmniBalance design continues as well, with no changes to the blocky, rectangular shape.
The Xperia C3 Dual is actually a phablet, thanks to its large 5.5-inch display. Sony’s done a good job with keeping the weight down to about 150g, and the girth a skinny 7.6mm. It’s not ideal for one-handed use, but it isn’t awkward either.
In the front of the device, you’ll find Sony branding, the earpiece, a notification LED and sensors above the display. Also present is the large front camera sensor encircled in a chrome ring, with a translucent soft flash beside it. Below the display, the broad chin is mostly clean-shaven, except for a grill representing the primary microphone. The Android buttons are present as software overlays on the display.
The chrome-finished edges are made of shiny plastic, which also make them prone to getting smudged. The right spine houses the signature Sony power button, followed by a volume rocker and dedicated camera shutter key. A flap on top can be pried open to pull out a single, long tray that holds both SIMs. The left spine features a similar flap into which the microSD card slot can be inserted. The micro-USB port for charging and data transfers is also on the left. The top edge of the phone holds the headphone jack, while the bottom is empty.
Flipping the device over, you’ll find the Sony and Xperia branding, as well as the NFC area highlighted in silver on the back. The primary camera with flash and the secondary microphone are up top, while the loudspeaker is at the bottom. The non-removable back panel keeps the 2,500mAh battery out of your reach.
The Xperia C3 Dual’s 5.5-inch display sports a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. Equating to a pixel density of 267ppi, the screen manages to be reasonably sharp, and is fine for reading text. It doesn’t get the X-Reality mobile engine or Super Vivid Mode seen on premium Sony handsets, but still displays a broad colour spectrum, with good viewing angles and brightness.
There are no complaints on its responsiveness, and by going into settings you’ll be able to enable Glove Mode to boost sensitivity. The white balance can also be adjusted to your liking.
While we’ve complained about the ample bezels above and below the display adding bulk earlier, we should mention that they serve as good hand-holds when using the phone in landscape mode for gaming or watching videos.
We tend to focus more on the primary camera in our reviews, but since the Xperia C3 Dual is a selfie smartphone, we’re going to give the front snapper some extra attention. The 5-megapixel front shooter features a 25mm wide-angle lens, which makes it ideal for taking group selfies. To shoot in a wide-angle 16:9 aspect ratio, you’ll need to tone down the resolution to 3MP.
The soft LED flash works well to provide gentle illumination, without blinding your eyes or overtly whitening your skin tone. The front snapper works especially well in daylight, producing natural skin tones and accurate colours. In low light, images are quite grainy, so you’ll definitely need to use the flash or find a good light source.
In settings, you can enable a Self-timer, Smile Shutter and Burst mode. The flash options include Auto, Fill Flash, Red Eye Reduction and Torch. Our main complaint about the front camera is that it’s fixed focus, which can lead to out of focus images sometimes.
The primary camera offers resolution of 8-megapixels, and features a Sony Exmor RS BSI sensor. To use HDR and tweak other settings, you’ll need to switch to Manual mode. There are several scene modes on offer, as well as options to toggle white balance, exposure, ISO and metering. The selection of pre-loaded camera apps include the usual AR Effect, Picture Effect, Timeshift Burst, Social Live, Sweep Panorama and Portrait Retouch. You can download more apps from Sony Select.
The main camera is an accomplished shooter, capturing both macro and landscape shots with ease. Colours tend to be a bit washed out at times, but there’s a significant amount of detail retained when you zoom in. Night shots aren’t very bright, but on the plus side aren’t grainy. Low light is where the camera falters, capturing images that are too dark to be usable.
|For more details, check out our Sony Xperia C3 Dual camera review|
Here are some image samples from the C3 Dual’s primary camera. Click on the thumbnails to view them in full resolution.
The Xperia C3 Dual runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, layered with Sony’s custom UI. There’s nothing new or interesting to report, but we’ll take you through the basics.
