Just a few years ago, 4.3-inch smartphones were considered to be big. My, how things change. Somewhere along the way, having the biggest screen became a selling point, and thus began the great screen size arms race. Now we're to the point where we can have a gigantic phablet like the Galaxy Note 2 completely dwarfed by the upcoming Xperia Z Ultra. Are they bigger and better, or just out of control? Let's take a look, as we compare the two gigantophones from Sony and Samsung.
Let's get this out of the way: the Xperia Z Ultra is a ridiculously large phone. Don't believe me? Look at the Note 2 next to the iPhone 5, then look at it again here next to the Ultra. Sony's device is basically a small tablet that happens to have cellular connectivity.
What's that, want percentages? Okay then: the Ultra is 19 percent taller than the Note 2. It's 14 percent wider.
Depth is the one area where the Ultra isn't gigantic. Quite the opposite, actually. The Xperia Z Ultra is incredibly thin, measuring only 6.5 mm thick. That's 31 percent thinner than the Note 2, and 14 percent thinner than the svelte iPhone 5.
All of that surface area in the Xperia Z Ultra is naturally going to register on the scale. It's 18 percent heavier than the Note 2.
Like its progenitors, the Xperias Z and ZL, the Ultra has a backside made of glass. The Galaxy Note 2 is made of Samsung's favorite material, plastic.
Here's another example of the Ultra's utter insanity. If you've ever used a Galaxy Note 2, you know that its screen is pretty huge. Well, it's only 74 percent as big as the Ultra's screen. Again, Sony's "phone" is basically a tablet that makes calls.
If you can live with a display that big in your pocket (if it even fits there), then the Xperia will reward you with sharper resolution. The Note 2 only gives you 44 percent as many pixels as the Ultra does.
Samsung's original Galaxy Note (re)popularized stylus use in mobile devices. But the Ultra takes that a step further, letting you use a pencil or pen to scratch notes on your screen. According to Sony, you can use any pencil, along with pens and styluses that have a tip diameter of over 1 mm. Can't say we've seen that before.
The Note's S Pen is included, but no styluses, pens, or pencils are included with the Xperia Z Ultra.
The Xperia Z Ultra should win this one hands-down. As one of the first handsets to run the Snapdragon 800, it will have a much newer and faster processor.
In the Note's defense, it's been on the market for close to a year now. The fairer comparison will be with the (as yet unannounced) Galaxy Note 3.
We're all even in the RAM department, with 2 GB a pop.
The Xperia Z Ultra will only be sold in one 16 GB model (Sony estimates that you'll have about 11 GB of usable storage). You can expand it (up to 64 GB) with a microSD card, but since Android no longer lets you install apps on SD cards, this could be too cramped for some people.
No surprise here with both devices supporting speedy LTE networks, as long as your carrier lives up to its end of the bargain.
Battery capacity is pretty close, but there are too many other factors involved to jump to conclusions about the Ultra's battery life. The Note 2, a much more known quantity, will generally give you terrific uptimes.
Pixel counts don't begin to tell you the full story of picture quality, but here they are nonetheless.
We haven't taken any pictures with the Xperia Z Ultra yet, but it should be an interesting experience. We're imagining something akin to snapping photos with a skateboard.
Water- and dust-resistance
We're guessing this is going to be more of a nice bonus than a selling feature for most. But IP55/IP58 water- and dust-proofing in the Xperia Z Ultra could spare you some grief in an unfortunate accident.
The Galaxy Note 2 is supposed to get an Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update at some point. But until that elusive day comes, you could easily say the Ultra has the slight advantage here.
Wrap-upIt's quite possible that neither of these "phones" is for you. We wouldn't blame you for passing on these Andre the Giant phones and opting for a big-but-not-enormous phone like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One, or perhaps a much smaller handset like the iPhone 5.
But if you are shopping for a plus-sized smartphone, these two – along with the LG Optimus G Pro – are some of your best options. And there's also that 800 lb gorilla in the room known as the Galaxy Note 3. Rumors are pointing to a Q3 announcement and a late Q3 or early Q4 release. If you can wait, it might be worth waiting to see what Samsung offers on that front.
For more on the Note 2, you can check out our full review.