If you ever look at the history of Sony in the mobile world, then you are most likely to see impressions of Ericsson-branded Walkman series phones than the Xperia ones. Sony began its foray into smartphones with good devices like the Xperia Z2 and Z3 but it then somehow lost the track.
In a better way to put it, Sony did not really lose track but competition got so tough that the Japanese giant decided sit out of the play. However, when I look at the Xperia XZ3, revealed at IFA 2018 in Berlin, I see an opportunity for redemption. This could technically be one of the best Xperia smartphones in a long time and I say this as a former owner of Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z3. When Motorola and Nokia started to lose in the smartphone game, there were a lot of people secretly hoping that these companies will make a comeback.
The smartphone world is basically one where Apple rules the premium segment while Samsung is the commander in chief for design and innovation. All other Chinese smartphone makers basically fill the void by offering devices that fit into all possible segments. What is Sony’s contribution here? Well it makes the best image sensors but it’s phones, they have been underwhelming. Does that change with the Xperia XZ3, here is what I think after brief time spent with the device.
Watch: Sony Xperia XZ2 First Impressions
Design and Display
A look at the Xperia XZ3 will make you wonder if Sony is just calling the Xperia XZ2 as the XZ3. In fact, it borrows every design element from a variant called the Xperia XZ2 Premium. It features an aluminum casing and has rounded edges that make it highly ergonomic to hold in one hand. Like Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Premium, there is glass back design but it does not enable wireless charging.
The volume rocker and power button are placed on the right. There is a bottom mounted USB Type-C connector for charging and yes, there is headphone jack. At the back there is a camera module and the fingerprint sensor is placed dead at the center. As I showed in my hands-on video on Facebook, there is a lot more chance of touching the camera lens thinking it is fingerprint sensor compared to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8.
At the front, there is a 6-inch display and it is the first time, Sony is using OLED instead of an LCD display. This change of heart to switch from LCD to OLED brings such a drastic change that people looking at Xperia XZ3 seemed to enjoy every individual pixel. The OLED display is further supported by Sony’s X-Reality engine, the same engine that drives the OLED televisions from the company. The display has a Quad HD+ resolution of 2880 x 1440 pixels, which is again something that Sony thought of never supporting in the first place.
The OLED display on the Xperia XZ3 is bright, vibrant and has deep blacks that you start to crave for after using Samsung’s Galaxy flagships. It also supports HDR, which only enhances the overall picture quality. It took Sony long to put OLED display on its smartphone and when it did, I think it has delivered. I am not saying that this is the best OLED on any smartphone, but it has all the trademarks of being one.
It is 2018 and we don’t expect anything less than Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 inside the chassis of a flagship smartphone. With Xperia XZ3, Sony has used that very chipset and has paired it with 4GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage. There is also expandable storage in case you wish to experience those fast flash data storage.
On the back, Sony is using a single 19-megapixel Sony Exmor sensor, which is a 1/2.3-inch with f/2.0 aperture. In the past, the Xperia cameras have been good but not in the same league as Google Pixel 2 or the Samsung Galaxy S9. During my experience with the device at the IFA showfloor with aggressive lightning in the background, I think it managed exposure and auto focus really well but I would like to reserve judgement by testing it in real world scenarios. There is an 8-megapixel selfie camera at the front.
The Xperia XZ3 packs a 3,300mAh battery and runs Android 9 Pie with Xperia experience. One last thing but important in my opinion, the Xperia XZ3 has the best sounding speaker system on any smartphone. The sound feels like reverberating around the frame of the device and with artists like Adele and Bjork, you can literally see the device vibrate a wooden table while playing sound. Sony’s peers removed headphone jack but forgot to make better sound experience in the process. Sony is doing it the right way.
I never thought that I would say this but I’m really thinking of using a Sony Xperia smartphone after using the Xperia XZ3 at IFA. This is the smartphone that Sony should have given us – the consumers – nearly two years ago. But as they say, its better late than never.
With Xperia XZ3, Sony is sending a message to rivals like Samsung and Apple that it still has what it takes to deliver ultra premium smartphone (if you ignore that fingerprint sensor). If only they price it well, unlike the XZ2 and launch it soon in India, I am willing to trade my Huawei P20 Pro for this one.