Sony Xperia XZ3: Xperi-ence Doesn't Always Make Perfect

Sony Xperia XZ3: Xperi-ence Doesn't Always Make Perfect
By Sarvjit Rangra / September 08, 2018

Well, we almost mean that. The Xperia XZ3 isn't perfect all-around for a couple reasons, but we'll get to those in time. As a brand that often lurks in the shadows on the smartphone scene, many people have heard of Sony's line of premium handsets but might have never looked into it in lieu of Galaxy, Pixel or iPhone offerings that continue to eat up market share to this day. Depending on who you ask, some people think that the Xperia line is basically an alternate-reality HTC that didn't crash and burn by reusing the same design language, but that's hardly the case.

While yes, HTC failed to innovate and got lazy with their overwhelmingly successful HTC One aluminum chassis that shook up the mobile world back in 2014, Sony lives on through various means of soft- and hardware implementatins such as Motion Eye camera technology and, of course, their place as the first company to release both a smartphone with a 4K display (Xperia Z5) and one with a 4K HDR display (Xperia XZ Premium). Yup, you read that right: The Xperia XZ line has its footprint stomped into history books albeit as a Premium iteration of the core line, which the XZ3 is not.

For those who are wondering about the usefulness of that 4K display, well, it wasn't super well-received the first time through with its 5.5-inch panel. Who was going to make use of that? QHD on a 6-incher is still almost indistinguishable in day-to-day use from 1080p, but we laud Sony's advancements nonetheless.

The XZ3 is a popular device not just for empty talk but as a successor to a reasonably well-made Xperia XZ2, which has fans interested. However, the XZ3 stands out and blends in at the same time; the departure from the boxy look of older Xperia phones might be considered trivial, and among Samsung users in particular, that's a mighty fine argument. For those who stick to Sony's phones for the exceptional cameras, multi-speaker layout and Android skin, this will be an easy sell — maybe. Ambient Flow makes a return, but with that, so has the absence of a headphone jack.

We'd like to point out that the lack of a 3.5 mm jack is problematic for audiophiles and ordinary music-listeners alike. That is, most of the folks who'd wind up getting the Xperia XZ3 will have to deal with Bluetooth audio once more, which is neither as clear nor has the depth of wired music and video playback. The great irony in all this is that Sony's phones are sold on the image of their wonderful multimedia abilities, and that has never been more enjoyable with the IPS screens, which should be a selling point for the XZ3. Still, enjoy your Ambient Flow, we guess; that's the reason Sony claims they couldn't add the jack on the XZ2 anyway.

Apart from Sony's step into Samsung territory with the new OLED approach and the curved edges, they've crafted the XZ3 from 7000-series aluminum and slimmed down on the top and bottom bezels. If there's one drawback that the Xperias were always known for, it was the unsightly forehead and chin that some models were released with that made the line almost seem like a toy compared to competitors' designs. The XZ3 might be almost indistinguishable from the Galaxy S8+ or S9+ with the 6-inch panel on top, which takes an acceptable stride into modern standards of phablet territory.

The fingerprint scanner is another matter altogether. They did one thing right: They made it round. Samsung, take notes — actually, on second thought, the placement of that scanner is kind of lame, Sony. Sony, take notes. Instead of mounting it underneath the camera, on the side of the phone or inside the touchscreen itself, they opted to position it almost halfway down the backside of the chassis. We don't need to tell you why this is a bad idea: Unless you grip the phone with your fingers instead of your palm — seriously, only a freak of nature does this — your hand is going to sit too high up to comfortably unlock the phone with your fingerprint.

Android Pie is coming pre-sliced out of the box with this offering, which puts the XZ3 eye-to-eye with the Pixel 2 and soon-to-launch Pixel 3. Apart from the latest security patches, this brings a plethora of new features, some more useful than others. A few to name include:

  • Interactive recent apps in "Overview Mode"
  • "App Actions" for intelligently determining what exactly you want to do with an app at a given moment
  • "App Slices", which allows developers to shoehorn their apps into relevant search results on Google
  • "Digital Well-Being" is Google's way of making your time with your phone more productive
  • Improvements to Do Not Disturb and battery utilization
  • Search bar at the bottom of the homescreen
  • Rotation override control to keep the rotation locked while allowing you to premit one-time rotation changes with a screen icon

We know: It's not the most exciting Android update. Some of those features will prove genuinely useful such as the rotation control and "Overview Mode", which makes a compelling case for grabbing up the XZ3 instead of a Samsung or other Oreo device. Also keep in mind that it could be many moons before Oreo-saddled handsets end up with the Pie update, which is just business as usual in the shameful update climate of Android in general.

Of course, the Xperia XZ3 is coming packed with a Snapdragon 845, 4 GB of RAM and other mid- to flagship-level goodies that will more or less justify the price tag. We can't say that Sony's newest handset is groundbreaking or anything to write home about, but among Sony fans, it should be a step in the right direction with the improved screen and handset design. However, those who simply can't do without the headphone jack for their multimedia needs will once again be disappointed to find that Sony skimped out on that detail here.

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