Every single time Sony manages to confuse us with the name of its next new phone. History suggests this should be the Sony Xperia XZ1 Premium (except it doesn’t have a 4K screen), or the Sony Xperia XZ Pro as rumoured, but nope it’s the Sony Xperia XZ2, launched alongside a Compact version at MWC 2018 this morning.
Sony is putting effort into its smartphones again. The company’s new XZ2 and XZ2 Compact shrink down the chunky bezels of their predecessors (to an extent) and feature the same taller, slimmer displays that helped Samsung, LG, and other companies roundly outclass Sony’s smartphone design last year. Both new Sony phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, the latest and greatest silicon that will be inside most of 2018’s Android flagships.
This time around, Sony isn’t overdoing it with a gimmicky 4K screen. The XZ2’s 5.7-inch, FHD+ (2160 x 1080) display has a 2:1 aspect ratio. The top and bottom bezels have been significantly downsized. There’s still enough room for Sony to put its name at the bottom of the phone, so the company isn’t quite at par with Samsung, LG, or OnePlus. But this is certainly an improvement. The screen supports HDR and Sony says it automatically up-converts SDR content to look more colorful and vibrant. And the XZ2 has stereo speakers, as well.
Sony refers to the XZ2’s overall design as “ambient flow.” That makes a bit more sense when you flip it over and examine the back, which is quite a departure from recent Sony handsets. The back nicely slopes into the aluminum rail at each side, and Sony has moved the camera position so that it’s now center-aligned. And beneath it is a new standalone fingerprint reader. For a long time, Sony made the side power button of its Xperia phones double as a fingerprint scanner, but the company always disabled that functionality in the United States. Now, everyone gets a fingerprint reader — and it’s in the right spot. The XZ2’s rear aesthetic strikes me as very HTC, but I’m in favor of this change over the rectangular, blocky feel of previous Xperias. This one is much more comfortable to grip.
The XZ2’s hardware still includes a dedicated camera shutter button, and like last year’s XZ Premium, it has a 19-megapixel sensor inside. When shooting 4K video, the camera is now capable of capturing HDR color, and the ultra slo-mo mode can record 960fps footage at a higher 1080p resolution. That’s pretty cool and bests what Samsung is doing with the Galaxy S9, but you’ll need to have a subject in good lighting if you want usable footage. And for fans of Sony’s fun 3D Creator face-scanning app, that now works with the front-facing selfie camera. (Previously you had to use the primary camera.)
What’s up with Audio jack?
Less exciting is the fact Sony has ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack, now relying on USB-C for earphones. Audio is otherwise good, with 20 percent louder front-facing S-Force Front Surround speakers that have a slightly improved frequency range. There’s also support for high-resolution audio with DSEE HX upscaling. Enhanced Bluetooth LDAC offers near High-Resolution Audio when listening over earphones or wirelessly.
Inside the XZ2 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (with microSD slot), and all the cellular networking hardware necessary for gigabit data speeds. The 845 made the XZ2 feel very snappy in my brief time using it. (Sony’s lightweight, stock-ish Android 8.0 Oreo software also helps matters there.)
The Xperia XZ2 is also the first smartphone from any manufacturer capable of recording 4K HDR video footage in HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) format using its Motion Eye camera, and the 960fps super slow motion pioneered by Sony is now available up to 1080p (up from 720p).The Sony phones also support 3D scanning of objects and faces, even of yourself using the front camera.
The XZ2 will be available in black, silver, green (which looks rather blue, as you can see above), or pink. Pricing and release date will come later.