The phone Sony needs to make
Sony turned it all around with the Xperia Z5, making up for the lacklustre Sony Xperia Z3+with a far more stable phone, which also benefitted from a fingerprint scanner and a new camera.
Yet we can’t help but feel that Sony could have done even more. There are still missing features and undercooked specs and there’s only so many times the company can wheel out essentially the same design, even if it has been increasingly polished.
So we have a long and demanding wish list for the Xperia Z6. But it’s a tough market and if Sony wants to sway people away from the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 it needs to make the very best phone it can.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Sony’s next flagship
- When is it out? Possibly June
- What will it cost? Likely around £550/$835
News and rumors
So far little is known about the Sony Xperia Z6, but early rumblings are promising. For one thing it could apparently have a completely new design, with metal playing a big role. The Sony Xperia Z5 and most other Sony flagships have a metal frame with a glass back, so perhaps Sony will be ditching the glass and going all-metal.
Other early rumors include a Snapdragon 820 chip, which is exactly what we’d expect to see given that it’s likely to be the main flagship processor of 2016.
The Xperia Z6 is also said to have a 5.2-inch screen, just like the Xperia Z5. There’s no real news on what the resolution will be, but what it apparently won’t be is 4K, despite Sony introducing that resolution on the Xperia Z5 Premium.
So in all likelihood we’re looking at either a 1080p or QHD screen which may benefit from 3D Touch-like technology if rumors are to be believed.
There are also a few things we can take a good guess at, like that the Xperia Z6 will probably have a 23MP camera, given that Sony only just upgraded the sensor for the Z5, and that it will once again have a fingerprint scanner.
We’d wager it will be dust and water resistant as usual too, though if Sony does change the design it’s possible that it won’t be.
Release date rumors are thin on the ground, but one source claims the Z6 will land in June, with another tipping the Sony flagship to arrive in October.
What we want to see
1. A new design
Sony has been using essentially the same design on all of its flagships and most of its other phones for years. They have a very rectangular look and in the case of the flagships a metal frame with a glass back.
It looks pretty nice, and back when Samsung was still churning out plastic flagships it could even be considered one of the better designs. However, it’s never been mentioned in the same breath as recent Apple or HTC designs and with each year it gets a little staler.
So we’d really like to see a completely new look for the Sony Xperia Z6. If early rumors are to be believed our wish might be granted, as Sony is apparently going to use a new metal-heavy design for it.
2. An improved UI
There was a time when Sony’s interface was pretty good compared to the competition, but while stock Android and rival UI’s have evolved Sony’s has stayed much the same.
It has a slightly dated look, a cramped keyboard and often comes bloated with apps. It’s in real need of an improvement and hopefully will get one soon. The closer to stock Android it gets the better as far as we’re concerned with Sony – unless it can come up with something really revolutionary.
3. A better screen
The Sony Xperia Z5 doesn’t have a bad screen at all, but at 1080p it’s been dwarfed in resolution by rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4.
Pushing the resolution on the Xperia Z6 up to QHD could be the answer, but only if it makes a real difference and doesn’t harm the battery life too much – and surely Sony can manage it, given it’s stuffed 4K into a smartphone?
Failing that perhaps Sony could improve the screen in other ways – making it stronger like the Moto X Force or more vibrant like Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays for example. Anything to give it an edge.
4. Three-day battery life
Sony’s flagship phones tend to have good battery life, often boasting up to two days of life. But that doesn’t pan out if you’re using the phone heavily.
At a minimum we’d love to see two-day battery life when you’re actually taking advantage of all the features a smartphone has to offer, but better yet we’d love to see three days of life. With most 2015 flagships struggling to last a single day Sony could have a huge advantage if the Z6 can stretch to three.
5. Plenty of power
The Sony Xperia Z5 uses a Snapdragon 810 chip, which, overheating issues aside, is a powerful processor. But the Xperia Z3+ used the same chip and had the same amount of RAM, so the Xperia Z6 is in need of a substantial upgrade.
Fortunately, an upgrade is just what we’re likely to get. The smart money is on the Z6 packing a Snapdragon 820 chip, which should be significantly more powerful than the 810. Hopefully it will also get a RAM boost too to tip it over the 4GB mark.
6. Wireless charging and USB Type-C
Sony packed a lot of features into the Xperia Z5, but it lacked both wireless charging and USB Type-C support, which are two things we’d really like to see in the Sony Xperia Z6.
If we don’t see them then the company risks getting left behind by rivals – although metal bodies make wireless charging a real hassle.
7. Better speakers
Sony clearly wants its Xperia range to be media marvels, given the Hi-Res audio support and front-facing speakers. But those speakers aren’t quite up to scratch, especially compared to the BoomSound ones on the HTC One M9.
So there’s work to do here. While smartphone speakers will never come close to even a decent set of portable ones it would be great if the Sony Xperia Z6 has good enough ones to use in a pinch.
8. 3D Touch
One of the early Sony Xperia Z6 rumors is that it will have pressure sensitive screen tech along the lines of the 3D Touch feature found in the iPhone 6S.
It’s not completely unbelievable given Apple and Huawei already do it and it could be the next big thing. It could also be a good direction for Sony to go in helping the Z6’s screen stand out if it doesn’t want to up the resolution, so it’s something we’d like to see.
9. Better waterproofing
Water and dust resistance is one of the main selling points of Sony’s flagships. But despite Sony often taking its phones into pools and lakes when marketing them, the Xperia Z5 should apparently not be completely submerged or exposed to sea water, salt water, chlorinated water or liquids such as drinks.
So in other words while you can use it in the rain most other water-based activities risk voiding your warranty. That’s a shame and we’d love to see a fully waterproof Xperia Z6. One which can be submerged indefinitely and even taken into the sea would be great.
10. A big new feature
More and better, that’s the minimum that we expect from any new flagship. But for the Sony Xperia Z6 to really impress and really compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 andHTC One M10 it could do with a killer new feature.
One that we’ve perhaps not seen before or at least not seen much of. It could be 3D Touch, as mentioned above. Or perhaps an iris scanner that’s faster than a fingerprint.
Maybe Sony will go mad and give us a foldable phone with a holographic screen. Probably not that last one, but hopefully something awesome.
Or, if not, then at least maybe charge a little less for the Sony Xperia Z6. The Xperia Z5 was meant to launch at £599 (about US$920, AU$1,249), but even after a pre-release price drop to £549 (about US$843, AU$1,144) it was still one of the most expensive phones around