Have you heard about how well Sony’s flagship Xperia XZ is doing? Believe it or not, it’s outperforming the likes of the Google Pixel, Moto Z, and LG V20. We can learn something from this.

After the ho-hum reception to the Xperia X Performance earlier this year, the surge in Xperia XZ users in the past three months proves just how badly needed a true Sony flagship is. But how did such an expensive smartphone with little hype and average reviews succeed?

It’s no fluke, and we have seven reasons why.

High-end specs don’t matter that much anymore

We call the Xperia XZ a premium flagship, but looking at the specs sheet, you wouldn’t think so at first glance. Having only a Snapdragon 820 processor (there’s a newer Snapdragon 821 now), 3GB of RAM (you can find as much as 6GB these days), and a Full HD display (lots go up to Quad HD already), this isn’t exactly top of the line.

And yet, all those numbers don’t really matter; this Sony phone does so well with so little. In my time with the Xperia XZ, I’d say it’s as fast as any other Android flagship you could name. It goes to show how important hardware-software optimization truly is.

There must be one signature color

If there’s one thing we learned from Apple’s persistent promotion of rose gold, having one trademark color helps sell phones. Many brands already do this, but they fail to make an impact or actually look good beyond marketing materials.

The Xperia XZ’s forest blue is an exception. Let’s just skip the ALKALEIDO metal mumbo jumbo and say this color looks stunning in all types of lighting. I can’t get enough of the way it reflects light at different angles. My parents normally don’t care about new phones (my dad still uses a Nokia 3310), but even they’re wholly impressed by the XZ’s use of color.

Side-mounted fingerprint scanners are the best

Fingerprint sensors are normally found in front or at the back; Sony has its own method, and for a good reason. Front scanners are tough to reach while holding the phone, and although rear-mounted ones are much more accessible when picked up, they’re covered when laid on a table.

I must say, Sony’s implementation is the absolute best. It can be touched no matter where the phone is placed, and by covering a single side, the back and front of the Xperia XZ are way more pleasant to look at. This also leaves space for more important features, bringing us to our next point.

People care about legacy features

Useful features we’ve taken for granted are now disappearing in favor of all the new fluff smartphone manufacturers are coming up with. The Xperia XZ manages to keep two of them: a physical two-step camera shutter button and front-facing stereo speakers.

These are highly underrated features which consumers don’t realize are missing until they’re needed. The camera shutter is a must for any waterproof phone to take pictures while its screen is soaked, and a pair of speakers are always, always better than a single piece on the rear or bottom that can easily get covered up.

Price differences don’t matter as much in the premium segment

Somehow, despite costing more than the base Google Pixel or Apple iPhone 7, people still choose the Xperia XZ over its competition. It’s even more expensive in certain regions, so how does it still manage to sell so well?

Apparently, when you get to this price point, adding a few extra dollars doesn’t seem to matter to loyal fans, as long as the experience is worth the expense. The Xperia XZ also came at the right time, just when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 collapsed and there aren’t many clear alternatives.

Trademark aesthetics evolve

Something several manufacturers got wrong this year was either retaining too much of their old smartphone designs (e.g., iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, HTC 10) or going too far in radicalizing them (e.g., LG G5, ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra, Moto Z). This led to same old, same old looks or a complete loss of brand identity.

The Xperia XZ, I believe, strikes the right balance. It’s evolved enough from the Xperia X Performance and Xperia Z5 to call it a fresh design; at the same time, it still has distinct Xperia aesthetics you can recognize a mile away. And in the process, holding the handset feels as good as ever.

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Sony Xperia XZ review