Sony surprised everyone today by announcing an entirely new product line-up at MWC 2016. The Xperia X series delivers high-end camera performance with a slightly refreshed design language and “two-day” battery life. However, the surprise kind of wears off a little when you look at the Xperia X Performance, the more high-end of the new range, which seems to fit a little too easily into what we have come to expect of Sony. So much so that I just can’t shake the feeling that the Xperia X Performance is simply the Xperia Z6 with a new name.
Flashbacks and Forecasts: Sony in 2016
It’s pretty safe to say at this point that Sony’s ambitious but ill-advised attempt at producing a new flagship device every six months was an epic failure. Minor specs bumps, marginal design changes and a new device announced before the last one had even hit key markets was a recipe for disaster and, not surprisingly, was one.
Following Sony Mobile’s recent troubles, 2016 was the year we all expected Sony to fall into line with a one-flagship-per-year approach. While the absence of the Xperia Z6 at MWC makes it seem like this prediction is true, there’s something way too familiar about the Xperia X Performance. In many ways it feels like the exact same kind of marginal improvement over the Xperia Z5 that a six-month-later Xperia Z6 would have been.
Think about it: the Z5 had a 5.2-inch Full HD display, the X Performance has a 5.0-inch Full HD display (the LG G5 also slightly decreased its screen size from the G4). The Z5 used last year’s flagship processor the Snapdragon 810, the X Performance touts this year’s standard flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 820. Both the Z5 and X Performance have 3 GB of RAM, 23 MP cameras, 32 GB ROMs with microSD expansion and fingerprint sensors in an elongated power button: so far so Sony.
In all honesty, if the Xperia X Performance had come out under the Xperia Z6 name no one would have bat an eyelid. It would reproduce the same familiar Sony recipe: an 80% identical specs sheet with a couple minor changes and a slight design shift. Admittedly, the X Performance is the most different looking Xperia device I’ve seen in a while, but it’s not exactly hard to imagine the same design could have just as easily appeared on the Z6 instead.
Perhaps the two biggest “differentiators” in the new X Performance are an improved battery management system courtesy of Qnovo’s Adaptive Charging and a Predictive Hybrid Auto-Focus for the camera, a feature pulled straight from Sony’s excellent ɑ (Alpha) camera range. While these are nice additions to Sony’s feature-set, they really feel like things that would typically have been reserved for a flagship device. And that’s exactly what the X Performance feels like to me.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the Xperia Z6 was well into its production life before it had its early 2016 launch date pulled in favor of a more significant Z series upgrade one full year after the Xperia Z5. If I was Sony, I wouldn’t want to waste all that R&D so I would probably do the same thing: slap another brand name on it and hope no one noticed the similarities.
We may never know the truth, but I’m sure hoping the Xperia Z6 is significantly different from both the Xperia Z5 and the Xperia X Performance, otherwise it’s going to feel like Sony is still up to its same old tricks, just calling every second Xperia Z upgrade by another name.
What do you think? Is the Xperia X Performance a little too much like a six-months later update to the Xperia Z5 for you?