Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact launched with Android Oreo, but the design feels a decade old

I’ve never been a fan of Sony phones. In fact, I’ve never thought of using one (apart from review purposes) as my daily driver, but I feel bad for Sony fans out there looking to grab either of the new Sony Xperia XZ1 and the smaller Xperia XZ1 Compact phones.

The two have just been made official at the IFA 2017 today and while there’s no doubt the Japanese company is doing a great job, getting to that perfect spot is still beyond Sony’s reach, especially when talking about the design language of the phones.

One glance at the Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact will tell you these are Sony phones. The pair has nothing much to talk about in terms of design changes thanks to Sony’s iterative rulebook. The new phones feel like Sony is still stuck in the past, especially at a time when the likes of Samsung and LG are turning to futuristic designs for their latest handsets. This repetitive design makes me feel like Sony is out of creativity, which is not good for a company that is still struggling to revive its mobile business.

As the name suggests, the Sony Xperia XZ1 has a lot to do with last year’s Xperia XZ and the recently-released Xperia XZ Premium, which has yet to enter Kenyan space. On the other hand, the Xperia XZ1 Compact is smaller in size and keeps just about the same personality as the other premium phones, but with an aim of wooing those who don’t like bigger screens.

The standard Xperia XZ1 ships with a 5.2-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display screen while the Compact has a 4.6-inch HD (1280 x 720 pixels) panel. The pair is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 technology, ensuring that the screens do not catch scratches or cracks easily. Like a number of other 2017 flagship phones, the XZ1 pair has IP68 certification for dust and water resistance.

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Under the hood, both phones have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor paired with a RAM of 4GB and a 2700mAh battery unit. This size is perfect for the Compact, but it’s a little smaller for the XZ1. Where the larger Xperia XZ1 has 64GB of internal storage, the smaller XZ1 Compact gets 32GB, but both can be expanded via a microSD card of up to 256GB. This uses the second SIM card slot on the phone, which means you can’t have a microSD card and two SIM cards on the phones at the same time.

Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact

With such a small screen size, the Xperia XZ1 Compact is the only smartphone on the market with such massive raw power. The rest have bigger display screens, starting from 5.3 inches (Nokia 8) and above.

As noted earlier, the design of the Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact looks woefully dated. There’s nothing to do with the Infinity Display screens you see on the Samsungs and LGs of this world and this gets even worse when it comes to the bezels above and below the screens. The XZ1 gets a slim metallic chassis with fine refinements, but the Compact has a glass fiber and plastic build, which should make it feel cheaper.

Despite the lack of changes on the design aspect of the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, Sony fans will be delighted to learn that the pair will debut with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, making them the first phones to be announced with the OS. In terms of colors, the two will be available in pink, silver, black and blue, but don’t expect all four colors to be available in all markets across the globe.

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Both phones will also ship with Sony’s Motion Eye camera system alongside a 19MP sensor on the back that is supported by Predictive Capture. This feature will allow users of the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact to capture an image a few seconds before actually pressing the shutter button, a move that will reduce some of the missed moments when capturing images. Furthermore, the camera is capable of recording slow-motion HD videos at an impressive 960 frames per second, just like the Xperia XZ Premium, but 4K video recording only happens at standard speeds.

Videos will get Sony’s SteadyShot electronic stabilization, but there’s no optical image stabilization for photos. Where the selfie shooter of the Xperia XZ1 has a 13MP lens, the XZ1 Compact gets an 8MP wide-angle lens. You will also be able to use the camera to scan objects and save the files as 3D images thanks to the 3D scanning mode feature. These 3D images can then be shared on social media or sent to a 3D printer.

Sony Xperia XZ1 and Xperia XZ1 Compact

Those in the U.S. will get their hands on the Sony Xperia XZ1 as from September 19th at a price of $700 while the Xperia XZ1 Compact will start shipping on October 4th priced at $600. In Kenya, these prices should translate to about Ksh 70,000 and Ksh 60,000, respectively, but we still don’t know when – or if – the phones will hit the Kenyan shelves.

Would you like to see Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact hit the Kenyan market ASAP? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Hillary Keverenge

Still working on my bio. Meanwhile, you can trust me, I'm a tech-savvy dude. Find me on Twitter @raskeverenge