A buying guide for the Sony Xperia Z mobile phone

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What to look for before bidding or buying now
When searching for a deal on an Xperia Z you should always try to ask the seller whether the item has ever been repaired before. The reason is simple. Repaired phones have most commonly not been looked after. So they may still have faults. People in the mobile phone repair industry don't spend a long time testing the phones, they fix. They just go for the obvious fault and then quickly test it. If it's a small repair shop or market stall, they will then list it on ebay and try to sell it to you.
The Xperia Z is especially different to all other mobile phones on the market. All of the new Sony phones such as the Z, Z1 and the Z2 are vacuum sealed once they are manufactured. This process seals them and makes them water proof. A vacuum machine used to seal an Xperia Z once it has been repaired is extremely expensive to buy. So your round the corner repair shops will not have them. Any Xperia Z which has not been repaired by a Sony approved repair centre is extremely likely to have not been vacuum sealed. If an Xperia Z does not have it's adhesive changed and is not vacuum sealed after being repaired, it is no longer water proof (If it ever was.)
As big a thing as this may seem, it's actually not. The Xperia Z, despite claims from Sony, is not a fully waterproof phone. It has (Just like its successors, the Z1 and Z2) major flaws in it's waterproof design. They include heat from the phone itself or from the environment, loosening the glue holding the covers on the phone and this lets moisture in and the port covers become worn and do not provide proper waterproofing for the internal components. Now the important thing to note here is that even though Sony have marketed the Z as a waterproof phone, if the phone does become water damaged internally for any reason at all, Sony will invalidate your warranty and they will refuse to repair your phone. The main board inside the phone is not water proof. There are over eight water detection strips which turn pink when water touches them, both inside the phone and just inside the port flaps. This is how to spot water damage. My personal thoughts are that if you claim your phone is waterproof then why would you be as paranoid as to place the most amount of water intrusion detection stickers I have ever seen inside a mobile phone inside your product? That being said. I do believe that the Xperia Z maybe lightly splash proof if all of the port covers are closed. But buying an Xperia Z purely because you believe it is fully waterproof is an extremely bad idea.
It is however, a great phone. It might be one of Sony's best ever models to date.
If you are buying a Z you should try to look for the following things from the seller : A checkmend report, all accessories and the original box. checkmend is a service that you can use to check before hand the history of a mobile phone. It will contain information about any previous repairs the phone has had under warranty and whether or not it is lost or stolen. Ask the seller for this check. It is important. It will only be embarrassing for the seller if you have to raise an ebay case against them for selling you stolen goods. You can check that the IMEI number on the report is exactly the same as the one recorded in the phone once you receive it, by using the about phone option in the settings menu of the phone. You want the charger, the box and the USB lead with the phone at the very least. Otherwise you may struggle to charge your new phone's battery and you want it to arrive to you in one piece.
Listings : look at the photos, is there a photo of the actual phone turned on? Are there photos of the sides and rear? Is there any cosmetic damage? Is the phone listed as for parts or not working? Does the seller have more than twenty good feedbacks and no negative ones?
Price : Check a site like Mazuma mobile to find out what value the Z is at. Any price they list, you can safely assume that adding at least 30% of the quoted price to the quoted price is about right because Mazuma could be selling on much of what they buy from customers to repair centres, in bulk, so that they can repair and refurbish them to sell them.
Accessories : The Xperia Z is delicate. Especially the touch screen. Both the front and rear are made of glass and although they are both hardened glass and the touch panel has a protective adhesive screen protector on it the glass is still fragile and could easily crack if dropped. A rubber protective case or cover might be an idea (should you be a bit hap-hazard with your phones.) Another really cool, relatively cheap accessory you can buy is a dock. A docking station for this phone completely changes the way you use it, especially if you are using it for work and you are by a computer most of the day. It makes the fiddly plugging in of the charger a thing of the past. You just carefully place it in the dock, it will charge and you can still use it whilst it is charging up.
Features : The Z accepts a micro SIM (smaller than SIM but larger than nano sim) so you will need to obtain a micro SIM card from your carrier if you do not already have one. The micro SIM goes into a small plastic tray which you remove first before it is inserted back into the micro SIM card slot on the phone. I believe that the tray is part of the waterproofing. The Z has a 12MP camera but the Z will only do 12MP resolution in 4:3 aspect ratio. To take pictures in 16:9 aspect ratio (wide screen,) the camera produces images at 8MP. The Z has facial recognition for the lock screen. It has a front facing camera for video calls (you can install skype and make free video calls to other skype users.) You can optionally unlock the screen just using the front camera. The Z has power saving features which you can turn on which greatly increase the battery life of the phone. Like, automatically turning off the WIFI, should a saved access point no longer be in range. The built in WALKMAN app is a great way to listen to and browse your music collection either from an SD card, the phone's 16GB of built in memory or over WIFI, by connecting to a dnla certified device (like a TV, set top box or NAS.) There are also some sound enhancement software features available in the settings which improve media and in call clarity (XLOUD, ClearAudio+, Microphone noise suppression and Speaker voice enhancement.) Lastly, the Z will automatically offer you an update to Android version 4.4.2 (Kit Kat) over WIFI if it is not already installed.
