It’s well-worn ground — a new premium Android smartphone is basically the same as all the others, so the company behind it throws in some unexpected, off-the-wall feature to shake things up. This week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sony took that literally, introducing a new premium smartphone that rumbles along with audio, whether that’s an explosion in a movie, a shot fired in a game, or some deep bass in a song. It’s the most unique feature of the Xperia XZ2, Sony’s latest premium smartphone — a phone that looks pretty solid if the price is right.
Sony is going with the flow in one major way, though — they’ve used Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back of the phone, keeping an aluminum frame around the sides. The phone has a curved back that is 11 mm at its thickest and 6 mm at the edges. The fingerprint scanner is on the back and sits a little lower than those of other Android phones, which could be more comfortable considering the phone’s size. Sony doesn’t recommend submerging the phone, but they say it is dust- and water-resistant.
Using glass on the back seems to be the way of the industry now, even if it does cause some frustration — glass-backed phones are slippery and can slide right off tables if you’re not careful, and even with the strength of Gorilla Glass 5, one bad drop can shatter the glass on the front, back, or both (just trust us on this one, we know). On the other hand, glass on the back allows things like better connectivity and wireless charging (which the Xperia XZ2 has), so you take the good with the bad.
Like Samsung and others, Sony has thinned out the bezels and elongated the screen, using a 1080p display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and Sony’s TRILUMINOS backlighting tech. It’s not a 1440p screen like we see on most other premium Android phones now — not a killer for watching videos, but if you’re into VR, it’s probably not the phone you’ll want. Inside, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a microSD card slot supporting up to 400 GB cards. The battery isn’t that big for the specs at 3,180 mAh, so it’s probably a good thing Sony stuck with a 1080p display. That battery can be charged wirelessly using Qi wireless charging accessories.
Intuitively, camera quality should be a strength of Sony phones — building cameras is an area of expertise for the company. So, it might come as a bit of a surprise that Sony hasn’t moved to a dual camera array on the back. The explanation seems to be that Sony would rather do it right or not at all — they demonstrated a prototype dual camera array at MWC, but felt it wasn’t ready to be used in their marquee phones yet. Instead, they’ve used a 19 MP camera with a mobile 1/2.3″ Exmor RS memory-stacked sensor. They’ve also used a 25 mm f/2.0 lens and their BIONZ image processor. Just going by the numbers, f/2.0 isn’t a great aperture for low-light smartphone pictures, but we don’t know whether or not Sony’s expertise in image processing will be able to make up for that.
On the front, there’s a single 5 MP camera — nothing complicated like what the iPhone X has. That’s your usual selfie camera, and while Sony doesn’t have anything like the advanced tracking of Apple’s Animoji, Sony does make it possible to create 3D images that you can save and share by scanning real-world objects (or faces!) with the front or back camera.
What we do know is that the Xperia XZ2 is capable of some pretty advanced camera tricks. The phone can take super slow-motion video at 960 fps in 1080p resolution — the Samsung Galaxy S9, also announced this week, can only do it in 720p. Sony’s phone can also record in 4K HDR — 4K recording isn’t new to smartphones, but the HDR part has been enabled by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845 chipset. They’ve also added their SteadyShot stabilization technology, including 5-axis stabilization, so this might end up being the best smartphone to use to take video.
But let’s talk about that audio for a second. First of all, it should sound great — Sony takes audio pretty seriously, too, so we’re not surprised to see dual forward-firing stereo speakers that work with Hi-Res Audio. It’ll be able to do those larger, clearer music files justice if you’ve got them! Then, there’s the rumble. We haven’t gotten hands-on with this phone yet, so we don’t know exactly how this feels in hand, but Sony says they’ve rigged the phone up to give a shake along with low tones like explosions and and deep percussion. It seems weird and kind of unnecessary, but hey, maybe it’s actually pretty cool! We just don’t know yet.
What’s for sure disappointing is the lack of a headphone jack. We’re pretty surprised about that — that’s a feature that audiophiles in particular demand, and that seems like the sort of crowd Sony would want to target with this phone. A USB Type-C-to-3.5 mm adapter is included in the box, but nobody likes adapters. They are tolerated at best.
And we’ve got fun colors! Silver and black are the boring, no-fun options, but Sony also has a lovely deep green and a soft ash pink available. Sony plans to release a 5″ compact version of the Xperia XZ2 that has most of the larger phone’s features, but does have a smaller battery and cuts out the audio rumble feature and wireless charging. Sony says both phones will ship in March and will run Android 8.0 Oreo (the latest version), but they haven’t confirmed pricing or if there will be carrier partners for the United States.