Sony’s timing couldn’t possibly be worse: the Japanese company is releasing its new flagship Android phone in the US just two days before Google goes supersonic with the launch of its own new Android flagship phones. October 2nd is the date, Sony has just announced, that US customers can buy the new Xperia XZ for an unsubsidized price of $699.99. The participating retailers include Amazon and Best Buy, and both will also stock the XZ’s sibling, the smaller X Compact, which arrives on September 25th for a price of $499.99. Sony’s handsets will support GSM networks, which is to say AT&T, T-Mobile, and their MVNOs, but not Sprint or Verizon.
The XZ is, in many respects, a phone that comes too late in the year. Powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage, it relies on its camera performance to stand out from the pack, however my first impressions when I got to handle it during IFA were not particularly positive. Even if Sony’s imaging lives up to the company’s lofty billing, it would only bring this 5.2-inch phone up to the same level as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which already lead the Android pack.
The 4.6-inch Xperia X Compact is the more intriguing and more unique of Sony’s two new devices, and at $500 it’s also the more affordable. Unlike previous years, however, Sony’s Compact isn’t a direct shrinking of the bigger phone: the X Compact has the same camera system and very similar design, but it doesn’t have the same metal back and makes do with a lower-class Snapdragon 650 processor. In any case, it promises to be one of the very few options in the class of small Android devices as we head in toward the holiday shopping season.
Sony’s biggest challenge comes October 4th, however, will be to convince anyone that Android Marshmallow phones without any Daydream VR novelties are worth its high price of admission versus Google’s incoming Pixel phones. Would you really invest the full premium tier smartphone cost into a device that’s got months-old software and hardware, or would you rather go with Google’s in-house Android?