Even though MWC 2020 has been canceled, Sony is still forging on. Today the company is introducing a new member to its smartphone family: the Xperia 1 II.
If you’re slightly confused by the name of Sony’s new phone, that’s understandable—Sony released the original Xperia 1 last year. So for this model, Sony seems like it’s trying to better connect its phones with its high-end mirrorless cameras by adding the “II” (or “ii”) like you see on devices like the Sony a9II and a7RIV. For me, it’s easier to think of this phone as the Xperia 1 mark ii.
Unconventional name aside, the Xperia 1 II actually seems like a solid refresh for Sony’s latest flagship smartphone. Sony kept the 21:9 aspect ratio display found on the original Xperia 1, and then improved it by adding a 90Hz refresh rate to the phone’s 6.5-inch screen for a smoother viewing experience. The Xperia 1 II also gets true stereo front-facing speakers (unlike a lot of other phones that feature one bottom-mounted speaker), along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Sony even added a larger 4,000 mAh battery for improved longevity and brought back the phone’s headphone jack, which is something Sony left off the original Xperia 1.
However, as expected, the Xperia 1 II’s biggest upgrades come in the camera department thanks to a new burst shooting rate of up to 20 fps. And even at those speeds, the Xperia 1 II can still use autofocus and auto exposure so you won’t lose track of your subject or mess up exposure in the midst of action. And like Sony’s high-end mirrorless cameras, the Xperia 1 II also supports real-time eye AF for both humans and animals, which allows you to lock the camera onto a subject’s eyes so that the camera can follow them around and maintain sharp focus. The one downside is that the Xperia 1 II’s autofocus points only cover 70 percent of the sensor, so focus might get a little jumpy around the edges of the frame.
As for the Xperia 1 II’s camera module, you get four rear lenses: a 16mm 12-MP ultra-wide angle camera, a 24mm 12-MP main camera that uses a large 1/1.7-inch sensor, a 70mm 12-MP telephoto camera, and a bonus 3D time-of-flight camera. On the video side, the Xperia 1 II still comes with Sony’s Photo Pro interface that gives you better control over both photo and video settings.
Sony has sharpened up the edges of the Xperia 1 II, which makes the phone a bit similar to the old Xperia Z phones. That’s actually a great thing, because that was when Sony was really on top of its game as a phone maker.
Strangely, while the Xperia 1 II will be a 5G phone in other countries, it will be limited to 4G in the U.S., which seems even weirder when you remember that this phone has the same chip (and presumably modem) used in the Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 line, which all come with support for at least one type of 5G.
But perhaps the bigger worry is that with a starting price of $1,200, Sony may have priced itself out of contention for anyone who’s not already familiar and deeply invested in Sony’s ecosystem.
Along with the Xperia 1 II, Sony is actually announcing one more phone in the Xperia Pro, a phone that could be very interesting for anyone in the pro broadcasting biz. Not only does the Xperia Pro have full 5G support, it also features a unique antenna with beamforming tech, which allows the phone to get a stronger signal when using mmWave 5G, particularly indoors. The idea is that by giving the Xperia Pro strong 5G support, it can be used to broadcast high-quality video without needing a ton of wires or a TV broadcast van.
And on top of that, the Xperia Pro also comes with an HDMI port, so you can attach the phone to a camera and use it as an external monitor, potentially solving two problems with a single device. But once again, unless you are in the video broadcasting business, the Xperia Pro is probably overkill for most people.
Sony has yet to reveal pricing or availability info for the Xperia Pro. The Xperia 1 II is expected to go on sale for $1,200 sometime in June.