What’s wrong with Sony Xperia smartphones (and five ways to fix it!)

Xperia phones are broken! I know, a bold statement, but today I’ll try to prove my point. There are many things wrong with modern Xperia phones, and I’ll present all of them methodically to all of you. But first, let me share some background to prove I’m not the run-of-the-mill Xperia hater.

When I was seven years old, I saw the movie series Shogun. Shortly after that, there was a Sony Trinitron ad running for a couple of weeks on the air, and it involved samurai warriors and katana swords. That was it for me, that’s when I became a Sony fan. Somehow, this strange amalgamation of Eastern mystique and cutting edge technology had captured my whole being, and it still captivates me, even today.Fast forward to my 14th birthday. I had been stowing away my daily allowance for more than two years and bought a 14-inch Black Trinitron TV set, coupled with one original Playstation console. The year was 1996. Since then, I’ve owned countless Sony gadgets—Walkmans, phones, portable stereos, tape recorders, cameras, and many more.

You may be thinking, “Okay, the guy is a fan, obviously, so what?” The thing is, if you ask me right now whether or not to put your hard-earned money into an Xperia phone, the answer will be “Hell no!” How come? Today, I’m gonna share my perspective about what’s wrong with Sony Xperia phones and what the Japanese company can do to fix this.

A niche device: Geek days are over, Sony!

The world has moved forward toward simplicity, and geeks like myself, who like to tinker with things, are now a minority. Our modern reality is so complex and information-dense that we just can’t allocate the resources needed to learn how a Pro camera mode on a smartphone works.

We want gadgets to do it for us. Apple understood this back in 2007, but Sony somehow fails to acknowledge it to this day. Sony has tried to cater Xperia phones to semi-professionals and professionals, content creators, and photography enthusiasts, but these people often buy serious pro-grade gear for the simplest of reasons. The price.

How much, again?

Which leads us to the ridiculous prices Sony has been asking for Xperia phones in the past couple of years. The Xperia 1 IV launched at $1,599 back in 2022 and, unsurprisingly, didn’t sell well. You can buy a classic workhorse Sony Alpha 6400 camera paired with a pro-grade 18–50mm objective lens for less money. Brand new.The next frustrating thing is that Xperia prices normally fall like crazy just a couple of months after the initial release. Hello, Sony! What are you doing? I can’t fathom the logic behind this. “We will launch the phone at a super-expensive price and slash 30% after two months.”

It doesn’t work! By that time, people had already forgotten about the phone. We live in the era of 30-second TikTok videos. Which brings us to another genius marketing solution.

Here’s our new phone. You can’t buy it for the next couple of months

The first three generations of flagship Xperia phones were announced three or four months before they were available on the market. The worst case was with the Xperia 1 Mark III, announced in April and available in August.
Again, what the hell, Sony? Are we placing an order for a samurai sword to be forged because it takes just as long? It reminded me of the time we had to wait years for a crappy Russian car during my dark communist-regime past.

It doesn’t help that no US carrier offers Xperia phones, as memory serves since the Z3. Whether this is due to negotiations between the said carriers and Sony or some technical difficulties, I can not say. All I’m saying is that most people buy their phones with a plan and often buy the new model when renewing their contract.

Great hardware, poor user experience

And when the phone arrives, all the bragging about innovation and flagship hardware goes down the drench. Because it rarely works smoothly. The phone overheats, reboots on its own, the side-mounted fingerprint locks itself, and sometimes the proximity sensor, which shuts off the display when you talk on the phone, goes bonkers.I don’t want this to turn into a monumental rant. Don’t get me wrong. I like continuous zoom, it’s a great innovation. I like side-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanners, and I like screens without cutouts or notches. Sony have to make things right, though. To the point of perfection. The Japanese way! It’s an awful feeling to have spent north of $1000 on a phone that feels Beta.

And to be fair to Sony, the company is trying. The new Xperia 1 VI has one camera app, much simpler than the bunch of pro-grade software on previous Xperia phones, which, let’s be honest, less than 0.1% of the users would ever use.

What can be done?

There’s a glimmer of hope, though. I think there are a couple of things that can save Xperia phones and let them escape LG’s fate.

  • The price has to go down! That’s non-negotiable. If you price the Xperia 1 around or under $1000, many people will consider switching and trying all its cool features. The smaller Xperia 5 could be a great alternative at $699.

  • Announce the phone when it’s ready! Another must. The big reveal should happen no more than a week or two before the phone is readily available.

  • Strike a deal with a carrier! I know it’s hard, and Sony might lose money on this, but in the long term, it’s the right move. Otherwise, Xperia will forever remain a niche brand.

  • Sony UI. This may sound controversial, as many people praise the stock Android experience, but hear me out. By inventing its own UI, Sony could not only create a unique and memorable software experience but also spend some time making sure everything worked. Tune the software and the hardware so they work smoothly.

  • Market Xperia devices as “phones for everybody.” Not just creators. Let Xperia be the do-it-all Swiss knife of phones. With the headphone jack, the microSD card slot, and the powerful camera system, it more than qualifies for the job.

So there you have it. I still love Sony and feel passionate about the brand, but it pains me deeply to have a stack of Xperia devices in the drawer while using a plain and mainstream iPhone instead.

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