When it comes to the best Android phones, you'll always find one of the best Samsung Galaxy phones at or near the very top of the list. Quite right too: the Galaxy phones have a great track record of mixing style and substance to make some of the best phones for most people.
But what if you're not most people?
I think the phone market is very like the market for the best TVs: some firms make lots of brilliant all-rounders, but some focus on things that their rivals don't – and if those things are important to you, then the best TV for you isn't necessarily the one that everybody else will go for. And in phones, I think the firm that focuses on different things is often Sony.
I've been a fan of Sony's phones since before the iPhone was a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye, and today's Xperia phones are genuinely great devices. In some respects they beat the equivalent Samsungs hands-down, but there are also two areas in particular where Samsung does it better. So here's my honest take on the three things Xperia phones do better than Samsung, and the two things they really don't.
Three reasons to pick a Sony Xperia over a Samsung Galaxy
1. Photography for the pros
If you're serious about photography, a flagship Xperia is a better cameraphone. The Samsungs are brilliant, but they also lean heavily on AI processing – and that's fine if you just want a really great point and shoot. But if you're more of a pro photographer you don't want your phone making decisions for you; that's your job, and you want a phone that gives you access to the controls you want so that you can decide how you want to shoot the person, object or scene. If you'd like to see more, we've put together a Sony Xperia 1 IV vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera comparison to give you all the knowledge you need.
2. Serious sound quality
We're talking about the inventor of the Walkman here. Of course Xperias take sound more seriously. The Sony Xperia 1 IV has a headphone jack – a headphone jack! – for full quality when you're listening to high-res audio that no Bluetooth codec can handle, and it also has its own LDAC for high quality audio streaming. The speakers are pretty great too but this is a phone best suited to the best headphones, whether wireless or wired.
3. Movie magic
Sony's displays are brilliant, quite literally: the latest Xperia 1 IV is 50% brighter than its predecessor, delivering great contrast and detail across its very wide 21:9 display. There's a great Creator Mode that keeps things cinematic rather than overly processed, and the motion processing is spectacular. If you like to watch video on your phone, this is one of the very best phones to have.
Two reasons to choose a Samsung Galaxy instead of a Sony Xperia
Sadly sometimes every silver lining has a cloud, and the undeniable brilliance of the Xperias also comes with a couple of significant setbacks. For me, these are the two biggies.
1. Sonys are hot, and not in a sexy way
In our Sony Xperia 1 IV review, we found that while gaming didn't push the phone into burny-hand territory it had a tendency to overheat with photo and video shooting: in our tests outdoors on a 33ºC day, the camera kept shutting down every five minutes or so in order to cool the phone down. This is partly due to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, which isn't the best at heat management, but we haven't experienced similar problems with other phones that have the same Snapdragon. And we didn't have a rogue handset: I've looked at many other reviews of the same phone and the heat management and throttling have been mentioned by multiple reviewers. That's a big problem for a phone at this price. Speaking of which...
2. Sonys are more expensive
The Xperia 1 IV is £1,299 in the UK; the best Samsung Galaxy phone, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, is £1,149. In the US, the Sony is even more expensive because there are fewer configurations, so it starts at $1,599; the S22 Ultra starts at $1,199. That means if you want the Sony's superior camera controls, audio and display, you're going to have to pay quite a lot more for it.