When it comes to Android smartphones, Sony isn’t really a household name here in the US. It’s not a brand I see many people rocking here as a phone which is a shame as Sony does put out some pretty decent hardware from time to time. Sony Xperia devices are a bit more popular in other countries, but in recent years, their sales have been declining. Sony’s hoping to change all that with the release of the Xperia 1 which is the first device on the market to feature a 21:9 CinemaWide 4K HDR OLED display, though not the first to have a 21:9 ratio screen. That honor goes to the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus which I actually took a look at a couple months ago.
This is not a full review. This is just my first impressions of the Sony Xperia 1 after a couple days of use. A full review will come a bit later down the line.
Note: The Xperia 1 device I am currently testing was sent to me by Sony’s PR team on a 60 day loan and I am testing it with my own personal AT&T sim card.
Like I stated above, this new Sony Xperia 1 is a 21:9 ratio device which means it’s super tall and narrow. It actually looks very much like an Xperia 10 Plus, but instead of a plastic body, it has a metal frame and Gorilla Glass 6 back. It definitely looks more high end then the mid-range Xperia 10 and is more in line with what other brands are doing with their flagship devices.
Like previous Xperia devices, the Xperia 1 has all of its button situated on the right side of the device. Starting from the top, we have the volume rocker, then the fingerprint reader followed by the power button. At the very bottom, Sony chose to retain the camera button which was missing on the Xperia 10. And yes, I did mention the fingerprint reader is on the side and not on the back where most people have it and where previous Xperia devices had it too.
Speaking of the back, we do get a triple lens array with 16mm super wide-angle, versatile 26mm and 52mm lens with 2x optical zoom.
On top of the Xperia 1, there’s a combined sim card/memory card tray. This tray doesn’t require a tool to open up and all you need is to use your fingernail to pop it out. That’s a plus as you won’t need to go searching for a tool anymore.
On the bottom you’ll find a speaker and a USB-C port.
Lastly, moving to the front of the Xperia 1, you’ll find the massively long screen. There’s no notch up top and instead you’ll find a smallish bezel up top that houses one selfie camera, some sensors, and another speaker. That of course means you get stereo speaker outputs when you’re listening to music and watching movies on this thing. Even games sound much better when there’s audio firing from both sides of the screen.
What you will notice that I did not mention is an audio jack. There isn’t one and instead, the Xperia 1 comes with a USB-C to audio jack dongle if you still want to use wired headphones.
The one thing you’ll immediately notice about the Xperia 1 is how tall it is. It has a very candy bar like shape to it, more so than any other phone. It’s a bit strange at first but it grows on you quite quickly. The taller screen has its advantages as does the slightly narrower body.
What might not grow on you is the button layout. Having all the buttons on one side can be strange and you’ll have to adjust your grip to use them all. Due to this layout, I found myself pressing buttons accidentally that I didn’t mean to press. This also goes for the camera button. I found myself accidentally launching the camera app continuously that I finally just turned off the shortcut for it and only use the camera button when I actually in the camera app.
Also having the fingerprint reader on the side makes it difficult to use at times. You’ll find that you can use your right thumb for it, but will need to use your index or middle finger for your left hand. Of course, you can choose not to use the fingerprint reader at all and just set up face detection to unlock the Xperia 1. You will need to still swipe on the screen as it doesn’t fully unlock the screen automatically like other phones do.
Aside from the hardware, you’ll be happy to note that the Xperia 1 does come out the box with Android 9 Pie. It’s not vanilla android however and does come with Sony’s custom launcher. Most of it seems pretty standard except for what Sony calls “Side Sense.” Side Sense allows you to double tap the side of the screen to bring up a shortcut menu with favorite apps, multi-window shortcut, and other important shortcuts. It’s kind of neat to use, but most likely you’ll have to adjust the placement of the shortcut as well as the sensitivity of how it launches.
Lastly, software loaded on the Xperia 1 for the most part contains a lot of stock google apps. Sony doesn’t include much Sony branded software and what it does have you can download it optionally. What you’ll probably want to download if you own a PlayStation 4 is the Remote Play App as the Xperia 1 is one of the few Sony devices and Android devices that can actually remote play PS4 games.
Since this is not a full review, these aren’t my final thoughts and this might change later down the line. For now, this is how I feel after a few days of usage. For starters, I’m really digging the extra tall and narrow design of the Xperia 1. The narrowness makes it easier to hold and the tall screen means I can actually see more when I’m reading news or info on a website. It however can make one handed use a little tricky with things up top, but I can live with that.
I’m also impressed with how good the screen looks. Everything is so crisp with no signs of jaggedness whatsoever. Colors also pop on the screen with bright, vivid color details.
The phone is also really quick and responsive. So far its been able to run everything I’ve thrown at it like a champ. However, due to the odd 21:9 sized display, not all apps stretch to the full height of the screen. Some apps appear with huge black bars on the top and bottom. That’s not so good, but it’s understandable.
Speaking of not good, I’m not a fan of the side mounted fingerprint reader. I think older Xperia devices had it right when it was located on the back of the device. It just feels awkward having it on the side. This is also one very slippery phone. That can easily be fixed with a case, although finding a case for this isn’t quite as easy as with other devices. Lastly, say goodbye to the headphone jack.
I have no opinions yet on the camera.
With that said, the Sony Xperia 1 certainly is an interesting device. There’s much to like about it but there are also a few little odd things about it as well that might turn you off. For now, I’m enjoying it as I get to know a bit more about Sony’s latest.