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.
[irp posts=”7442″ name=”Sony Xperia XZ review”]
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Hands-on: Best phone of 2018?
Huawei outdoes itself again
In an industry where incremental updates are the new norm, Huawei manages to wow us again — barely a year after the release of the P20 Pro. The Chinese company is back with the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro which might just be the best among the best this year.
In this video, we go over the phones’ new designs, updated cameras, and new memory card format. We also go through the differences between the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro.
Huawei Mate 20 vs Mate 20 Pro: What are the differences?
Price isn’t the only factor
Huawei has once again launched two flagships phones at the same time; one comes with a Pro moniker, while the other does not. Like before, there are some significant differences between the Mate 20 pair to take note of.
One obvious difference is in their displays. While the Mate 20 Pro goes for a notched 6.39-inch 1440p curved HDR OLED display — certainly a mouthful — the regular Mate 20 has a 6.53-inch 1080p RGBW HDR LCD with a much smaller notch.
The Pro model justifies the larger notch by housing a more complex camera system for secured facial recognition, but if that doesn’t matter to you, the regular variant’s Dew Drop notch may be more appealing — and definitely less intrusive.
In addition, the Mate 20 Pro’s OLED tech allows it to curve the edges and equip an in-display fingerprint scanner. It’s essentially the more modern-looking design of the pair.
Since both models have Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipset installed, pure performance is virtually identical. The Pro and non-Pro also share the same memory and storage configuration of 6GB and 128GB, respectively, although the plain Mate 20 has a more affordable 4GB memory variant available, too.
Another minor difference: The 4200mAh capacity of the Mate 20 Pro, along with the more energy-efficient OLED, provides it with potentially longer battery life than what the Mate 20’s 4000mAh capacity and LCD panel offer.
A more significant advantage for the Mate 20 Pro is its inclusion of a 40W SuperCharge adapter in the package — noticeably better than the 22.5W output of the Mate 20’s. Plus, the Pro version can charge other phones wirelessly using wireless reverse charging tech.
Perhaps, you’ll care most about the difference in camera quality and performance. While it’s too early to make photo and video comparisons, an initial look at specs shows that the Mate 20 Pro may have an edge.
There are three modules in place for the Pro: One is a 40-megapixel main camera, another has 20 megapixels and an ultra-wide lens, and the final unit offers 8 megapixels with 3x optical zoom
As for the Mate 20, its main camera has only 12 megapixels, the ultra-wide shooter settles for 16 megapixels, and the 8-megapixel telephoto camera goes up to only 2x optical zoom.
Despite the larger notch of the Mate 20 Pro, they share the same 24-megapixel selfie camera.
Pricing and colors
This part largely depends on where you reside, but in an ideal setting, all five colors — Emerald Green, Midnight Blue, Twilight, Pink Gold, and Black — should be available for both models.
Pricing is another matter, and it again depends per region. In Europe, the Mate 20’s 4GB+128GB configuration retails for EUR 799 and its 6GB+128GB model goes for EUR 849. The Mate 20 Pro’s sole 6GB+128GB variant costs EUR 1,049, making it more expensive by EUR 250 and EUR 200, respectively.
In Singapore, the Mate 20’s 6GB+128GB setup retails for SG$ 998, while the Mate 20 Pro is at SG$ 1,348 — a difference of SG$ 350.
Huawei Mate 20 series first to have Nano Memory Card
Could this become a trend?
Aside from introducing a host of flagship features to the freshly minted Mate 20 series, Huawei also introduced a new memory card standard, simply named Nano Memory Card.
It’s available on both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, and it effectively replaces the microSD slot we’ve become so accustomed to. The question is: What’s so special about it?
The simplest answer is that it has the same size as the nano-SIM card inside any smartphone today. Because of the identical dimensions, the secondary card slot doesn’t have to be designed differently, like what has been done for microSD cards.
In the case of the Mate 20 series, the removable card tray has back-to-back slots: one for the nano-SIM, and the other for either another nano-SIM or separate Nano Memory Card.
As of writing, Huawei will be offering 128GB and 256GB NM Cards, with speeds of up to 90MB/s. They’re hoping it’ll become the new standard, and are producing adapters for additional compatibility.
It’s certainly a more efficient way of adding physical storage to a handset, and allows manufactures like Huawei to use the saved space for other features, like a large battery.
Looking ahead, it seems only logical for other smartphone brands to follow suit, but that would mean consumers would have to buy into a whole new standard and let go of their microSD cards.
The same thing happened with the introduction of the USB-C port, wherein users had to replace their micro-USB cables for the newer, more intuitive system. It’s been a gradual process, but definitely rewarding.
It’ll take a while before we find out if this will become a trend, but for now, we should appreciate Huawei’s courage in taking the first, big step.
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