Sony was once a big player in the smartphone market, competing with the likes of Samsung and Apple. The Japanese tech giant launched some innovative and industry-first smartphones such as the Sony Xperia Z – the world's first waterproof smartphone - and the Xperia Z5 Premium which had the first 4K display in a smartphone. But for the past couple of years, Sony has been less aggressive in the smartphone arena, launching phones that are easily forgettable. It almost felt that Sony was going to give up on its Xperia business, considering that the company pulled out of many major smartphone markets. Now, it seems like Sony's back in the game and how.
Sony Xperia 1 Mark II and Xperia Pro
After a very long time it seems like Sony has launched some really capable smartphones. Not only do they have impressive cameras, which is one area where Sony has expertise, but they also promise stellar performance thanks to the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G chipset under the hood. While the Sony Xperia 1 II (spelled Xperia 1 Mark 2) is nothing short of a 2020 flagship in every sense of the word, Sony had one more surprise in the form of the Xperia Pro.
Both the smartphones were supposed to be launched at a Sony event at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) scheduled for February 24. However, the organisers of the world's biggest annual mobile tech show, cancelled it after a number of major exhibitors including LG, Google, Amazon, and even Sony decided to pull out because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak worldwide.
Sony's webcast launch event
Sony instead launched the Xperia 1 II and the Xperia Pro along with a mid-range Xperia 10 II, in a webcast on its official Xperia website. Although we missed the cheering and applause Sony would have received if it were to be at MWC, we were nevertheless, quite impressed by the stars of the show – the smartphones themselves.
Xperia 1 II
Sony's flagship for the year, the Sony Xperia 1 II, sports a 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED display with Sony's signature 21:9 cinematic ratio. The screen seems top-notch but Sony skipped a high refresh rate like 90Hz or 129Hz screens which are becoming quite common with flagships these days. However, the company makes up for it by implementing its "Motion Blur Reduction" tech instead, which the company claims matches 99Hz display benefits by analysing what's on the screens and adjusting individual frames, thereby reducing frame lags.
The Xperia 1 II's highlights are the cameras and unlike, Samsung or Huawei, which are betting on higher resolution cameras, Sony opted for a triple camera setup consisting of a 12MP main sensor, 12MP ultra-wide and a 12MP telephoto sensor, with an additional 3D iTOF sensor to help with focusing speed. The resolutions are the same as the predecessor Xperia 1 but the setup is now positioned on the left unlike the Xperia 1 that had it in the centre. The sensors are also bigger, and faster and the camera department seems to benefit from the ZEISS branding.
The front-facing selfie camera remains unchanged with a single 8MP sensor sitting in the top bezel. Speaking of which, the Xperia 1 II has some substantial bezels on the top and bottom chin area, which is something that Sony still doesn't want to give up on.
It's all about the cameras
The main 12MP shooter has a big 1/1.7-inch Exmor sensor with Dual PDAF (phase detection auto focus) and optical image stabilization (OIS). It also has a f/1.7 aperture lens.
The ultra wide sensor which sits on the top comes with a 16mm equivalent focal length and f/2.2 aperture and a 1/2.6 inch sensor with Dual-PDAF. The telephoto lens sits in the middle and has 70mm equivalent focal length, f/2.4 aperture and OIS with 1/3.4 and PDAF.
Another major highlight of the Xperia 1 II Iis "Eye Autofocus" which we have already seen on the Xperia 1. But this time around it works on animals as well. Sony also claims that this is the first smartphone in the world that can do 20fps bursts with autofocus tracking, meaning that all shots in burst will have AF.
Sony collaborates with ZEISS
The cameras are calibrated by ZEISS and come with ZEISS T* anti-reflection coating that was previously available only in professional lenses. This coating means less ghosting effect when shooting against a source of light.
The Xperia 1 II runs Android 10 out-of-the-box and is powered by the Snapdragon 865 behemoth which comes with 5G support for Sub 6 GHz networks. It also has 8 gigs of RAM and 256GB of UFS storage. As with most Sony flagships, the Xperia 1 II is IP68 water and dust resistance certified. It has a 4000mAh battery cell with wireless charging support.
Another highlight of the Xperia 1 II is that it brings back the much-loved 3.5mm audio jack which was absent in its predecessor. The phone also packs stereo speakers and there's a fingerprint scanner that's built into the power on the right side of the phone, something that we've seen on Sony phones before.
Sony has put its camera know-how to good use and the Xperia 1 II's camera interface is aligned with the interface found on the Sony Alpha range of professional cameras. The Xperia 1 II also comes with company's Cinema Pro app that has been co-developed with Sony's CineAlta and Aloha divisions. All these let the user create professional-looking videos.
The Xperia 1 II also marks the debut of a new Sony app called Camera Pro that seems to do the same job as Cinema Pro but with images. The app comes with plenty of controls and color management presets.
Apart from the stereo speakers the phone also has 369 Reality Audio decoding which optimises sound quality when listening to music on the Tidal app.
SONY Xperia Pro
Sony also took the opportunity to unveil the Sony Xperia Pro which is something that holds true to the Pro moniker as it seems like the phone is more of a professional solution than a phone.
Sony didn't reveal much about the phone and didn't disclose its full specs sheet, but that's quite understandable since the Xperia Pro is still under development. However, from whatever little we could gather from the webcast, the Xperia Pro seems to share the same display and camera setup as the Xperia 1 Mark II.
More than just a smartphone
The Pro was shown working in conjunction with a professional camera, and according to Sony, it will come with an HDMI port for seamless integration with Sony Alpha cameras and you can use it as a viewfinder for the same.
The device's 5G capabilities also allow users to leverage its faster connectivity and use it as a broadcasting device over 5G. It comes with a unique 4-wat 5G mmWace antenna setup, meaning that it would theoretically be able to broadcast content with speeds that can reach 5 GBps or faster.
The Xperia Pro also comes with double the storage at 512GB and from the look of it, it could have a more rugged construction, with its back seemingly taking inspiration from the Alpha cameras.
Apart from pricing and availability details, it remains to be seen how the phones perform in real-life scenarios, but as it stands now, the phones look like just the devices that Sony needed at the moment.