The Sony Xperia 1, announced in February 2019, was less than perfect. Sony took a gamble on the phone by stretching the screen’s shape from the preferred 19.5:9 aspect ratio to the exceedingly awkward 21:9. The company did the same thing with the Xperia 5, and the 10, and 10 Plus mid-rangers. The move didn’t pay off for Sony. Now that we’re on the cusp of the Sony Xperia 2’s potential announcement window at MWC 2020, it’s worth weighing what will and will not work for Sony as it continues to seek smartphone success.
Here are five things we want to see in the next flagship Sony Xperia smartphone.
1. A new name
Sony has used the Xperia branding since the 2008 Xperia X1. Think about that. 2008. Hell, the X1 ran Windows Mobile. Other things announced in 2008 include the first Android phone, the HTC-made G1, and the Apple iPhone 3G. Like Samsung’s Galaxy and Huawei’s Mate brands, the Xperia name itself might be getting a little stale with consumers. It doesn’t mean much anymore, other than to provide a few syllables ahead of the model designation.
Sony would do well to rethink its phone business — and that includes the very name itself. Sony might experience more visibility with a brand that resonates with consumers, or more closely matches that of its PlayStation, camera, or television branding. Do I expect this to happen? Nah. But Sony should do it. A clean break could help give Sony phones the cache they need to get picked up by consumers’ radar.
See also: Worst phone names ranked
2. An old screen
I wholly understand what Sony was aiming for with the Xperia 1’s 21:9 screen: get ahead of the shift in content from 16:9 to 21:9. Sony hoped its phones would be ready for movies and TV shows from Netflix and others as they adopted the new filmmaking aspect ratio. It simply hasn’t happened, or at least in a way significant enough to warrant buying phones with 21:9 screens.
Take a step back, Sony, to the 19:5:9 aspect ratio being used by the other phone makers. The biggest benefit? Sony’s phones won’t resemble the Slender Man.
3. Better cameras
Sony has an incredible heritage in imaging. Just look at its Alpha line of mirrorless cameras. The Alpha 7 III was on nearly every camera publication’s “Best Pic” list throughout 2019, and the new A7R IV and A9 II are even better. Somehow, Sony’s success with its Alpha cameras has not translated to success with its phone cameras.
Every year, Sony claims to have solved its camera woes. This year, things will be better, it assures us, year after year, and yet the resulting images just don’t match those from class leaders Samsung, Google, and Apple. It is vital that Sony solve this problem. The industry has widely settled on the ultra-wide, standard, and telephoto arrangement as far as lenses are concerned. Not only does Sony need to deliver this expected setup, it has to knock picture quality out of the park too.
It wouldn’t hurt to offer best-in-class video and audio capture, as well.
4. Seamless experiences
Anyone invested in the Apple ecosystem enjoys simple, cross-product compatibility that few other device makers offer. It’s easy to move content from MacBook to iPhone to Apple TV. Google is a close second, and Samsung isn’t far off, either. Can Sony up its game to match these competitors?
Sony makes far more than just phones. It manufactures television sets and Blu-ray players, soundbars and in-home audio equipment, and simple cameras alongside cinematic camcorders. Sony is also an entertainment company, with entire divisions devoted to movies, music, and PlayStation gaming. Sony has tried over the years to build an ecosystem that works well for consumers (cough, PlayStation tie-ins, cough), but it hasn’t assembled the puzzle pieces in just the right way yet. It should.
Consumers could come out winners if Sony nails the cross-device content play.
5. The (affordable) kitchen sink
Yep, Sony has to deliver it all: wireless charging, waterproof chassis, killer battery life, a gorgeous screen, excellent stereo audio, the best cameras, Android 10, Snapdragon 865, powerful RAM/storage combo, USB-C, great US carrier compatibility, and much more.
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Perhaps most importantly, Sony has to keep the price point in check. The Sony Xperia 1 retailed for $949 and didn’t see substantive price cuts until the holiday season. Sony can’t charge this much for the Xperia 2 unless the flagship goes toe-to-toe with its competitors in features and performance.
Yeah, I’m asking a lot. Asking Sony to essentially rethink its entire phone strategy mere weeks before we may see the Sony Xperia 2 is folly, but Sony Mobile needs the kick in the pants.
What do you think? What should Sony do to bring its smartphone business back from the brink?