Sony has made some fine smartphones over the last ten years. Arguably, Sony Ericsson/Sony Mobile has been one of the most underrated smartphone manufacturers, with many phones not finding an audience through a lack of awareness/marketing spend. The list below includes what we feel are the most important Xperia phones of the decade.
Curating the list was much tougher than we thought, with a number of phones falling just short of making it, including the Xperia S, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia ion, Xperia ray, Xperia T/V, Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z3+. You’ll notice that we haven’t included any phones from the last couple of years, as in our view a departure of the older design philosophy and a constant trimming of features (removal of headphone jack, losing tap-to-wake, lanyard points, retiring apps etc) lead to the company losing its identity with its most fervent fans.
Anyway, let us know what Xperia phones you think should sit on the podium for the best of the decade. Feel free to chime-in in the comments below.
The most important Xperia phones of the decade
Xperia X10 (2010)
The Xperia X10 is the phone that started Sony’s Android smartphone journey, and with it a sense of exciting new UI in the form of Timescape, which was unlike anything seen before. It felt new and fresh, even though hardware of that time was not enough to do it justice fully. As with many popular Android smartphones of the time, it had a lot of developer support for new custom ROMs. It reminds us of a truly exciting time as smartphones were just beginning to find their power.
Xperia arc (2011)
The Xperia arc to this day remains one of the most uniquely-designed phones. It fit so wonderfully in the hand, with a gentle inward curve that was well balanced in a time of screen sizes that enabled you to reach all parts of a display one-handed. We’d love to see a modern refresh of this design someday, if Sony is listening.
Xperia PLAY (2011)
Smartphone manufacturers have struggled to make a dedicated gaming phone a reality to this day. Yes, you have recent phones with high refresh rates and better speakers, but the Xperia PLAY actually tried to replicate a gaming controller to varying levels of success. Ultimately it was the software that let it down, but it supported a number of games, but none of the AAA titles that the fans longed for. Still Sony deserves credit for trying to push the envelope, in ways that few others have tried in the years since.
Xperia SP (2013)
Some may feel that the Xperia SP is a strange choice on this list, but the SP was one of the best mid-rangers from Sony. It was well-priced, built like a tank (our resident Xperia SP still functions well to this day), and had the fantastic illuminated bar at the bottom which made it easy to see what coloured notifications you were receiving.
Xperia Z (2013)
The Xperia Z is an obvious choice in this list. It heralded Sony’s serious intention in the smartphone wars, and did it with aplomb. The phone created a splash, by being one of the first widely-available phones in Europe and North America that was water resistant. Sony also introduced the magnetic charging connector making it easy to charge with the relevant dock. The phone had the latest hardware in one sleek package with the introduction of the OmniBalance design that became so beloved for Xperia fans all over the world.
Xperia Z3 / Z3 Compact (2014)
It was really tough for us to leave out the Xperia Z2, which was a brilliant all-round package and had some of the best battery life we’d seen in a phone to date at that time. However, it was the Xperia Z3 that took it one step further, adding all what was good in the Xperia Z2 including a two-day battery into a more finesse design (over the more muscly Z2). The Xperia Z3 had some of the best specs in the market at that time and remains one of the best phones Sony produced.
We’ve included the Xperia Z3 Compact too, as it was perhaps the first ‘compact’ phone from Sony that really got widespread traction. The Xperia Z1 Compact started it all, of course, but was less known at the time. The Xperia Z3 Compact had flagship specs in a pocketable package, and was where many started their love-affair with Sony’s Compact range.
Xperia Z5 Premium (2015)
The Xperia Z5 series (and the Z3+) was hindered by the Snapdragon 810 chipset and heating/thermal issues that came with it. This is the main reason why the phones are not on this list, even though in our eyes the Xperia Z3+ is perhaps the prettiest phone that Sony made, and purest example of its OmniBalance design. However, these issues were less apparent on the larger, luscious Xperia Z5 Premium – particularly in its Chrome guise. It was also the first phone to feature a 4K display in any smartphone. Sony’s legacy of innovation continued in the Z5 Premium, while the difference that a 4K display made on such a small screen is debateable, it was great to see Sony continuing to push hardware boundaries.
Xperia XZ1 / XZ1 Compact (2017)
Some argue that the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact were one of the last great flagships that Sony produced. We would have to concur, both phones had brilliant specs, and were the last to sport a 3.5mm headphone jack. By this point, wider media was pointing to a stale design with large bezels, when many others were trying to make them as small as possible. This made many overlook the phones, but they remain some of Sony’s best all-rounders before Sony changed the design and started to remove features, such as the headphone jack. We’ve a soft spot for both phones, and it’s great to see so many fans still using the phones to date.