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Sony's Xperia Z3 makes triumphant return to T-Mobile

The smartphone, which is Sony's answer to popular Android-based devices, mysteriously disappeared from T-Mobile a month ago, and neither the carrier nor Sony would say why.

Sony's Xperia Z3 is now back on store shelves at T-Mobile. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone has made its return to T-Mobile about a month after it unceremoniously dropped off store shelves.

Customers looking to buy Sony's flagship smartphone can find it once again through T-Mobile for no money down and 24 monthly installments of $20.83 -- or for $500 to buy it outright.

The Xperia Z3's return comes nearly a month after it suddenly disappeared from T-Mobile's store shelves. The carrier wouldn't comment at the time on exactly why the Z3 wasn't available and, in a statement to CNET, said only that it works "closely with phone manufacturers, including Sony, to continually adjust our device portfolio based on supply and customer demand." Sony was silent on why its device was not available.

In a statement to The Verge on Friday, T-Mobile revealed more details on the month-long sales hiatus, saying that it "waited to receive additional inventory from Sony to support taking orders." The company said that it plans to have the Xperia Z3 back in stores this week.

The Xperia Z3, which launched late last year, was supposed to be Sony's answer to popular Android-based devices, including those from Samsung and HTC. The Z3 comes with a 5.2-inch full-HD display, runs on Google's Android platform and boasts a 20.7-megapixel rear-facing camera. Sony has also touted its strong battery life, which can hold up for 16 hours of ongoing talk time.

The Xperia Z3 was roundly celebrated as one of the best Android smartphones on the market. Last year, CNET Reviews awarded the device four-and-a-half stars out of five, saying that the handset is "Sony's most formidable to date with a formidable display and promising features that easily give Android competition from HTC, LG and Samsung a run for their money."

T-Mobile announced in October that it would start selling the Z3. Customers could get their hands on the device for $26.25 a month for 24 months under T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. At the time, T-Mobile celebrated the launch, saying that the device running on its network would create a "powerful combo." T-Mobile also announced that customers who purchased the Z3 could download up to six movies for free to celebrate the launch.

The price difference between the launch and now reflects the impact of time. As smartphones stay on store shelves for longer periods of time, consumer interest can often wander elsewhere. Prices then come down to boost demand. It appears a similar scenario may have played out with the Z3.

Despite its troubles at T-Mobile, Sony hasn't had the same difficulty at Verizon. The carrier has been selling the Xperia Z3v -- essentially the same device, but designed for Verizon -- since last year. The device has remained on store shelves and is priced at 99 cents with a standard, two-year contract, $20.83 per month for 24 months, or $500 to buy it outright.

No other major US carriers are selling the phone, though it can also be purchased through Sony's online store.

Neither Sony nor T-Mobile immediately responded to a request for comment.