Sony Xperia smartphones just don’t excite me anymore

sony xperia xz colours

There was a time not that long ago when a new high-end Sony Xperia smartphone was something to behold. Even if it wasn’t an excellent all-round device, a new Sony or Sony Ericsson phone elicited a buzz nonetheless thanks to interesting designs and features.

There was the bold Sony Ericsson Xperia Play and its slideout gamepad, the Xperia S and that transparent strip (among other cool features) and the Xperia Z2 and its waterproof design. At the time, they all made me think that Sony could turn into the next Samsung, or make the average consumer pay attention at the very least.

Sony Xperia XZ, X Compact arriving in South Africa in October

If you were confused about which Sony Xperia smartphone to purchase last week, this week presents an entirely new set of problems. The company today at IFA 2016, announced two new devices to its Xperia lineup — the Sony Xperia XZ and the Sony Xperia X Compact. Read more…

Last week at IFA 2016, Sony launched the Xperia ZX, and truth be told, I simply couldn’t bring myself to care anymore. In fact, I asked dear Andy Walker if he’d like to write the article instead — I just couldn’t even.

I’ve had this strong sense of apathy towards the company’s phones since the launch of the confusingly named Sony Xperia X (review), especially when I saw the R11 999 price tag for the handset. You should not be forking out that much money for a phone that’s not a flagship in the first place. The only thing about the handset that screams “high-end” is the camera, and even in this department, it could do with a kick in the pants.

Throw in the same old overheating issues since the Z range, a design that’s barely changed since the Z1 and Z2 (although the water-resistance is great) and an “upper mid-range” processor that can be found in Xiaomi‘s R3799 Redmi Note 3, and you have all the ingredients for a lacklustre showing.

The Xperia XZ is just XZcessive

I can pinpoint my growing frustration with Sony’s mobile efforts to the Xperia Z1-Z3 period, when the company decided to launch phones every six months. It was the equivalent of Apple launching an iPhone 6, then an iPhone 6S and then an iPhone 6SS in the space of 12 months.

At the time, local representatives defended the move, telling me that six month cycles were necessary  to bring the latest tech to consumers. But I got a strong impression that they were just being company people.

The latest release, the Sony Xperia XZ, comes five months(!) after the company revealed the X range. And it’s the same device as Sony’s pseudo-flagship Z-series replacement whatever the hell you call the X Performance.

Why launch the Xperia XZ when the six-month old X Performance isn’t much different?

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820? Yep. 3GB of RAM? Got it. 23MP main camera? Indeed. Similar 1080p display? Check. There’s barely any change aside from a 300mAh bigger battery and new autofocus system.

So what is the raison d’etre for the XZ when the X Performance can be had at a (most likely) cheaper price right now?

A glimmer of hope

Despite these perplexing releases of late, it hasn’t all been bad for Sony.

The Z5 range and the Z5 Premium in particular, showed a Sony that’s still unafraid of trying to innovate and generate excitement. “Who gives a shit about full HD displays when we’ve got a 4K display in our phone?”, the company seemed to ask when revealing the Premium.

The Compact range is another category that earns it some kudos from tech enthusiasts, being one of the few manufacturers still targeting the premium sub-phablet market. But again, the new phone is in a very weird space.

Why not reveal it alongside the X range or slap the X Performance specs in there to make it a true Z5 Compact successor? This is especially notable when last year’s Z5 Compact had the same R10 000 price window as the newly announced X Compact (despite the X Compact using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 instead of a Snapdragon 820 or 652 even).

There’s hope for Sony yet though. The success of phones like the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua shows that it can still light the sales charts — even in the mid-range — but it needs to do more than just release awkwardly-renamed devices every six months.

I feel like it’s inevitable that Sony will reveal new premium-priced handsets at the end of the year though…



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