I’ve always been a silent supporter of Sony Xperia phones even though they don’t really get a lot of love here in the US. While popular overseas in other countries, I don’t see too many people using them here despite the fact that the Sony Xperia line is pretty solid with a few unique features not found on other devices. Hopefully this changes soon because Sony has a pretty good lineup of smartphones out right now as well coming later this year. Their current flagship which I’m currently using is the Sony Xperia XZ2 and while not perfect, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for Sony and a prequel of what’s to come.
Most of the design aspects of the Sony Xperia XZ2 I went through in my initial impressions that you can check out here. If you’re too lazy to read through it all, I’ll lay out some of the more major details here.
Sony’s Xperia XZ2 looks different from almost every previous Xperia that came before it, yet still features many familiar elements that made Xperia devices stand out to me. For starters, the Xperia XZ2 is no longer looks like a thin rectangular slab. Instead they’ve gone the route that almost every other smartphone maker has gone with a full curved glass face, rounded aluminum edges, and a curved glass back. You’d be forgiven if you confused it with a Samsung Galaxy S9, LG V30, or HTC U11 as all these phones pretty much share similar design elements now. That’s not to say that the Sony Xperia XZ2 doesn’t have a few unique elements because it does.
For starters, the Xperia XZ2 has two front facing stereo speakers which should be a big plus for those who game and consume a lot of media on their device. Front facing is always better than speakers that are on the back or on the bottom side of a device. The phone also has a fingerprint reader on the back but still retains separate power button on the side. It still has expandable storage up to 400GB with a microSD card as well as a dedicated camera button which is something I’ve really only seen on Xperia devices.
Now for what might possibly be the first negative. There’s only one camera on the back whereas many smartphones these days have two. On the plus side, it’s a darn good camera capable of taking stunning photos and 4K video, but there’s no optical zoom or wideangle mode. If you want two cameras, you’ll have to wait for the Xperia XZ2 Premium. On that note, there’s also only one front facing camera. Another negative is that because of the curved back, placing the phone down on an un-leveled surface means that your phone could easily slide right off if you’re not paying attention.
Lastly, let’s just talk about how the Sony Xperia XZ2 feels in your hand. This is a solid phone. It’s got some weight to it and isn’t what I’d call lightweight. However, it feels really good. It’s a good size in your hand and being that it only has a 5.7? screen, it’s not overly huge and can be mostly used one handed. The rounded edges keep things comfortable too and and now that all the sharp edges of the previous design are gone, it no longer digs into your palm. Also, the phone isn’t very slippery as the materials make it easy to grip.
The Xperia XZ2 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo pre-installed. You will however most likely need to update it when you get yours because the one I got had 2 updates. That’s the one thing with unlocked devices you’ll notice over phones that are carrier locked. They seem to get way more updates more frequently which is a big plus when it comes to buying an unlocked device. Next up, this isn’t stock Oreo. Sony has placed their Xperia Home launcher on top so the experience will be a bit different than those coming from other devices. It’s not difficult to get used to but the Xperia launcher does have its quirks.
The launcher does allow for long tap shortcuts like most of the Android 8.0 phones let you do now. The shortcuts you get are tied to the apps and what they allow you to do. For the most part, the Xperia launcher does function very similar to stock Android, but with a few little tweaks that you may or may not like, but it does seem like you can change how they behave. The Xperia launcher also includes Google Feed as it’s default news source on the home screen. It’s not bad and an easy way to keep up with trending news, but you can disable it if you don’t want it.
Like I stated above, there are some quirks too. One is that when you’re in the app drawer, usually dragging an icon will automatically assume that you want to move it to the home screen, but in the case of the Xperia, it just moves it around the app drawer. Instead you have to drag it completely all the way up to this little area that says “add to home screen.” This is by default. You can however change this if you go the home screen settings and change it to “quick add icons.” Also, the icons auto arrange by default. If you move an icon on the home screen, the other icons will shift on their own. Again, you can change this behavior in the settings to be like standard way. These are just little quirks that you come across and if you don’t know that you can change them, they can be very frustrating.
The Xperia XZ2 also comes default with SwiftKey Keyboard installed as the default keyboard. I hate it. I’ve never liked using it and I’ve seen it as the default on other devices too. Luckily since this is Android, you can change it to whatever you want and in my case, I always go for Google’s Gboard.
Lastly, and you’ll actually like this. Sony makes it pretty easy to install themes for your Xperia XZ2. Like all Xperias before this, you can grab featured themes from either the Xperia Lounge app or directly from the Google Play Store. There are tons and tons of different themes for you to use and you can apply them in the appearance tab of the settings menu.
Oh and before I forget, since this is a unlocked device that isn’t tied to any carriers. There are absolutely no carrier installed apps on it. There’s also not a lot of bloatware other than a few Amazon apps pre-installed and AVG Protection. There’s also a host of Sony apps installed, but most can be uninstalled if you don’t wish to use them. I do however recommend downloading all the PlayStation related apps.
