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5 things we want to see from Sony Xperia in 2022
Believe it or not, Sony had a pretty decent 2021. The company’s smartphone division turned a profit for the first time since 2017, despite selling far fewer phones than it did back in its prime. The Xperia lineup’s premium-only approach to hardware seems to be working out for Sony.
Sony’s flagship smartphones reviewed reasonably well throughout 2021 too, particularly its high-end Sony Xperia 1 III. The more affordable Xperia 5 III and ultra-expensive photography-focused Xperia Pro I were a little less well-received but still stood out from the crowd this year. Overall, it’s been a good but certainly not flawless year for the company.
As such, there are plenty of things that we’d like to see from Sony in 2022, ranging from ironing out a few lingering issues to taking an even bolder stance with its Xperia lineup. Here’s our wishlist for next year.
Better value for money
Android Authority really liked 2021’s Sony Xperia 1 III. The great display, excellent battery life, and multimedia experience remain second to none. But $1,299 is a very steep price for a phone lacking 5G mmWave capabilities, has too many pre-installed apps, and a hit-and-miss camera setup. At $100 more than the previous generation, Sony’s flagships are quickly becoming some of the most expensive in the business.
Similarly, the Xperia 5 III was supposed to be the value buy, but ended up cutting too many corners to make it a recommended purchase at around $999. It ditches the wireless charging and metal build quality of its more expensive sibling and simply isn’t as feature-packed as less expensive rival handsets, such as the Pixel 6 Pro ($899), iPhone 13 ($799), and Samsung Galaxy S21 ($799).
We’d all love cheaper prices, it’s essentially a given. But unless Sony majorly ups its game in 2022, the Xperia range really needs to be priced more competitively. We’re not excepting Sony to undercut the competition — premium hardware is its USP — but recent launches have been overpriced, even next to Apple. If nothing else, a price freeze should help Sony’s otherwise great phones end up in a few more consumers’ hands.
Of course, the Xperia 10 III and 10 III Lite mid-tier phones already exist and do a reasonable job at emulating Sony’s more premium multimedia experience at affordable prices. I certainly don’t want to see a return to a convoluted Sony portfolio and release schedule, with Sony throwing more products at the problem. Perhaps the Xperia 10 just needs revamping with a few more of Sony’s higher-end features to compete with the mid-tier segment?
An industry-leading update pledge
Sticking with the value argument for a second, a $1,300 or $1,600 purchase should be built to last. And I’m not just talking about hardware — software support should run for many years too.
Sadly, Sony has only committed to two years of OS support for its premium-tier offerings and has no further promise on security updates. That’s woeful compared with the three OS and four-year security updates promise from Samsung, and even further behind Google’s three OS and five-year security updates pledge. Both companies offer those same promises for smartphones that cost half as much as Sony’s flagships.
The Xperia software suite is rather lightly skinned compared to its competitors, with minimal additional features compared to Samsung, Xiaomi, and others. To Sony’s credit, it does provide regular security updates, but the time taken to roll out major OS updates remains slower than many of its competitors, especially given the limited number of devices it has to support.
Sony simply has to do better here and promise its customers longer lifecycles for such premium products.
The best photography Sony can offer
Sony is well known for its photography capabilities and has made some solid strides this year with new technology packed into its Xperia 1 III, 5 III, and camera-focused Xperia Pro-I. Sony’s 2021 smartphones had all the ingredients for a knock-out camera package, but the results have been rather underwhelming.
The Xperia Pro I, for instance, offers an impressive-sounding “1-inch type” sensor. However, the limited camera bump results in a cropped output, making the sensor’s usable area more akin to the Pixel 6 and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Granted, the Pro I still benefits from the big pixels, autofocus, and other assorted high-end sensor tech. But when combined with a narrower aperture, Sony’s ultra-expensive camera phone appears to capture less light than its competitors. Likewise, its flagship lineup is still missing the multi-frame night mode and brilliant selfie capabilities of other flagship smartphones. While Sony’s phone cameras are good in the right hands, they’re still hard to recommend to anyone apart from those who can learn to love their quirks.
Sony's cameras are good but they're still missing features we've come to expect as industry standard.
There are signs of real promise here though. The Xperia Pro-I’s dual-aperture technology and the dual focal length periscope zoom camera in the 1 III and 5 III are genuinely great inclusions for photography flexibility. Combined with more cutting-edge image sensors and improved software tricks, the Xperia series is tantalizingly close to being a true photography force. If only Sony could nail the fine details next time around.
More user-friendly software
Speaking of cameras, Sony’s phones are still a bit of a mishmash in the app department. While I’m grateful there’s now just one camera app for regular and pro shooting modes, there are still unique sub-apps for portrait selfies, panorama, and slow-motion video modes. Annoyingly, you still have to shoot using the shutter button when switching away from the Basic mode, purely to keep with the app’s Alpha camera aesthetics. It’s still a bit messy.
Likewise, Sony’s Cinema Pro app is a lovely inside joke for professional videographers, but its impenetrable nature isn’t a laughing matter for the rest of us. It’s not the range of advanced options that are the problem, although it would be nice if basic features like frame rate weren’t limited by the app you use. No, the problem is that the layout has been designed by someone who has never used a smartphone to shoot video. Sony stubbornly refuses to embrace the differences between the way people use mobile and professional cameras, to its detriment.
Sony's software lacks the design consistency of Apple or Samsung.
These complaints extend to Sony’s software more generally too. Sony’s Game Enhancer, News, and Music apps again have completely different looks and layouts that make learning each a chore. Meanwhile, uninstallable apps like Facebook, Netflix, TIDAL, and more feel even more out of place for such premium devices. It’s all a bit disjointed compared to the polished software experience from Apple, Google, Samsung, and others.
Xperia UI guide: Everything you need to know about Sony’s Android skin
I’m not suggesting Sony dumbs down its software, as “pro” features are what makes the Xperia range what it is. But these features need to be more approachable and better suited to the smartphone form factor. After all, no one buys an Xperia just because the camera app looks like an Alpha (hopefully). It’s the features and cameras that sell handsets. Sony might win more fans by carving out more of a unique mobile identity for its software, rather than riffing off its other brands.
Official PlayStation games
Sony’s Xperia lineup already has some excellent features for gamers. There’s built-in DualShock controller support, Game Enhancer app configuration, and PS Remote Play to bring console gaming to your mobile. Sadly, PlayStation Now game streaming remains a console and PC exclusive, for now. Of course, we’re beyond eager to see the latter come to Android as soon as possible and would be all in favor of a 2022 announcement.
Thinking a little more wistfully, why not bring classic PlayStation games directly to the Xperia lineup via emulation so you can play them offline too? There’s major promise in the third-party AetherSX2 emulator, but that only has us covered for PlayStation 2 titles. Sony already had PS1 games running back on the Xperia Play back in the day, and there’s a selection of PSP and Vita classics that would be perfect for gaming on the go too.
If there’s one thing that’s been missing from the Xperia’s multimedia portfolio it’s a solid tie-in with its console brand. With impressive emulators springing up from spare-time developers, surely Sony can build something more comprehensive. If you’re listening Sony, just please do a better job than the Nintendo Switch’s N64 emulator.
You tell us: What do you want to see from Sony in 2022?
Those are the five key things we want to see from Sony’s Xperia smartphones in 2022. Let us know which you think is the most important point to get right next year by voting in our poll below.
What do you want to see most from Sony in 2022?
Anything we left off the list? Tell us what you’d most like to see from Sony’s Xperia lineup in 2022 in the comments below.