It’s impossible to ignore certain trends like foldable phones, hole-punch displays, and 5G at Mobile World Congress this year.
Every company seems to be chasing the same things, except Sony. Instead of copying the same trends, the beleaguered tech giant going widescreen — really widescreen with its new flagship Xperia 1, Xperia 10, and Xperia 10 Plus Android phones.
Like LG and HTC, Sony was once considered a formidable phone maker. The last few years have seen the Japanese tech giant release some well-spec’d phones, but nothing that screamed wow. Many of its phones like the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 were more like catchup than class-leading.
However, the new Xperia 1, 10, and Xperia 10 Plus all feel refreshing right off the bat thanks their extra wide displays.
Whereas most phone screens are either your standard 16:9, or 2:1, or 19.5:9 (now increasingly common on phones with notches), the displays on the new Xperia’s are all 21:9.
Why so long? Because more movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are shot in 21:9 and you’ll be able to watch them on the phones without letterboxing. Because you can see more content when holding the phone vertically and run two apps at once. Because Sony wants more content creators to shoot photos and videos in 21:9 so that the format becomes more mainstream.
New screens aside, Sony’s trio of new phones are pretty solid on the insidex. The Xperia 1 replaces the former flagship Xperia XZ3 and comes with respective specs like a 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD card), and a 3,330 mAh battery.
And like Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and S10+, it also has three rear cameras: a 12-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens.
Though not as powerful, the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus are capable mid-range Android phones as well. Both come with 21:9 LCD displays, but their full HD resolutions aren’t quite as sharp on the Xperia 10’s 6-inch screen or the Xperia 10 Plus’s 6.5-inch screen.
Both also come with a Snapdragon 636 chip and 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD card). The only difference is RAM: the Xperia 10 has 3GB of RAM and the Xperia 10 Plus has 4GB of RAM.
Camera-wise, both mid-range Sony phones have two on the back: a 13-megapixel camera paired with a 5-megapixel camera on the Xperia 10 and a 12-megapixel camera paired with an 8-megapixel camera on the Xperia 10 Plus.
I can’t say whether consumers will embrace Sony’s super wide 21:9 phone displays, but they are noticeably different — they look different and feel different in the hand (and pocket). The large “forehead” bezel might turn people off, but at least the phones aren’t more copycats of Chinese phones.
In a sea of phones that all look virtually identical, standing out with a screen that doesn’t have another notch or hole-punch might be enough to persuade consumers to at least glance in Sony’s direction.
It also helps that Sony’s working with content partners like Netflix and Amazon to get more video content optimized for the ultra-wide phone screens. Moreover, some game developers like Gameloft (Asphalt 9), Epic Games (Fornite), and Tencent Games (Arena of Valor) are already signed up to optimize their most popular games for the new screens.
The Xperia 1 will launch in late spring and the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus on March 18. Pricing has yet to be announced.