Samsung’s not the only phone maker announcing a flagship phone at Mobile World Congress.
Sony used the mobile-focused technology show to unveil two new Android phones: the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact. And for the first time in a long time, we’re not collectively yawning. These phones actually look pretty good inside and out.
After years of stumbling over and over with phones that can only be described as unimaginative and gimped, Sony’s finally crawling its way back to relevance.
For the new Xperia XZ2, Sony’s ditched most of its past in order to drag itself into the future.
The phone follows a new “Ambient Flow” design language that combines curved glass and metal into one organic-like construction.
The new industrial design gives it a more premium look and feel that better competes with an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9. It’s a really slippery device, but I like how the curved back molds into my palm. I’m also really happy the fingerprint sensor now works in the U.S. version (it was disabled on previous Sony phones) and is located in the middle on the backside.
The phone also has a 5.7-inch display (18:9 aspect ratio) with Full HD+ resolution with vastly thinner bezels than ever on a Sony phone. I wouldn’t call the screen edge-to-edge, but if you’re used to shaking your head at the oversized top and bottom bezels on other Sony phones, the slimmer “forehead” and “chin” here are a very welcome change.
Inside, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD card up to 400GB), and a 3,180 mAh battery. The phone also has dual SIM card slots, supports Qi-based wireless charging, and is IP68 water-resistant.
The Xperia XZ2 also joins the likes of the iPhone X, Pixel 2, and Razer Phone in removing the headphone jack. For audio, you’ll have to go wireless, get USB-C headphones, or use a USB-C dongle to convert headphones with a 3.5mm jack. By now, losing the port isn’t really unbearable; we’ve had years to come to terms with this reality.
The phone runs Android Oreo, which is good because it’s the latest version of Android. But the pre-production models I got to try out were a little slow and I noticed it wasn’t buttery smooth like on a Samsung or OnePlus 5T. It’s possible Sony’s own UI skin is to blame, but it could’ve just been an issue with the pre-production models.
Sony’s also focused on improving the entertainment and camera experiences. With Stereo speakers, the XZ2 pumps out sound that’s 20 percent louder than on the XZ1. Louder is better, but even more immersive is the new “Dynamic Vibration System,” which matches sound with vibrations. Think of it like a video game controller’s built-in rumble.
So imagine watching Transformers and feeling the vibrations whenever an explosion happens or an Autobot punches a Decepticon.
Sony showed me Angry Birds with the Dynamic Vibration System and the phone vibrated in a number of different ways when I pulled the slingshot back and fired birds into things. It’s kinda gimmicky and the feature will drain your battery faster than without vibrations, but it’s definitely interesting to mess with.
The HDR-ready screen is also capable of “up-converting” regular SDR (standard dynamic range) video into HDR. Basically, it’s injecting more color information into videos that didn’t originally have it. Sony told me it’s using AI, specifically object recognition, to perform this feat. It’ll apparently work on YouTube videos to make them pop more, but I didn’t get to see this working.
On the camera front, the 19-megapixel rear camera can now shoot 4K HDR video, full HD resolution super slow motion video, and the 3D head scanning feature introduced on the XZ1 can now scan in higher resolution with more detail to better capture hair and facial hair details.
The front camera is a less impressive 5-megapixel shooter. It would’ve been nice to see the XZ2 come with the dual selfie camera like on the Xperia XA2 Ultra, though.
Xperia XZ2 Compact
A big screen’s fine, but there’s still a good amount of people who prefer a small phone.
For small phone lovers, Sony’s got the Xperia XZ2 Compact. It has the same Snapdragon 845 chip, 64GB of storage, memory card slot, and no headphone jack as the XZ2, but it’s also not as featured-packed.
Instead of a glass back, the rear’s made of plastic. The screen’s a smaller 5-inch display. The battery’s smaller and there’s no wireless charging. The Dynamic Vibration System is also not available on the XZ2 Compact.
If you can live with these missing features, then sure, the XZ2 Compact is a pretty decent phone.
Sony didn’t announce any official launch date or pricing, but told me they’ll arrive sometime in the first half of this year.
Fingers crossed they don’t cost an arm and a leg. They’re pretty phones and the features on the XZ2 keep pace with some of the best Android phones coming out this year, but if Sony wants to convince anyone to buy them, it’ll need to provide more attractive pricing.