[Feature Design] New article: Xperia™ Z1

Putting it all together
for smartphones
as you’ve never experienced
them before

The Xperia Z1 brought together
many contributors across Sony.
Craftsmanship in design and technology
created a fresh user experience
—taking Xperia another step forward.

Concept

〈 Xperia Z1 〉

A convergence of
Sony technology

Sony has a history of creating a diverse range of products: BRAVIA™, VAIO®, Cyber-shot™, α™, Handycam®, and Walkman®, among others. Converging all of the advanced technologies developed for these products in one smartphone would surely offer a unique experience. This was the inspiration for the Xperia Z1 project. To offer the perfect experience combining the best of Sony technology, designers took on the challenge of creating the best of hardware, software, and everything in between.

Beautiful,
and
beautifully easy to use

Xperia Z1 design adopts OmniBalance design, a design theme introduced with the Xperia Z. A smartphone used so many ways—composing messages, taking photos, and watching movies, for example—should be easy to use no matter how you hold it, and beautiful from any angle. With these goals in mind, we set out to design a phone people would love for years to come. Two contrasting ideals guided Xperia Z1 design: a new experience in a phone offering timeless usability and beauty.

Industrial Design

〈 Xperia Z1 〉

A slate as comfortable as a ball

A shape that fits comfortably in your hand. This basic premise took OmniBalance design a step further in the Xperia Z1. There are as many ways to hold smartphones as there are users and usage scenarios—vertically, horizontally, one-handed, or with both hands. The trick was to find a shape that’s comfortable no matter how you hold it. Spheres are rather free shapes without directionality and feel the same no matter how they’re held. We wondered how to translate these qualities of balls into something quite different—the block-like shape of a phone.

On the Xperia Z1, the four corners of the metal frame, which is carved out from a bar of aluminum, recreate perfect spheres. Fabrication requires precision on the level of hundredths of a millimeter. As if that were not difficult enough, the corners gradually merge with sides cut perfectly flat. This produces a bar with spherical qualities along the edges and in the corners, which come into contact with your hand. These precise semicircles where the flat sides meet the four corners show the overall build quality. Incorporating roundness in Xperia Z1 design was both practical—because it’s more comfortable—and iconic.

What genuine materials
feel like

The Xperia Z1 is also more advanced texturally, because the feeling of genuine materials was essential. One example of this is the aluminum unibody frame. Full-metal frames have caused some problems in the past with signal reception, because they interfere with antennas inside. We took a fresh approach by developing a metal frame that doubles as the antenna. Not only does this enable a seamless metal frame, it also enhances structural rigidity and waterproofing. High standards in textures and finishes from genuine materials are matched by a regard for simple elegance. The phone looks as if it were made solely of glass and metal.

Total attention to beauty

The display provided another opportunity to minimize structural elements and present the phone at its finest. Instead of cutting away a sliver of the display for the earpiece speaker, we housed it in the frame, which leaves a beautiful, uninterrupted expanse of glass. The speaker also includes the notification LED, helping to minimize the number of elements on the surface.

Along the edges, attention was paid to the finish around the headphone jack and other interface elements. Special fabrication of the metal frame enables simple circular trim around these elements while keeping the phone waterproof. They’re encircled by the same rings as the power button and camera lens. Barcodes and regulatory labeling have been moved inside the phone, on the SIM card tray, instead of appearing on the back cover. This makes the phone elegant from any angle—not just the front but also from the side or back. It will always look stylish and beautiful, no matter how the Xperia Z1 is used.


Xperia Z1

Design that keeps pace
with advances

Teams from across Sony came together to include our best technologies in the Xperia Z1. As designers, we were expected to utilize their potential and simplify their appeal. Technical innovation in the Xperia line inevitably means more advanced design. And that’s exactly why the Xperia Z1 is both our current destination and our next starting point in ongoing innovation.

Hibi, senior designer

Color & Material Design

〈 Xperia Z1 〉

Color and finish in harmony

Just as OmniBalance design remained the design concept this time, Xperia Z color themes also inspired Xperia Z1 colors. As before, the phones are available in black, white, and purple. But this time, enhanced finishes call attention to the inner qualities of the genuine materials. Another unique detail is how specific coloring and finishing methods for these materials—glass and metal—were developed for each color.

In black, the deep black enhances the frame’s metallic qualities and the gleam of glass. In white, the glossiness of the glass on back suits the smooth, flat surfaces of the metal frame, thanks to a clear coating that increases reflectivity. And in purple, the mirror-like properties of the glass on back are matched by the finish of the metal frame. This is how, in each color, innovative fabrication harmonizes the color and finish of the two very different materials of glass and metal.

Metalwork that enhances OmniBalance

Double-anodizing took OmniBalance design to the next level. The matte edges and corners of the metal frame are produced by blasting, which makes the metal comfortable while imparting scratch resistance. In contrast, the flat side surfaces are reflective and glossy. Fabrication that cleverly combines these contrasting matte and glossy finishes in a single metal surface retains the allure of metal while matching the surfaces on the side to the glass finish on back. Balancing both the colors and the finishes of metal and glass expresses OmniBalance design more fully and ensures beauty from any angle.

Matching colors
in different materials

Because glass and metal are presented so directly in the Xperia Z1, even slight differences in color would stand out. Color-matching would require skillful precision, yet coloring methods also vary by material. Glass can be printed or coated, but metal is anodized and then dyed. If one of these processes introduces a slight discrepancy, we must somehow compensate for it. This took considerable effort, but finally produced excellent quality, allowing us to express OmniBalance design more directly.

Katayama, designer

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