Sony has unveiled its 2018 challenger, the XZ2. So should you buy one, or upgrade to the iPhone 8 instead? We answer this and other big questions.
It costs $799 in the US.
Features & design
Apple stuck with the existing design for the iPhone 8, but switched to a glass back to allow for wireless charging.
The XZ2 marks a departure from Sony’s previous squared-off design, which many owners loved. Now, there’s a curved glass back and slightly curved front glass, too.
When many flagship phones now have tiny bezels, it’s slightly odd that Sony hasn’t gone down this route: the XZ2’s top and bottom bezels are only a little smaller than before.
Of course, when compared to the iPhone 8, that isn’t a problem since it too has giant bezels top and bottom.
Sony has placed the single camera in the centre on the XZ2 and the fingerprint sensor sits below it. You also get a single camera on the iPhone 8: it’s only if you opt for the bigger iPhone 8 Plus that you get a dual-camera setup.
Having a glass back looks good – and the XZ2 looks great when the light catches it – but it does add to the risk of expensive damage if you drop it.
Sony has fitted a 3180mAh battery in the phone and the larger-than-average capacity could be one reason why it’s 11.1mm thick. That’s unusually fat for a modern flagship, but it’s no heavier than the iPhone 8 Plus.
Like the iPhone, the Xperia will also charge wirelessly using the Qi standard and is similarly water resistant. Another similarity is that Sony has removed the 3.5mm headphone jack so audio must be output either via Bluetooth or the USB-C port.
A difference is the microSD slot which can be used to expand the on-board storage by up to 400GB. Naturally, the iPhone is not expandable: you choose 64- or 256GB when you purchase.
Xperia XZ2 vs iPhone 8 Specs Comparison
Here are the key specs in a handy table:
|Specification||Xperia XZ2||iPhone 8||iPhone 8 Plus|
|Operating system||Android Oreo 8.0||iOS 11||iOS 11|
|Available colours||Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Petrol Blue, and Ash Pink||Gold, Silver, Space Grey, Red||Gold, Silver, Space Grey, Red|
|Display||5.7in (2160×1080, 423ppi) IPS||4.7in Retina HD (1334×750, 326ppi) IPS||5.5in Retina HD (1920×1080, 401ppi) IPS|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||Apple A11 Bionic, M11 co-processor||Apple A11 Bionic, M11 co-processor|
|Primary camera||19Mp, f/2.0, 1/2.3in Exmor RS||12Mp, f/1.8, 5x digital zoom, quad-LED flash||12Mp wide-angle, f/1.8 + 12Mp telephoto, f/2.8, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, Portrait Lighting, quad-LED flash|
|Front camera||5Mp, f/2.2||7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video||7Mp FaceTime HD, f/2.2, 1080p video|
|Video recording||4K HDR||4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps||4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps|
|Fingerprint scanner||Yes, rear||TouchID built into Home button||TouchID built into Home button|
|Connectivity||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5|
|NFC||Yes||Only for Apple Pay||Only for Apple Pay|
The XZ2 is Sony’s first phone with an 18:9 aspect ratio screen. Resolution is 2160×1080, which isn’t the highest, but is plenty for its 5.7 inches.
It has Sony’s Triluminos branding, which is also used on its TVs, and supports HDR content. Sony says it can up-convert any content to “near HDR” and from our short time with the phone, it certainly looks good.
Borrowing from another of its products – the PlayStation – Sony has put a Dynamic Vibration System in the XZ2. It’s a bit like the DualShock 4 system but instead of rumbling when there’s a gunshot or car crash, it analyses the music or audio from a video you’re watching and vibrates to let you ‘feel the action in your hand’.
Frankly, it’s hard to view this as anything other than a gimmick, but it might prove compelling for some people.
Completing the entertainment system are the front-facing speakers which are louder before and can produce a slightly wider range of frequencies. We still need to assess these properly in a quiet room before we can compare them to the iPhone 8’s stereo speakers.
As we’ve said, you’re unlikely to buy the iPhone 8 on design as it looks like every other iPhone of the last few years. However, it’s worth noting that both small and ‘Plus’ versions have TrueTone displays, so their colours should look ‘right’ no matter whether you’re outdoors or indoors under artificial lighting.
They also both have 3DTouch, which is an advantage if you get into the habit of using it. If not, it’s just another feature you’ll never notice.
The bad news is that the 4.7in iPhone 8 still has the same low 750p resolution as ever. And although it’s a decent LCD display, it’s not great considering the high price.
If you know anything about recent Sony phones, you’ll know it sells the cameras hard. So it’s strange that yet again there’s just one lens on the rear of the XZ2.
That means no depth effect for portrait photos with blurry backgrounds, at least in the stock camera app. A Sony representative at MWC rather unhelpfully suggested owners should download another camera app if they want bokeh.
However, the 19Mp camera does have a few tricks to beat the iPhone 8, among other rivals. For one thing, it can shoot slo-mo clips at 960fps. And unlike its predecessor, it can do so at 1080p rather than 720p.
The iPhone 8 manages 240fps at 1080p, and the Plus version has a second lens for 2x optical zoom. This second lens also enables Portrait mode for those DSLR-like shots, plus Apple’s recently introduced Portrait Lighting.
Although both versions of the iPhone 8 have optical stabilisation, the 4.7in one – like the XZ2 – has no Portrait Mode.
The Xperia XZ2’s second trick is recording 4K video in HDR and a third is that the selfie camera now supports the 3D scanning of the rear camera. Ok, so it’s arguably another gimmick but it’s there nonetheless.
In terms of actual photo and video quality, it’s too early to say much about the XZ2. Early impressions are good, but we need to test it properly (and not in a poorly lit demo room) to say if it bests the iPhone 8.
The iPhone 8 has fantastic cameras, especially as you get that optical stabilisation even on the small version. Videos look great even if you’re walking while filming, and they sound great too.
Some people get frustrated about the lack of any camera settings on Apple phones, but that’s the beauty really: you need only point and shoot to get reliably great pictures. There’s no need to fiddle around with options.
There are plenty of 2018 flagship phones which use the new Snapdragon 845, so Sony’s phone isn’t unique there. It means the XZ2 is sure to be a great performer, which is exactly what you’d expect anyway.
The iPhone 8 has the A11 Bionic chip, which is the same used in the iPhone X. Its performance is nothing short of stunning, and iOS 11 runs very quickly indeed with the kind of fluidity you’ve come to expect from the latest Apple phones.
This is despite having half the RAM that you get in the Xperia XZ2, but then again, Android Oreo feels equally responsive and slick on Sony’s handset.
We still need to run our benchmarks on the Xperia, which is when we’ll also find out how it fares when playing games.
Battery life is another area that’s likely to be very similar. We’ve yet to use the XZ2 long enough to get an accurate idea of whether you’ll have to charge it every night. It could end up closer to the longer battery life offered by the iPhone 8 Plus. If you go for an iPhone 8, you’ll be charging it every night unless you use it extremely lightly.