MWC 2018: Sony is Getting Serious About Smartphones Again, and It's Great

By Sam Rutherford on at

Not too long ago, Sony was a force (at least design-wise) in the smartphone world thanks to devices like the OG Xperia Z and the innovative Xperia Play. It was making cool looking phones while also pushing features like built-in water resistance that people now take for granted. But lately Sony’s phones have felt half-hearted.

But now, with the new Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, it finally feels like Sony is taking smartphones seriously again. Even Sony’s US head of mobile communications Don Mesa told Gizmodo “[The XZ2] feels like a reset.” Yes, the name isn’t very inspiring, but the XZ2 delivers almost everything you’d want from a new flagship phone.

The XZ2 Compact is cute, but powerful. Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Top-notch performance? Definitely, the XZ2 will come equipped with Qualcomm’s latest chip, the Snapdragon 845, along with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and microSD expandability. What about Sony’s signature high-res camera? Yep, that’s here too, with the XZ2 sporting a 19-MP rear camera that is the first one on a smartphone to record 4K HDR video. Sony even collaborated with Qualcomm to make sure that the phone’s EXMOR image processing, which it borrows from Sony’s mirrorless camera line, should work well with the Snapdragon 845's built-in image signal processor.

Also, like on the previous XZ Premium, the XZ2 still has that crazy 960 fps ultra-slow mode recording feature and Sony’s sophisticated predictive capture focusing tech. that can track things as they move around. And as the camera would suggest, the XZ2's 5.7-inch 18:9 display is claimed to be HDR capable, and will supposedly even up convert standard video into HDR-like clips with more vibrant colours and better contrast, regardless of what app you’re using.

Then there’s the XZ2's body. While it might appear to have the same boxy chassis seen on Xperias of the past, Sony has created what its calling Ambient Flow Design to bring ergonomics back to phones. By taking cues from liquids and arches, while also cribbing a few ideas from the Ps4's DualShock 4 controller, Sony made a phone that looks rectangular, but actually feels much more rounded. In back, the XZ2 has curved glass the wraps around the rear of the phone and caresses your hand like a sweeping quarter panel on a nice car or the old iPhone 3G, only without the super curved corners and edges.

I’m really glad Sony kept the Xperia’s dedicated camera button too.

But it’s the XZ2's design isn’t all about aesthetics, because by moving the fingerprint sensor to the dead centre of the phone’s back, it’s easier to reach too. (Which reminds me, this is also the first time in years a flagship Sony phone will actually have a working fingerprint sensor in the US.) And up front, the XZ2 features true stereo speakers coming from the earpiece on top and a hidden grille below the screen. There’s none of that bottom-firing nonsense you get on other phones with stereo sound.

Oh, and like always, the Xperia XZ2 has an IP68 rating for water and dust-resistance.

The Joy of Painting? More like the buzz of painting.

There’s also the new haptic engine Sony put in the XZ2. Unlike other phones with have tiny motors that buzz or shimmy a little bit when you get a text or notification, this thing works all the damn time. When you’re watching a movie, playing a game, or even listening to music. I tried it out while watching Bob Ross make some happy little trees and it was like all of a sudden, I could feel the painting too. It’s like Sony took the rumble from a PlayStation controller and put it in a phone, and I think I like it.

Sony showed me how big the XZ2's haptic module is compared to what you might get in an average phone.

But what might be even more impressive than the standard XZ2 is the XZ2 compact. As phones have gotten bigger and bigger, almost every manufacturer has given up on trying to make a small but still high-end device. But aside from a Compact’s obviously smaller screen and battery, it has everything the big version has except for wireless charging, that new haptic engine, and a glass rear panel (you get plastic instead). That said, the XZ2 Compact will have one thing its bigger sibling won’t, certification for use on Verizon’s wireless network.

The one thing I’m still concerned about is that Sony isn’t working directly with any carriers to get the XZ2 into brick and mortar stores, which will hurt mainstream appeal. You’ll have to order this online like you would a OnePlus or Essential phone.

We’re still waiting on official pricing and release info, but the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact should be available in four colours (black, silver, green, and pink) sometime later this spring.

Gizmodo UK is in Barcelona at MWC! Keep up with all the latest announcements from the show floor right here.