Many expected a successor to the Xperia 1 to manifest at IFA 2019 but the compact Xperia 5 made its debut instead. Now, despite the cancellation of MWC, Sony is pressing ahead with the launch of its new 2020 flagship, in the Xperia 1 II.
What is the next Xperia flagship called?
As was popping up ahead of its official reveal, the Xperia 1 II signals a new naming convention for the company's smartphone family. It's joined by Sony's new premium mid-ranger, the Xperia 10 II, which serves as a single device to follow on from both last year's Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus.
For clarification, while it might read as "Xperia one, two," Sony is actually borrowing this new naming methodology from its camera division, where entrants like the Alpha 9 have released under the same name across multiple years/generations. As such, the Xperia 1 II is officially called the "Xperia 1 Mark 2".
Confusing? A little. Makes sense? Sort of. Good, now let's look at what the phone can actually do.
When will the Xperia 1 II be released and how much will it cost?
Sony launched the Xperia 1 II (along with the Xperia 10 II and Xperia Pro) via live stream on February 24, around the time it would have held its launch event at Mobile World Congress (were this year's trade show not snuffed out by the increased risk of Coronavirus).
As for when the new flagship will hit stores, Sony cites a late Spring arrival. For comparison, last year's Xperia 1 didn't go on sale until the end of June.
With pricing still under-wraps for the time being. European pricing has been confirmed, with the only version offering 8GB RAM and 256GB storage for €1200. We'll update this piece with UK pricing once it's made available to us.
What are the Xperia 1 II's best new features?
Sony is doubling down on the enthusiast-appeal that it placed on last year's Xperia 1, targeting five main user types: cinematographers, photographers, cinephiles, audiophiles and mobile gamers.
First off, the triple 12-megapixel camera setup from last year makes a return, with some minor hardware tweaks, like a larger, wider 24mm (versus 26mm) main sensor sporting an f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilisation, a longer 70mm telephoto sensor (also with OIS) and there's a 16mm ultrawide once again.
The main hook with this new sensor setup is the phone ultra-fast autofocus, which the Xperia team developed in partnership with the Alpha 9 camera team, based in Tokyo. The focus area has been expanded to 70% of the frame and such camera smarts now also extend to making this the first phone with 20fps autofocus and auto-exposure-tracking burst shooting.
The company's real-time Eye-AF tracking, which previously tracked human eyes/faces now also works on pets too. And to help the whole system pull off these impressive photographic feats, Sony has also added a new 3D iToF (the 'i' is short for AI-assisted depth sensing). Dual photodiode sensor technology also allows in 50% more light than previous, so low light shooting should be improved too.
Like the Cinema Pro app introduced last year (which now offers greater control over frame rates, white balance and integrates an intelligent wind filter) the Xperia 1 II now also includes a Photo Pro app, which more closely mirrors the user experience and control setup of the company's prized Alpha cameras (namely the flagship Alpha 9).
Beyond stills and video capture, the Xperia 1 II once again offers a sizeable 6.5in 'CinemaWide' 21:9 4K HDR OLED display, albeit with the addition of what Sony is calling 'motion blur reduction'. In essence, this is Sony speak for a 90Hz refresh rate, similar to the OnePlus 7 series (excluding the base OnePlus 7) and Google's Pixel 4 line.
Despite not reaching the same level of buttery smoothness as Samsung's new 120Hz displays on its Galaxy S20 line, Sony is the first to release a phone with such a high resolution and refresh rate combination.
Some more technical enhancements to the screen setup include a custom white balance control that should be powerful enough to satiate the colour calibration needs of professional photographers (in Sony's own words), as well as white point adjustment.
The jack is back. In a surprising twist for a 2020 flagship, Sony's is reversing gear on its decision to nix the humble 3.5mm headphone jack, restoring it on the Xperia 1 II. Users will be able to enjoy conventional wired audio, along with dual front-facing speakers, tuned audio developed in collaboration with engineers at both Sony Pictures and Sony Music, and 360-degree 'reality audio' with supported tracks from services like Tidal.
An enhanced gamut of other audio smarts, including Hi-Res audio support, Hi-Res audio wireless support and DSEE Ultimate upscaling for both wired and wireless (able to improve 44.1kHz up to a much as 192kHz) is also onboard.
5G, performance and battery
To round out the Xperia 1 II's lead features, it, like most 2020 flagships, it comes powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 865 chipset, and by association, also packs in Qualcomm's X55 5G modem - making this the first 5G phone in Sony's lineup.
Oddly, the aforementioned Xperia Pro benefits from both sub6 and mmWave 5G support, while the Xperia 1 II only swings for the former. At this stage in the evolution of 5G, most users are unlikely to notice the absence of mmWave but it still seems strange that it didn't make the cut.
Performance when gaming benefits from title-specific optimisations (on titles such as Call of Duty Mobile), a tweaked Game Enhancer experience, better touch response around the edges of the display and continued native DualShock 4 support.
That 865 comes accompanied by just one SKU consisting of 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, along with a new (larger) 4000mAh battery that supports the company's existing adaptive charging technology, as well as wireless charging and fast charging.
Sadly, Sony isn't bundling a fast-charger in-box but the phone does support up to 21W PD fast-charging, promising 50% charge in 30 minutes.
The phone is also IP65/68 dust and water-resistant and arrives in three colours: black, white and purple.
Read next: Best New Phones Coming in 2020