I say this because the one killer feature high end Xperia devices have is the ability to run PlayStation 4 Remote Play natively. These are pretty much the only devices aside from the PS Vita and a Windows 10 machine that can run this.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 spec sheet reads like pretty much every other flagship device this generation. We’re talking about the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform with 4GB of RAM, Google Android O, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, IP65/68 water resistance rating, 5.7″ 18:9 Full HD+ HDR display, 3180 mAh battery, 64GB internal storage and microSD support up to 400GB, and more. It even has the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology, USB 3.1 Gen1, a fingerprint sensor, and dual front facing stereo speakers.
What the phone is missing however is two cameras on the rear like most flagships these days and instead only has one 19MP Motion Eye camera and a 5MP camera up front. It also does not have any sort of face detection unlock mode or an audio jack.
You’ll also notice that with the display, it’s does not feature a “notch” like so many other devices want to copy these days nor does it have a huge 6″ display like others. I don’t mind the 5.7″ display actually as it does make the device a bit thinner and slightly easier to hold and manage 1-handed.
So as you can see, the Sony Xperia XZ2 is pretty comparable to many of the current flagship devices out there right now.
If you look at specs alone, the single 19MP Motion Eye camera out back doesn’t really seem like much but there’s a lot of tech in that single camera. The Xperia XZ2 utilizes the latest version of the Exmor RS sensor with new technology such as Predictive Capture. There’s a redesigned G Lens and the BIONZ for mobile image-processor gives you super-accurate motion detection and fast image processing. The Motion Eye camera also records video in 4K HDR as well as 960fps Super slow motion in HD or Full HD. For standard video, it can record at 120fps slow motion.
New for the Xperia line and starting with the Xperia XZ2 is the 3D Creator. Take an object—scan it, turn it into a 3D avatar, then share it on social media or print it. You can even scan your own face and bring your selfie to life in 3D. How much you’ll actually use this though is up to you. I found it to be a bit gimmicky and it’s not something I’d really use too much.
Like stated above, one of my favorite features on the Xperia XZ2 is the fact that it has a dedicated camera button. Use it to quickly launch the camera app, even from standby and use it as the shutter button to take photos. I find this to be a much more natural way to take photos instead of using the on screen button or the volume key shortcut. Instead the volume keys are used for zooming in and out, as they should be used for.
In terms of photo quality, it’s getting to the point now where most flagship devices are going to give you great photos no matter if it has one camera, two cameras, or even three cameras. The average person isn’t going to tell the difference and the only thing you’d really be missing with just one camera is optical zoom or wide angle. With that said, the photos from the Xperia XZ2 are very good. Colors really pop and a lot of detail is retained, as long as there’s enough light. In darker situations, you can see how the colors kinda blend together and a lot of the details get lost. This is on par with most cameras under poor lighting conditions.
To view more photo samples, you can check them out here in my Flickr album.
There were a few issues that I did encounter however with the Sony Xperia XZ2 that need to be addressed. One of the issues is that the there seems to be a slight issue with the Wi-Fi under 5G connections. For some reason the device will drop Wi-Fi connection in certain instances when none of my other phones will. I’m not entirely sure why it does that and yes, I’m running the latest software update so it’s not that. It could be the distance away from the router, but that would mean that the range on this phone is not very far.
Another small annoyance, and this is just me because I’m used to the placement being a tad higher is the position of the fingerprint reader on the back. The reader on the Sony is almost right in the middle which puts it at a slight awkward position and there’s only the slightest indent to differentiate it from the body. Instead, my finger wanted to gravitate towards the single camera lens and needless to say, that won’t unlock my phone. That’s just a tiny nitpick and something I’d have to get used to.
Lastly, I know I said that the Sony Xperia XZ2 wasn’t very slippery in your hands but it sure is slippery everywhere else. This phone will slip and slide on any uneven or unleveled surface so be careful. There was already a time when it completely slid off my computer table at home while I wasn’t paying attention and luckily I have carpet on my floors. If I didn’t, I’d be a more angry. I do suggest possibly running a case just to be on the safe side. I never hurts to have a little bit extra protection.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a very interesting look into what Sony has for us in the future. Hopefully it’s enough to get people talking and buying their smartphones here in the US. While not perfect, the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a very good flagship device that not only looks good, but has the power to back it up. The only real issues I see where it might not be comparable with others is that it only has one camera on the back, no face unlock tech, and the phone is a bit on the heavy side.
However what it does have that others don’t helps tip the scale a bit in Sony’s favor. I’m loving the fact that it has two front facing speakers, a dedicated camera button where it’s supposed to be, and PlayStation 4 Remote Play capabilities without the need to hack anything. These additions alone make it a great phone to play games on, watch movies, listen to music, and take photos and videos with. Isn’t that pretty much what we want our smartphones to do these days?