Although I'm an iPhone 13 user, I have a real soft spot for Sony phones and Sony products generally: I loved my Walkman phone back in the pre-iPhone days and I've had many Sony cameras ranging from point and shoots to Alpha DSLRs. So when Sony offered to lend me their new Xperia 1 IV flagship I jumped at the chance. That 2001: A Space Odyssey design, high-spec camera and unusually wide aspect ratio are very different to my Apple phone, and I was intrigued to discover how the two devices compared.
After spending a lot of time with the Sony I really like it, with some caveats: there are some things I absolutely love, and a few things I'm not so keen on. Here's what I've learnt from using one of the best Android phone flagship.
1. This is a better camera system than my iPhone Pro
It may look like a phone and work like a phone, but when you're snapping this Sony feels more like a camera than any smartphone I've used. The all-lenses autofocus with animal and people tracking is fantastic, the continuous zoom is way beyond anything Apple offers and the two-stage shutter button makes me feel right at home. It may have the same 12MP resolution as my iPhone 13 Pro but it's much more configurable and I'm really going to miss that zoom when the Sony goes back.
This isn't a cameraphone for the press-and-hope crowd, which includes people like me. But if you're coming from a photographic background, especially one involving Sony Alpha cameras, the level of control and personalisation Sony's camera apps offer is superb.
2. Long phones are brilliant
The Sony's 21:9 aspect ratio is unusually wide, and while most commentary has focused on its usefulness for shooting and watching video it's also extremely useful for reading, which is one of the things I use my phone for most. Whether it's a longread or a long social media thread, moving back to my iPhone felt like moving to a much smaller window – especially on sites that tend to stuff lots of advertising and other unnecessary content around their articles.
3. Phones don't normally warn you about overheating
The very first thing I saw when I opened the Sony camera app for the first time was a warning sign telling me that the camera might overheat, a warning I've never encountered on a phone before. It does run a little hot in sustained use, but I've spent a lot of time digging through various user forums and the biggest problems with overheating tend to occur with really sustained shooting in places much warmer than where I live. Keeping the phone out of a case, dropping the refresh rate to 60Hz and shooting in Airplane Mode seem to keep the worst of the heat issues at bay, but that seems a bit of a clunky workaround for such a premium device.
4. You shouldn't buy the Xperia 1 IV on day one
Here in the UK, the Xperia 1 IV had a launch price of £1,299 – that's £250 more than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Three months later and it's down to £1,049 and in my opinion I can see that price fall further rapidly. Wait till six months after launch and this could be the ultimate Android phone steal. You'll get all the superb tech and functionality but the price will be much more affordable. Good things come to Android phone users who wait!
5. It's not the phone for me
Don't get me wrong. I think the Xperia 1 IV is a brilliant device and its camera is fantastic. But even if I weren't already locked into the Apple ecosystem, I think the 1 IV is both too clever and too expensive for me.
As much as I like to pretend I'd use the advanced features of the Xperia 1 IV's camera, I know I won't: my photography problems aren't to do with the aperture or ISO or white balance but getting my dog to stay in shot or my kids to stop pulling miserable faces. So for me the Xperia 1 IV is a phone to admire rather than one to actually buy. It's a great phone. It's just not the perfect phone for me.