Sony Xperia may lag behind iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones when it comes to sales and media coverage but for those in the know – connoisseurs of the smartphone oeuvre – they are remarkably desirable.
I'm an iPhone user but I’ve already written a few times about Sony’s Xperia phones, which I reckon are among the best Android phones out there. Sure they have a bit of a price premium, especially on the most advanced models, but quality always comes with a price tag attached. I’ve been spending some time with the latest flagship, the Sony Xperia 1 IV. If I weren’t already a paid-up citizen of Apple’s ecosystem and could afford Sony’s fairly steep asking price, this is the phone I’d be lusting after. Here’s why…
1. It came from another planet
The Xperia 1 IV looks like the mysterious obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey and is as black as Disaster Area’s stunt spaceship in the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. And that’s an immediate win as far as I’m concerned: this is a phone that doesn’t care about looking fun or frivolous. It’s here to do a job, and that job might be teaching monkeys how to fight or crashing into the sun.
2. That extended aspect ratio is genuinely useful
Depending on how you hold it, the Xperia’s screen is either much wider or much taller than my iPhone 13 Pro. That makes it really good for three things in particular: framing photos, watching movies and reading things. In the latter case the Xperia feels like it’s twice the height of my iPhone, and while I know it isn’t it the longer length makes a huge difference tor reading online: the amount of space taken up by unnecessary screen furniture is massively reduced compared to shorter displays.
3. The camera is incredible
Even before you get into the manual controls the Sony takes much more realistic and nuanced shots. It has a much better optical zoom and wider field of view too. It’s effectively a Sony Alpha camera crammed into a smartphone shell. It does get a little hot after a while, but I don't shoot for long enough for that to be an issue for me.
My iPhone 13 Pro takes very good pictures, but like many of the best smartphones it relies very heavily on processing – and that’s not always ideal, so for example every time I take a photo of my youngest on a sunny day my iPhone decides that their eyes are the most spectacularly blue eyes that any human has ever had. And as lovely as those eyes are, they’re not the blazing blue my iPhone says they are.
But it’s the controls that really matter here. Apple is about shoot-and-forget, while Sony is targeting the kind of photographer who wants to get everything just-so before shooting.
4. It's made for media
When I’m not scribbling about tech I’m strumming guitars, and that means the Sony’s music apps such as the music recording and editing app Music Pro were pretty much made for me. The Sony sounds phenomenal with pretty much any source, it has Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, it’s built-in stereo speakers aren’t half bad and it has a headphone jack. A headphone jack! It also has Sony’s LDAC codec for very high quality wireless audio: to get lossless wireless audio on an iPhone you need a cabled pair of headphones.
My only niggle is that the Sony isn’t quite as loud as my iPhone is: I’ve tried a few pairs of my favourite earbuds including a set of Melomania Touch and a pair of Astell&Kern UW100s and the volume is noticeably lower than when they’re connected to my Apple device.
5. It delivers movie magic
That super wide 4K 120Hz OLED display is superb for movies, even at their gloomiest: the contrast here is better than Sony’s previous Xperia and if you’re serious about cinema there’s a Creator Mode that works much like the Filmmaker mode in the best TVs, removing processing to show scenes as the director and cinematographer intended.