The lockscreen has a shortcut to the camera, and displays an accordion effect when you slide to unlock it. The homescreens are packed to the brim with various widgets, while the notification bar has a quick settings tab alongside.
The recents key lets you close all running apps with a single press, or swipe them away one by one. Tapping on it also brings up Small Apps, bite-sized windows of select apps that you can drag around and use on top of other running apps. The app drawer has a pull-out sidebar, with shortcuts to search, uninstall, organise and download apps.
Third-party apps have been kept to a minimum, with only Facebook, Pixlr Express and OfficeSuite pre-installed. Sony’s own apps are present, including Sony Select, Socialife News, TrackID, Smart Connect and Sketch. The gallery, video and music players have also been given the Sony treatment in the form of the Album, Movies and Walkman apps respectively.
Inside settings, you’ll find a range of connectivity options, including the ability to wirelessly play content on other devices, mirror the screen to another Xperia device or compatible display via Miracast, configure DLNA, connect to a DualShock 3 PlayStation Controller, and wirelessly transfer files to a Windows PC. The Personalisation category lets you change or download themes, edit quick settings icons, and manage which apps can send notifications.
Sony’s Simple Home mode, which changes the layout of your homescreen into an easy layout with large icons, is also present. The Power Management section lets you enable Sony’s STAMINA Mode to extend usage. The Ultra STAMINA Mode is missing, but a Low battery Mode is present, disabling all but core functions when the battery drops below a specified threshold.
The dual-SIM settings let you rename SIM cards, specify a card for data, and forward calls to one SIM when the other is unreachable. You can also set up the Answering Machine function (different from voicemail), which plays a pre-recorded message and records the caller’s message on your phone.
The Xperia C3 Dual, like the T2 Ultra, has a couple of tools to facilitate one-handed use. If you’ve enabled a PIN or pattern unlock, you can shrink and dock this to either side of the display to make unlocking with one-hand easier. The home button can also be double tapped to move the notifications and quick settings shade to the lower half of the display.
Handing performance on the Xperia C3 Dual is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC clocked at 1.2GHz, working in tandem with Adreno 305 graphics and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is a decent 8GB, out of which a little under 5GB is available to the user. The microSD card slot supports expansion by an additional 32GB, while the USB OTG functionality lets you attach a flash drive to view media. Sony’s reputation for good battery life continues with the C3 Dual, with the 2,500mAh unit easily lasting well into the second day with normal use. Our battery drain test, which involves looping an HD video with brightness and volume set to 50 percent, gave us an excellent result of 14 hours and 15 minutes.
The C3 Dual isn’t exactly a speed demon, but zips along happily enough, with no sudden app crashes or freezes during our testing period. It can handle most games easily, although we noticed occasional jitters while playing graphics-heavy games like Riptide GP2.
The smartphone is fully loaded on the connectivity front too. Apart from dual-SIM, you get Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Miracast, GPS and GLONASS. As a plus, both SIM cards support 3G.
There’s no doubt that selfies are very popular, but the need for a device that caters specifically to this feature doesn’t trump the other aspects users are looking for, namely, performance, battery life, and value for money. The C3 Dual scores well enough on all these fronts, but despite being an all-round device, is still a pricey proposition. Launched at a price of Rs 23,990, it's much more expensive than other flagships like the Huawei Honor 6 (review). We won't even mention the discontinued Xiaomi Mi 3 (review).
Then there are the smartphones with the swivel cameras – the Oppo N1 (review), Oppo N1 Mini (review) and Gionee Elife E7 Mini. All three handsets are available for the same or lesser price than the C3, and feature 13MP primary cameras that can be rotated to the front to take a high-resolution selfie.
With the competition taken into consideration, the outcome for the Xperia C3 looks bleak. Our suggestion? If you’re looking for a high-end device, Sony’s current Xperia Z3 (review) and Z3 Compact (review) flagships make a good choice. But if you’re considering something mid-range, you might want to glance in another direction.
Video by Pratik Vyas