BERLIN-Sony Xperia XZ3 looks almost like its predecessor, XZ2. Until you turn it on and the new OLED screen cares for life, that is.
I had the chance to do just that shortly after the Japanese technology giant revealed XZ3 here at IFA, where I immediately noticed a great improvement in display quality.
With its new OLED panel and QHD + (2,880 by 1 440) resolution, the 6-inch XZ3 screen is a significant improvement over XZ2's already good display. The XZ2 has a relatively low image density compared to other flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it also has HDR upscale, which means you do not need HDR-specific media to take full advantage of the HDR capabilities of the screen. [1
Add in this HDR upconversion to the increased screen resolution and get really good screen quality. Colors appeared and everything from icon labels to the virtual Android buttons at the bottom of the display looked incredibly sharp even in the tough-lit demo room.
The XZ3, which Sony plans to start selling in late September, lends its OLED panel technology from Sony's Bravia television, but it's not necessarily unique and Sony is actually behind the curve when it comes to putting OLED in flagship phones. Samsung began using similar AMOLED monitors on its Galaxy S8, introduced in early 2017.
Besides the improved screen quality, XZ3's other display is Main innovation is a clamp sensor along the left and right edges. You double-click the phone with your fingers while holding it in to activate the Side Sense feature, a customizable menu of suggestions and applications.
Sony says that apps in Side Sense are chosen via artificial intelligence after you have used XZ3 for a while. When I pushed the phone during the demonstration, it took up a three to three matrix of apps that included the Google Chrome, Camera, and PlayStation app.
Over the matrix, there is a suggestion that enables you to "improve the accuracy of app forecasts." Below you will find Wi-Fi, battery saver, and Bluetooth settings icons.
As with the OLED screen, Sony is not the first smartphone manufacturer to introduce pressure sensors on the side of the handset. They are currently available on competing flagship phones like HTC U11 and Google Pixel 2. Clip Pixel 2 launches Google Assistant and it's a pity Sony does not offer the ability to customize XZ3's pressure sensor to start the assistant as well. Getting a selection of curated apps is not always useful especially when you're on the home screen.
Battery capacity is improved slightly to 3,300mAh, up from 3,100mAh in XZ2. It is unlikely that the small increase will be enough to handle all the extra power that the increased screen resolution and pressure sensor require, though. The XZ2 was just a disappointing 4 hours and 40 minutes on the battery test.
Many of XZ3's other features are the same found on XZ2. It includes the physical design, complete with curved screen edges and and a rounded back panel like curves near the edges. The back panel is made of glass and a bit smooth when you hold it, not to mention it's one of the strongest fingerprint magnets I've ever met.
The cameras are the same too, even though their software will be some improvements. The 19 megapixel reverse-facing camera is capable of shooting both 4K video or 1080p slow motion video. The new camera app automatically starts when you raise your phone horizontally to save time when trying to capture a volatile shot. There are also new bokeh and beauty filters for selfies as you bring the front facing 13 megapixel camera.
XZ2's unique front speakers also provide over to XZ3 so you can watch videos with virtual surround sound. The XZ3 also includes its predecessor's dynamic vibration, which vibrates the phone synchronized with what is being played, including videos and music. It's a bit like using a game console.
When it starts, the Xperia XZ3 will be one of the first phones that comes with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box. Sony uses its own skin on top of Android OS, but it's quite minimal. Icons and navigation menus look the same on XZ3 as they do on an Android 9-powered Google Pixel XL I used recently.
Xperia XZ3 will be available in the US from Amazon and Best Buy from October 17th for $ 900.