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5 things we want to see from Sony Xperia in 2023
2022 may go down as the year of smartphone refinement, or stagnation if you prefer, but that’s a description we’ve been applying to Sony’s Xperia handsets for a good few generations now. Even so, Sony’s premium lineup reviewed well throughout the year, at least as far as hardware is concerned. The Xperia 1 IV served the ultra-premium market with a selection of Sony’s latest and greatest photography and videography features, while the Xperia 5 IV successfully distilled this formula down to a more mainstream flagship price point. Meanwhile, the Xperia 10 IV played to the more affordable end of the market, albeit in a very unbalanced fashion.
But as much polish as Sony has applied, these handsets could still do with buffing up. Disappointingly, much of our wishlist resembles last year’s. Still, here’s what we’d like to see from Sony’s Xperia lineup in 2023.
Better value for money
The $1,600 asking price for the Xperia 1 IV was, frankly, outrageous, and even the £1,299 / €1,399 European entry points were a tough pill to swallow. While the handset does a lot right, charging Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 money for a classic slab is not going to be a winner in many people’s books, especially when the phone changed so marginally year-on-year. That $300 price hike needs reversing sharpish unless Sony can miraculously justify it with some amazing new technology.
The $999 Xperia 5 IV struck a better balance, but this came with a compromise to its camera array, new but sluggish wireless charging capabilities, and a lackluster update pledge that still undercut its value proposition. We even thought the entry-level Xperia 10 IV was overpriced for what it offered when compared to the competition.
Sony makes great phones but prices them out of most people's consideration.
Of course, the Xperia lineup has a certain charm. The monolithic design, faithful attachment to the 3.5mm headphone jack, and cutting-edge photography features continue to hold appeal. That said, Sony needs to get a handle on its pricing strategy to make itself a more viable pick outside of a small enthusiast market. Xperia handsets really should be enjoyed by many more consumers.
A competitive update pledge
We grimaced about and wished for improvements here last year. Sony’s update pledge of two OS and three years of security updates is a lingering strike on the Xperia checklist, especially given the expensive price tags we mentioned previously.
But it’s not just the price that makes us balk at Sony’s lack of commitment. The Xperia lineup’s software is comparatively bare-bones. Even Google’s Material You fails to make the cut. In other words, there are not many extra OS features to prevent Sony from putting updates out quickly and well into the future. It’s more a matter of actually committing resources to do it.
Sony's update pledge falls far short of the market leaders.
Three OS updates are increasingly the bare minimum in the flagship space, with the best in the update business regularly offering four years of support and up to five years of security patches. Brandishing eco-credentials, like less plastic packaging and ditching the charger, means very little when your flagship products aren’t built to last.
Even more camera innovations
Sony offers some absolutely superb camera hardware in its flagship phones, from eye AF and 4K HDR on all lenses to its novel variable focal length zoom camera in the Xperia 1 IV. More innovations in this vein would obviously help the series to continue to stand out, whether that’s the introduction of variable aperture or dedicated portrait lenses to close the gap with the mirrorless market.
A return to the Xperia Pro-I’s 1-inch sensor could make for an interesting point of comparison with other flagship camera phones. While still not common, brands are increasingly willing to experiment with an extra-large main sensor. Although, it’s probably fair for Sony to temper photography capabilities somewhat against its sleek design and ensuring feature parity across all lenses.
We’ve also wished for more intuitive photo and video software in previous years, and there’s still some merit to that line of thinking too. To be fair, Sony continues to improve in this regard, having integrated and improved its selfie portrait mode in the 5 IV (but still not the 1 IV) and generally made the most common features accessible in the Photo app. However, the absence of common mobile features like night mode and video software bokeh leaves the door open for rival handsets to fill in as easier-to-use creativity tools. There has to be a good middle ground somewhere, and Xperia should claim it.
More design customization
At this point, the world is more likely to end before Sony revamps its Xperia design. But as much as we often clamor for something new, the black monolith is an iconic part of the series design and remains exquisite both to look at and hold in the hand.
But black is boring; Sony could add new life to the vintage design with a splash of color. The brand’s dabbles with purple and green colorways have looked sublime but are all too often region- and time-exclusive. More colors would always be welcome, but why stop there? A vegan leather back would look and feel amazing while providing yet another selling point compared to its rivals.
What I wouldn't do for a vegan leather Xperia.
While we’re at it, Material You theming should probably come to the range in a future update. Making your phone your own is a core part of the Android experience and an area where Sony could do better.
Official PlayStation games
Sony’s latest Xperia phones try to appeal to the crowded gaming market with built-in support for direct streaming to popular gaming platforms, such as Twitch. Meanwhile, Game Enhancer offers up performance, RAM, audio, notification, and other controls. Yet Sony still has still not meaningfully tied its PlayStation gaming brand in with its Xperia handsets.
Yes, there’s DualSense controller support baked in, the PlayStation app for managing accounts, and even PS Remote Play for gaming. But the latter is a data hog and not always reliable outside the home. What we want is a seamless way to play games on the go.
PlayStation Plus cloud streaming support would be a great place to start, bringing a decent catalog of classics to mobile without the need for pesky emulators (even if you have to buy the top-tier subscription). Not to mention, cloud gaming on mobile would bring the platform on par with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It would also be great to see older titles supported directly on Xperia handsets for offline play. There’s a selection of classic PSP and Vita classics that would be perfect for gaming on the go. Make it happen, Sony.
You tell us: What do you want to see from Sony in 2023?
I’d probably throw a variable refresh rate display into the list as well, and faster charging too, but those were the top five improvements we want to see from Sony’s Xperia smartphones in 2023. Let us know which you really want to see next year by voting in our poll below.
What do you most want to see from Sony Xperia in 2023?
Anything we left off the list? Let us know what you’d like to see from Sony’s 2023 Xperia range in the comments below.