It's hard to believe sometimes, but there was a time not so long ago when the world wasn't a bin fire and the best phones you could buy were made by Sony and Nokia.
Where Nokia went for toughness with phones so solid that if you dropped them on concrete you'd break the floor, Sony went for features. I have really fond memories of my Sony Ericsson W800 Walkman phone, but that was just one of many Sony bangers that delivered music and photography features that left rivals eating their dust.
So I'm delighted to discover that Sony phones are still kicking ass, but much more quietly. The next generation Sony Xperia 5 III, the Sony Xperia 5 IV, looks brilliant. I know Sony is a mega corporation that hardly needs a hand-up from me, but I do think Xperia phones are massively underrated. They're some of the best Android phones around, especially if you take a lot of photos.
Why Sony Xperias are among the best Android phones
From my dad's 80s audio separates to my 90s in-car entertainment and my current AV receiver, I don't think there's ever been a time when I haven't lived with Sony hardware. And like all its products, Sony's Xperia phones are beautifully made and happy to do things differently from rivals – you won't mistake an Xperia for something like the Samsung Galaxy S22.
I really like the Xperia 5 III: it's a good-looking thing, unmistakably Sony, with a great camera and a really nice screen too. From what I'm hearing about the IV model it's going to be even better thanks to a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 12GB of RAM and three new rear camera sensors. But the current range is really good too. Without a great deal of fuss, fanfare or press coverage, Sony puts out multiple models every year delivering an excellent set of features and killer cameras.
So why aren't they more popular? I suspect there are two key culprits. The first and most obvious one is that at the high end especially, Sony charges high prices. The Xperia 1 IV is £1,299 in the UK and $1,599 in the US, where there's only a 512GB model; that's £250/$500 more than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the most expensive iPhone. In the US especially, that's a problem for potential buyers: the two flagships are fairly evenly matched – although the Sony absolutely stomps the iPhone when you're using zoom for photography – but unusually Apple is the most affordable option here.
And the other problem is that Sony has a bit of a reputation for its software updates, something that I also encountered with my last Sony TV and that encouraged me to switch to a Samsung TV instead. Sony can be rather sluggish in issuing updates, and unless there's been a policy change I haven't seen Sony only updates Android on its phones for around 2 years. That's an issue if you're planning to hang on to your phone for a long time, and it's not great for second-hand values either.
It's a shame about those issues, because I do think Sony make some of the best Android phones as well as some of the best camera phones. If you haven't thought about Sony phones for some time, they're definitely worth checking out. You might just find your new favourite phone.