Sony's most recent flagship, the Xperia XZ Premium, is all about specs and power. Not a huge amount changed in terms of design, aside from a few adjustments here and there, but it ticks almost all the boxes on the numbers sheet.
That of course means that its successor not only has its work cut out for it in the specs department, but with competitor flagships becoming more exciting in terms of design, Sony will need to pull something out of the bag in that area too.
Rumours have started to surface regarding the next Sony Xperia flagship and no doubt they will continue to circulate over the next few months. Here is everything we know so far about what are being called the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Release date
- IFA release likely
- 31 August 2017 probable date
Sony revealed in May that it would be announcing two flagship devices in the second half of 2017 that will sit alongside the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and the Xperia XZs, both of which debuted at Mobile World Congress 2017. Based on a Geekbench leak, these devices have been dubbed the Xperia XZ1 and the Xperia XZ1 Compact.
The company said it wanted to concentrate on "high value added" flagship models so the new flagship devices will be higher end than the likes of the Xperia X and Xperia X Compact, which will likely be seen in hardware such as the processor.
Sony traditionally uses consumer electronic show, IFA, to announce new smartphones so we're expecting this year to be no different. IFA 2017 takes place in Berlin between 1 and 6 September, with press days on 30 and 31 August.
Sony is confirmed to be holding a press conference on the afternoon of 31 August 2017. An educated guess would therefore suggest the next Sony Xperia flagship smartphone, or smartphones, should be unveiled then.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Design
- OmniBalance flat-slab design expected to continue
- Reduced bezels would be good to see
- A change in design would keep things exciting
Sony hasn't strayed far when it comes to design. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium isn't too far removed from the Sony Xperia Z that launched a few years ago, with both featuring an OmniBalance flat-slab design with glass on the front and rear.
A few changes have appeared here and there, such as the introduction of 2.5D glass for a more seamless finish between the glass and the edge of the device, as well as the addition of a fingerprint sensor into the side-mounted power button. On the whole though, all Xperia devices are distinguishable.
We'd like to see the new Xperia flagship reduce its bezels at the top and bottom of its display, as both Samsung and LG did this year, and we'd also like to see an edge-to-edge display transition from the Xperia XA range to the flagships. We're not holding out breath for the latter though as that would mean a change to that side-mounted fingerprint sensor.
That said, the most recent leak from Digi-Wo suggests this might be the case, at least for the XZ1 Compact anyway. The image shows a device that although still features the large bezels at the top and bottom of the display on the front, has a slightly different rear. It's hard to tell from the photo but it appears to be metal rather than glass and more interestingly, there is a circular rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
Above the fingerprint sensor is a large camera lens too, with a flash to the left. It is centralised, something that would be different for Sony devices as in the past the Xperia smartphones have positioned the camera lens in the top left. It also looks like a power button is still present on the side but it might more similar to the circular button found on the older Xperia devices than those on the later models. The side is not in clear view though so we can't be sure about that feature just yet.
In terms of the XZ1, a different leak has appeared on Weibo claiming to show off the back panel for the larger device.
Unlike the previous leak, assumed to be the XZ1 Compact, the image of the leaked shells show no rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and the camera lens in the top left again. So basically, similar to previous Xperia devices. It doesn't give a great deal away other than that, but it does suggest the two phones Sony is rumoured to announce will offer a slightly different design.
Another leak, also claiming to show the Xperia XZ1, shows the front and side of the device with a design very similar to the Xperia XZ Premium, though seemingly on a smaller scale according to the detail on the screen.
Based on the leaks, it is thought the Xperia XZ1 Compact may offer a rear mounted fingerprint sensor and a centralised camera lens, while the Xperia XZ1 will offer a very similar design to the XZ Premium with rounded edges and and a side-mounted oblong power button which is likely to have an integrated fingerprint sensor.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Display
- 4K resolution display could appear again
- HDR likely to be on board again
- Will Sony switch to AMOLED?
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium features a 4K HDR display, offering a super sharp pixel density of 801ppi. Sony has avoided Quad HD in the past at it always said it wasn't worth the trade off in battery life given the lack of native content available for that resolution.
As there is now more native content at this resolution and many competitors are opting for it and higher, whether Sony will continue to avoid Quad HD is unclear. If the new 2017 Xperia flagships are to sit with the likes of the Xperia XZ Premium, a 4K display may appear again.
