Oh my days. We’ve got a Sony phone in the office. This is new.
Sony seem to have a problem that none of us can really pinpoint. Think about your next smartphone purchase and you’ll probably think Samsung or Huawei. You may even think about Xiaomi, Honor or OnePlus.. but Sony?
Yeah.. I’m not entirely sure either.
I mean, when I took the Xperia 10 out of the box it definitely struck me as being different. This has a very thin appearance compared to other smartphones and it’s got a look that says, “I don’t need a case” too.
It’s thin and has a 6″ Full HD+ screen with a 21:9 orientation, which explains that slim appearance. Sony have done this so that the movies you watch in the cinema fit onto the screen properly, and although that’s lovely it does feel slightly odd in the hand. Sony also want you to record videos in this format so you get the “same feeling”, but let’s be honest, people still mostly film in portrait for some odd reasons, so that might be lost on many.
The screen though, is a bright and crisp affair. Sony have a strong heritage with their display panels and you really can’t argue with the quality of it.
Also, for your movie streaming, you get crystal-clear and high-resolution audio thanks to crazy technical goodness like DSEE HX and LDAC.
In addition, they’ve dropped something in called “Side Sense”. This lets you double tap the right side of the screen and access menu items, applications and more. It makes it slightly easier to use the device with one hand and means you can get into those regularly-used parts of your phone without stretching your thumb too much. That’s needed on a phone with these dimensions.
You can also also reduce the size of the display so that it’s easier to use with one hand.
Around back there’s two cameras, a 13 megapixel and a 5 megapixel. The latter will do the background “Bokeh” blurring affect on those portrait shots and should result in some lovely and artistic DSLR-style photos. The 13 megapixel has a wide-angle lens and the 5 megapixel has a more normal lens. It’ll do HDR, Hybrid Autofocus, plus there’s the Sony screen adding the Image Enhance Technology. You also get SteadyShot, 4K video recording and 5x digital zoom.
Other specs include NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0 and WiFi.
I do have to mention again that, after reviewing a number of phones recently, this phone does feel slightly “alien”. Most handsets that I test are all about that screen and maximising it. It has to fill every last millimetre of the front. Here, none of that. Sure, don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely screen. It’s Sony, after all, but there’s just over a centimetre at the top which is just housing a earpiece and selfie camera. I’ve not seen that much in recent years.
Let’s talk a bit more about that design, because it does have an industrial feel to it. This one is a matt black but there’s a blue, grey and pink version too. It’s not trying to be too shiny or polished, instead the matt finish goes round the sides and the back, with only that front section being a shiny plastic.
The phone is a mere 68mm wide and then a tall 156mm high. It’s 8.4mm thick.
On the right, as the matt finish curves around the edges, there’s a fingerprint sensor (which I should just call a “thumbprint sensor” due to it’s positioning), the volume controls and the power button. To call these “understated” is perhaps being generous. They’re thin and not exactly noticeable, however this seems to be the way of it in 2019 and many other smartphones have similar setups.
Part of me wants that fingerprint / thumbprint sensor to be on the back though.
Up top, ye olde 3.5mm audio port and the noise-cancelling microphone. To the left, the SIM-card tray which also has a microSD slot.
Down low, the USB-C port and twin speakers.
Running Android 9, this is a relatively untouched device. The CPU and the memory are perhaps lower than a lot of other smartphones out there. Again, comparing to some of the other phones I’ve had across the desk, this comes with 3GB of RAM. The Asus ZenFone (which sells for £499) has 6GB minimum, so 3GB seems a bit pale by comparison.
The Xperia 10 has 64GB of on-board storage, although you can (and you probably will need to) put in a microSD card as mentioned before.
The CPU, again, not the fastest one in the world. I’ve not had any major issues but you could almost feel that lack of power management that is so obvious in processors like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. The battery ran down a little quicker than I would’ve liked. Yes, there’s Stamina Mode and Ultra Stamina Mode, but both of these disable parts of your phone in order to prolong the battery life.
The OS is a very slick and polished affair, with the only additional app being “Xperia Lounge”. The Google apps were all neatly organised into a folder which slid into view when clicked.
As is usual, it has all the Google goodness and you can sync your life with the mighty Google cloud. There was also a nice Support application – this lets you keep your phone in trim, with a storage cleaner, app checker, system check and so on.
There’s also a full user manual and you can run a batch of tests on your phone.
The on-screen keyboard is SwiftKey, although you can easily swap this out with Gboard if you wish. With both of these you can type as normal or swipe words across the screen.
The speakers at the bottom give a slightly hollow but well-rounded and loud sound.
There’s the distance-shifting Bokeh cleverness we mentioned earlier, plus you can do object tracking, slow-motion capture in video, portrait shots and there is also a “creative” mode where you can add a range of filters to your photos.
To get the 13 megapixel images, you’ll need to keep it in 4:3 square mode. Switching it to 16:9 drops things to 10 megapixels. You also get a stack of options here including location tagging, whether to use the volume key as zoom or a shutter (or just volume).
I took a range of shots on the camera and, I’ll give Sony a big tick on this, the camera and the screen is a winning combination..
Tricky one this. There’s no denying it, this is an excellent phone when it comes to the cameras, the screen and the GUI. It’s a different form-factor, that’s for sure, but I’m not going to berate them too much for that as there’ll definitely be lots of you out there who will love the tall and almost remote-control-like appearance of this device. However, what I will say is that, in this world of “all screen” phone frontages and multiple use cases, it’s a hard sell for Sony to say, “We’re doing this complete letterbox design because that’s how movies are formatted”. Sure, movies look great on the phone and there’s no black bars, but what about for the rest of the time, when your thumb doesn’t reach high enough and you have to employ one of those work-arounds that Sony has put in place to let you use the phone with one-hand?
The CPU and memory specification feels like Sony are lagging slightly, especially with such hot competition and entry-level phones coming close or beating in those areas. The battery-life on that 2870 mAh unit didn’t quite cut the mustard.
That all said, this is still a solid and beautifully-crafted handset which produces excellent photographs and has some brilliant audio capabilities.
It’s priced about right too, currently for £299.99. For that you get 3GB RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 CPU which should do you for up to 2.2 GHz (it’s an 8-core 64-bit CPU).