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I stared into the abyss of Sony's 4K phone and saw nothing new

I stared into the abyss of Sony's 4K phone and saw nothing new


Innovation for innovation's sake

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There are many things ailing Sony's once-great empire. Its PC business is now its former PC business, and the mobile devices that were meant to save it have landed the company into even more trouble. In spite of making a series of very good Xperia smartphones, the Japanese company finds itself perpetually on the back foot against competitors that are either cheaper, more popular, better distributed, or some combination of all three. So how do you solve a problem like Sony's smartphone dilemma?

Read next: The Sony Xperia Z5 review.

Not with a freaking 4K display. Sony decided to do the thirstiest thing possible at IFA this year by introducing a new 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium with a display resolution of 3840 x 2160. Yes, it's the first 4K smartphone in the world, and I'm always willing to give Sony the benefit of the doubt, but this is one step too far. 1440p displays on phones are generally unnecessary, offering improvements over 1080p panels that vary between the indistinguishable and the non-existent. Going to 4K is just silly. I thought so before I walked into the halls of IFA and I am even more assured in that thinking now that I've eyeballed Sony's Z5 Premium up close.

I don't need my Android icons to have a resolution measured in megapixels

The display of this phone is gorgeous, there's no denying that, but its resolution is not what makes it so. It has great color reproduction, contrast, and viewing angles — all the things that usually matter to a display that already has enough pixels — and 1080p is still very much enough pixels for a 5.5-inch device. Maybe once virtual reality headsets and accessories become more common, the Z5 Premium's surplus of resolution might actually come in useful. But then, why not grab this display technology and put it into a dedicated VR headset instead of jacking it into a phone? I honestly don't need my Android icons to have a resolution measured in megapixels. It's a strain on the processor and therefore the battery, and I'd much rather have a lean and efficient machine than one with a really, really out-there spec.

This is the truest exhibition of a tech company flexing its tech muscle that I've seen in a long time. I thought everyone had wised up and was following, at least superficially, the maxim that innovation should be meaningful and / or functional. The spec wars are over, but Sony seems to have been so thoroughly shellshocked by the way they turned out that it's now in a trance and continuing to fight them blindly. That's my best theory for why a company struggling to sell phones just launched a super expensive smartphone with an entirely unnecessary screen.