That said, Sony also considers the Xperia XZs a premium offering and this device has a Full HD display so it is not yet clear what resolution the new flagship will offer. We'd certainly expect HDR to be on board, especially on the Xperia XZ1 given one of the more recent leaks, and an LCD panel, even if we would like to see Sony move to AMOLED.
There has been talk of Sony offering a 6-inch display panel with a 2:1 aspect ratio, which is the same ratio as the LG G6, but it is not clear if this will appear on any 2017 smartphones. The panel is said to be in production by Japan Display Inc, a joint venture between Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi, and it is said to offer "Pixel Eyes" technology which will apparently deliver darker blacks than what is commonly found on LCD panels.
If it does appear on any of Sony's 2017 flagships, we can expect a device with very slim bezels so perhaps our wishes of those bezel reductions will come true after all. The most recent leaks suggest otherwise though so don't hold your breath.
Based on the latest rumours, the Xperia XZ1 will offer a 5.2-inch screen with HDR, X-Reality and Triluminos, while the Xperia XZ1 Compact will come with a 4.6-inch Full HD display. These sizes tie in with previous Xperia Z and Z Compact devices so it wouldn't be too surprising to see them become a reality.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Camera
- Same Motion Eye camera expected
- Hope to see super slow-motion feature again
- 13MP front sensor rumoured for Xperia XZ1
Camera has always been a main focal point for Sony regarding its smartphones. Not surprising given it supplies its sensors to many of its competitors, including the likes of OnePlus. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium featured the world's first memory-stacked sensor, which allows it to offer a 960fps super-slow motion video feature, among other things.
This super-slow motion video feature is one of the best things about the XZ Premium and so we would expect it on any other Sony flagships released in 2017, along with the predictive capture feature, also found with the Motion Eye camera.
As this Motion Eye camera was new to the XZ Premium, it would be surprising to see another new sensor in the new flagships this year. Improvements will no doubt be made but we're expecting the same 19-megapixel sensor on the rear of any new devices in 2017, something the Sony Xperia Ailesi leak supports for the Xperia XZ1 at least.
The leak also suggests the Xperia XZ1 will come with a 13-megapixel front sensor.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Hardware
- Expecting Qualcomm's latest platform
- Possible jump in RAM could be plausible
- MicroSD expected
Sony is one of Qualcomm's most loyal fans, having opted for the chipset manufacturer's latest platform in all its flagship devices over the years. The current flagship platform, as it were, is the Snapdragon 835.
The Geekbench leak and the Sony Xperia Ailesi leak both suggest the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will feature the SD835 with 4GB of RAM, which seems plausible given Sony's release history. Sony has always offered microSD support for storage expansion so no doubt the new flagships will offer this too, with at least 64GB of internal storage.
There has been a suggestion that future Sony phones will be able to charge wirelessly from friend's device, a refrigerator, washing machine or any device plugged into mains with a NFC power transmitter. It's been claimed Sony has filed a patent for a second wireless antenna for NFC that transfers power rather than data.
Whether this will appear in this year's flagships, in the future, or not at all, remains to be seen for now though. Patents don't always come to fruition. USB Type-C will no doubt be on board any new devices though and the battery capacity should be at least around the 3000mAh mark, with fast charging and technologies including Sony's Stamina Mode and Qnovo's Adaptive Charging.
The Sony Xperia Ailesi leak suggests the Xperia XZ1 will come with a 3000mAh battery, while the XZ1 Compact will have a 2800mAh capacity.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Software
- Android Nougat with Sony software expected
- Same experience as XZ Premium likely
The next Sony Xperia flagship will probably launch on Android Nougat with Sony's software over the top, meaning it should offer the same experience as the Xperia XZ Premium with perhaps a few adjustments. The Geekbench leak suggests Android 7.1.1 for both the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact.
Android O, the new version of Android, is due to be released soon but even though the new devices will no doubt be guaranteed an update to the latest software at some point, but they are highly unlikely to come with it from out the box.
Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact: Conclusion
For now, details surrounding the next Xperia flagship or flagships are guesswork. Sony said it will be announcing new devices and they would sit in the higher end of the company's portfolio, but other details are scarce.
We're expecting to hear more from Sony at IFA 2017 and more rumours will no doubt appear in the meantime so keep checking back as we will update this feature as we hear more.