Every phone has a thing. The iPhone’s thing is simply that it is an iPhone. The Pixel’s thing is that it’s the hardware tip of Google’s giant software iceberg. Samsung’s Galaxy can synthesise a grotesque cartoon version of your head and animate it like a dead-eyed sock puppet.
OnePlus is the plucky indie outsider and critical darling, like a pop-up food stall with a queue around the block. Huawei is the weird kid who glowed up over summer break and came back to school in September with a notch. You can squeeze an HTC phone, for some reason.
The Xperia XZ2 stands out by letting you create a full 3D scan of your own face, which the software appears to gradually sculpt out of a virtual ball of throbbing green clay. Once you’ve captured your soul inside the device, you can view your face from any angle you please, rotating it and zooming in and out as though you were inspecting a vintage Pog. It’s strange, but undeniably a feature that’s unique to this phone. Well done Sony, I think.
What else does it do that no other phone does? How about something Sony calls Dynamic Vibration, which makes your phone pulse, tingle and rumble like a DualShock controller during games, music and movies. If you suspect all that vibrating would feel like having a cracking Jacob Rees-Mogg tweet go viral while you’re trying to watch Westworld, you’d be totally correct. Dynamic Vibration is sometimes irritating, always unnecessary, and got my battery anxieties all flared up.
But it’s once you get past the look-at-me novelty features that Sony’s latest flagship starts to impress. It has a decent enough still camera, but envelope-pushing 4K HDR video recording capabilities. That’s actually a higher resolution than the phone’s screen is capable of displaying, so you’ll need a big telly to watch your videos back in all their super-crisp glory.
Its slow-motion camera, pioneered on last year’s XZ Premium, has an improved resolution too, shooting at a super-slow 960 frames per second in Full HD (that’s 1080p, beating out the Galaxy S9’s 720p).
The XZ2 is definitely too slippery to hold, threatening to fly from your hand and out the nearest window at any moment.
Design-wise, Xperia phones have always been one or two laps behind the competition. Whereas rivals have gone full screen, previous Xperia handsets have embraced the bezel, celebrated it even, by making them big, bold (and optionally gold). With the XZ2 it feels like the worst of both worlds. The bezels are still there, but muted, and diminished, as though ashamed of themselves in this new and superficial bezel-averse world. But it’s still a slick, neat looking phone up front.
The swollen, curved glass back feels dated however – place it on a table and you can spin it like a top – and the XZ2 is definitely too slippery to hold, threatening to fly from your hand and out the nearest window at any moment.
And for £699, there are better Android phones around. You could have a notched Huawei P20, with a better display and camera. This is likely why Sony were handing out free PlayStations with pre-orders, an offer that’s sadly no longer available to new customers.
Alternatives aside, the XZ2 is still a confident phone that won’t disappoint, and is absolutely the phone to go for if you really need to see what your head looks like from behind.