Sony Xperia ZL review: Off the bench
The Sony Xperia ZL comes with the OfficeSuite 7 viewer. OfficeSuite 7 allows you to view almost any type of document, although you'll have to fork over for the Pro version if you want editing capabilities as well.
There's a Notes app that comes with the Xperia ZL. It's pretty simple to use - you can select the color of the note and just start typing or doodling. There's also an option for Evernote integration.
The Power Saver setting helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold, turn off the Wi-Fi if there is no saved Wi-Fi network in range or turn off the mobile data when the screen is off.
The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.
The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. Facebook events appear just like regular calendar entries, except that you can't edit them from the app.
There is a nicely touch-optimized calculator aboard. The buttons are really big and easy to hit, and it also includes advanced functions (trigonometry, logarithms).
The clock app supports multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. There's also a desk clock option, although it doesn't have integrated weather or news information.
The stopwatch, world clock and timer are available within the clock app. The Timer function now has a history option, and the world clock features a cool slider which helps you quickly figure out the local time in another city.
The Google Play store is full of free apps that will cater to all your organizational needs.
Google Maps with offline maps, Google and Wisepilot navigation
The Sony Xperia ZL comes with a GPS receiver, which took about a minute to get satellite lock upon a cold start. You can use the A-GPS functionality to get near instantaneous locks. Alternatively, network positioning will also do if you only need an estimate of your location.
The Xperia ZL comes with Google Maps and Navigation. Voice-guided navigation has become a viable solution since the v5.0 update. Vector maps are smaller and easier on the data traffic and reroute is an option if you go off course without the need to connect to the Internet. In fact, the only time you need a data connection is when you initially plan the course - Navigation will cache the needed maps.
Quite naturally, the app also supports the Street View mode. If it's available in the area you're interested in, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surroundings. When the digital compass is turned on it feels like making a virtual tour of the location.
Google Maps uses vector maps, which are very data efficient. The latest version has an easy to use interface for caching maps - you just choose "Make available offline" from the menu and pan/zoom around until the desired area is in view (there's an indicator showing how much storage caching that area will take). You can later view cached areas and delete ones you no longer need.
Note that there's a limit to the size of the area you can cache - you can't just make all of Europe available offline, not even a whole country. We managed to cache London and some surrounding regions before Maps told us the area is too big. Also, there's no address search in the cached maps and you can only cache map data in supported regions of the world.
If Google Maps Navigation doesn't do it for you, you can grab an alternative app from the Android Market - there are both free and paid ones.
Wisepilot is also part of the Sony Xperia ZL package, with a navigation license for 30-days and downloadable maps for offline navigation. You need to pay extra to continue using the app once the trial has expired, though. Unfortunately it was not working on our unit due to some incompatibility with the Android version.
The Play Store is the gate to the app world
Running on Android Jelly Bean, the Xperia ZL has access to the latest apps and the ample built-in memory plus the available microSD slot guarantees you won't have trouble with space.
The Store is organized in a few scrollable tabs - categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. The in-app section is untouched though and it's very informative - a description, latest changes, number of downloads and comments with rating. There is usually a demo video and several screenshots for most apps too.