Bidding or Buying Now : The majority of the phones listed for auction are used or "refurbished" mobile phones where the seller is trying to sell their slightly faulty or damaged phone for more than they would get from a site like Mazuma. There are some genuine sellers and the phones sold by honest private individuals with a good reputation on ebay usually get their reserve or close to it. The biggest problems are sellers not being entirely honest about the description of the phone (or not describing the phone entirely - just listing their reason for selling) and shill bidding. There is a huge amount of shill bidding going on in the Xperia Z market place and it is apparently from sellers who are also selling phones of the same model but are using a different account to do their dirty work. They are shill bidding for two reasons, it falsely inflates the price that the item is trending at and they can also attack their selling competition by winning the item at an inflated price and then not paying for it. This means that the seller has to re-list the item and has had their time wasted. I know this is going on because of the large amount of "A watched item you didn't win has been re-listed" emails I get even when I have watched the item sell (at a ridiculous price.) It is something to be aware of if you intend to bid for an Xperia Z. Buying now, you should either look at the brand new sealed unlocked or if you want to save, look for a second hand seller who has looked after their Z. Avoid "Refurbished" condition items unless the saving is significant, you are ready to test every inch of it once it arrives and you are prepared to gamble on whether you are going to have to return it because of a fault. Refurbished quality is very hit and miss. The majority of the people who do the refurbishment just aren't paid enough to really care whether the phone 100% works or not. Depending on the source.
So If you are thinking about buying a Z on ebay, watch a few listings for both buy it now and auction, take into consideration the things I have mentioned in this article, stick to a price you have decided to go with and good luck!
A good condition Xperia Z will change your life.
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Buying to repair
If you are looking to buy a faulty or damaged Xperia Z to repair, I offer you this warning : It is an extremely complex phone by todays standards. If you compare it to a Samsung phone or an Apple iphone, they are at least twice as difficult to disassemble and reassemble without damaging important parts. Even for experienced people like myself the Xperia Z is a challenge.
Noteworthy things to know :
The LCD is bonded to the touch panel (Digitizer) using UV light reacting glue. It is extremely difficult to remove and separate the LCD from the digitiser without a hot plate and special wire. That is if you can remove the two still intact from the phone without separating the poorly glued polarising filter from the rest of the LCD (this displaces the liquid crystal - destroying the LCD.) So to replace a cracked digitizer (touch screen) on a Z is a difficult repair, which I would not recommend to anyone at all accept the most skilled repair technician. It is not a cheap repair. The LCD and the digitizer should be replaced at the same time on the Z and if you do not have a hot plate, wire and a heat gun you should buy the LCD and digitizer fused together complete as one unit. The LCD is the most expensive part of the phone.
The battery is glued to the back of a very thin frame behind the very fragile LCD. Without using the proper tools and technique, the LCD and or some flexes can be easily damaged if the battery is to be removed.
The flexes which run to the buttons and connect to most parts of the main board are extremely thin and fragile. If too much force is used to remove or re-install them, they can split or break very easily.
The back of the phone has two glue strips holding the rear cover on. One on either contact point. At the very least, the glue strip attached to the inside of the phone (which sticks to the glue on the rear cover when closed) should be replaced every time the phone is opened, even if just for inspection. Otherwise the rear cover may just fall off, should the main board get warm (And it will get warm.)
Don't buy replacement parts from Hong Kong or China. If they are faulty or wrong, you will need to return them to Hong Kong or China and return postage will be expensive. Seek EU or UK contacts on ebay for parts.
The rear camera has a very common issue. It seems that the Exmor RS sensor on the camera was a very new technology when included inside the Z and it has a black dot problem. Some cameras will produce black spots on images which appear as if dirt is on the lens. The black dots are according to what I have read, the result of a faulty sensor and the only repair is to replace the camera entirely. I have seen evidence to suggest that this is done in the repair centres to phones which are returned under warranty for this fault.
There are only four screws in the phone but there is a huge amount of glue holding the Z together.
The service menu is accessed by selecting the telephone dial pad and inputting #*#*7378423*#*# you can test all of the phone's features in the menu which appears.
And finally, if you are looking to buy to repair to sell, you are seriously in the wrong place. Until ebay sorts out the shill bidding which is going on in it's mobile phone market place (which it is not in it's interests to do so and probably never will,) the value of a faulty or damaged Z will remain hyper inflated above a cost at which it is economical to repair and then sell. The majority of faulty Xperia Zs for sale on ebay have damaged touch screens and it is the most expensive and time consuming repair to do on the phone. Expect to make between 20 and 5 pounds per phone for your two hours plus repair, not to mention your investment in buying the phone along with the parts, ebay fees, VAT and your time doing all that, etc. All of that assumes that the fault with the Z you bought was the only fault, there were no missing parts and that you even got near to your reserve or buy now price without hitting a non paying bidder.
Buy to repair but to keep and use. It is an awesome phone. It's damaged value appears to be hyper inflated on ebay right now. But you can buy, repair, save a small amount and have a fantastic looking high end mobile phone which was made by SONY but repaired and inspected by you; if you are skilled enough.
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