Making a smartphone that stands out in a crowded market is a tricky business, even for established players like Sony.
The company’s Xperia brand entered its 10th year in 2018, most recently adding the XZ3 handset to the line-up. Sony has resisted the popular notch trend in its newest flagship, opting for evolution rather than revolution – but has it done well to take the modest approach?
Design and display
You could easily mistake the last Xperia, the XZ2, with the XZ3 as the design is near identical, except the edges are more curved, like the latest Samsung Galaxy S handsets.
This certainly gives it an elegant look and is comfortable enough to hold and use with one hand – something hard to come by with many of the big smartphones that have become customary today.
However, the elegance is let down by the smear-prone glass body material, which stands out all the more on the black handset.
At 9.9mm, the XZ3 is slightly slimmer than the XZ2’s 11.1mm, as well as weighing 5g less, now at 193g, but this doesn’t go far enough to remove the handset’s bulkiness.
The back remains largely identical to its predecessor too, including the awkward positioning of the fingerprint sensor right at centre.
Sony’s saving grace and standout feature by a mile is its stunning OLED display, utilising its strengths as a TV-maker with the Bravia range. The 6in 2160×1080 display offers compelling colour and one of the deepest blacks you will find on a smartphone, making it ideal for watching movies or videos on the go.
Much of the XZ3’s hardware is the same as before, with an identical Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip-set and 4GB of RAM to handle the speed of the phone.
Despite the reasonable spec sheet, the handset doesn’t run as smoothly as you might hope, especially if you have multiple apps running in the background.
Side Sense, a feature that allows you to tap one the side to bring up your most used apps and shortcuts, is a nice addition but marred by accidental touches – just as well you can turn it off.
Sony also misses an opportunity to upgrade its rear camera, sticking with a 19-megapixel snapper. Though the photos still look decent but they don’t beat other Android devices, such as Google’s Pixel handsets and the OnePlus 6T.
Strangely, Sony did decide to focus on the front-facing camera, bumping it up to 13-megapixels, so you can definitely notice the difference in your selfies at least.
Sony does well to maintain a starting price of £699 – bucking the tendency to increase each time like other handset makers – but sadly the XZ3 carries on matching its predecessor instead of aiming to better it.
If you’re looking for something with a beautiful display to watch movies, you’re looking in the right place, as the display is easily the only new and worthwhile part of the XZ3.
The form of the phone is great to hold in one hand, but again, let down by the bulky weight.
It may be time for Sony to go down the path of revolution, rather than sticking to the safety of evolution.