Sony has long been struggled to get to the top of the top Android device, so at MWC 2019, the company is trying to make its phone stand out – literally – by featuring ultra-tall 21: 9 displays. That starts with the Xperia 1, its new flagship.
The Xperia 1 is the successor to the Xperia XZ3 that released Sony last case. But as the name implies, Sony is viewing this as a chance to start with a mobile phone brand.
And make no mistake, the Xperia 1 – along with the more budget-friendly Xperia 10 and 10 Plus, which has 21: 9 displays – is a tall glass of water. The screen itself is a 4K HDR OLED panel (supposedly the first on a smartphone) that measures at 6.5 inches. The key thing here is that aspect ratio; Sure, there are plenty of screens that are 6.5 inches on the diagonal, but the Xperia 1 is taller than basically all of them.
There's no notch, though there is a bezel on top. The Xperia 1 measures 6.57-inches tall to the point where the top of the phone actually stuck out of my jeans pocket (for comparison, that's almost an inch taller than on iPhone XS, which is 5.65 inches tall).
Sony's forgettable phones. But what does it actually get you, not good enough?
To that end, Sony has a few answers. The first is simply more stuff. A lot of our phone content is printed in vertical lists, like text message threads, emails, Instagram feeds, and so on. A taller screen means you can read more stuff at once.
Sony is thus emphasizing multitasking, with the idea that you have a second app pinned to the top of your screen (like a map), while still using a second app at full screen size on a smaller phone below it.
Lastly, there's an emphasis on watching videos and playing games, which sounds great on paper, but is a little less practical in real life. Plenty of movies are filmed in cinematic aspect ratios, which should look great on the tall screen. YouTube, usually is not – which means you'll run into plenty of black bars. Fortnite and Asphalt Racing to support the taller screen, but games are not optimized.
There's a triple camera system on the back with a trio of 12 megapixel lenses – a 26mm wide lens (with OIS), a 52mm telephoto lens (also with OIS), and a 16mm superwide lens. There's also the requisite Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and water resistance. So Sony has a side-mounted fingerprint reader, which is disappointing that many of its competitors have built into the screen. Although given Sony's history of offering no fingerprint reader in the US for many years, it's nice to see it here.
For the mid-range phones, there's the Xperia 10 , and its bigger cousin, the Xperia 10 Plus. The Xperia 10 has a smaller 6-inch LCD screen, 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a midrange Snapdragon 630 processor. The Xperia 10 Plus is closer to the Xperia 1 with a 6.5-inch panel (with LCD and lower resolution), along with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage. Both feature the same 21: 9 aspect ratio.
While the Xperia 10 models are definitely on the bottom of the Xperia 1, I almost prefer the design on the cheaper phones larger bezel on top.
Sony would not let you try the Xperia 1 past the lock screen ), but we did get some time with the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus. While not as powerful or high-end as the Xperia 1, they did not give a good idea of what this is like.
The tall screens are definitely on the way to the top of the display. Sony does support a one-handed mode that shrinks the entire OS into a corner of the screen that's accessed by a double tap on the home button, and it feels like an essential feature, especially for smaller hands. On the flip side, you can really enjoy the content on the screen, and it's easy to see the appeal.
The Xperia 10 and 10 Plus will be released on March 18th, while the flagship Xperia 1 wants to come out sometime in late spring. In the coming days.