Opinion: Sony Sets The "Premium" Standard For Smartphones

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"Premium" is a term thrown around all too generously these days and you'll hear and see manufacturers use this term for their latest smartphone offerings. Sony even adds the word premium into the name of some of its smartphones. Not all smartphones are created equal, though, and in accordance with the "redefining premium" concept, Sony really does set the standard for what a premium smartphone really should be. Yes, Sony's devices are more expensive, and yes Sony's devices do not always come with the absolute latest features compared to some of the other high-end phones they're competing against. But the absolute latest tech and features does not make a premium smartphone, nor does just loading up a device with high-end hardware and slapping on a premium price. Premium should be equated with the entire package of the device being a well-rounded, top-end experience for the consumer, from top to bottom and from every aspect of what the phone offers, regardless of whether or not it is best in class in every single way.

To break things down, Sony offers its high-end (premium) phones at a high cost. The Xperia XZ2, for example, is $800 in the U.S. which is by no measure inexpensive. You're getting quite a bit though for that high price tag and it can be argued that all or most of it helps the device become a premium product. Price tag aside and using the Xperia XZ2 as one example, the phone comes with some of the best hardware specifications, so it does offer the user who chooses to pick one up what other devices considered as premium will have included as well. More than that though, the Xperia XZ2 isn't just high-end specs. It melds those with a fantastic design that doesn't just look good, it feels good in the hand and is comfortable to hold for hours at a time. Furthermore, many of Sony's past devices were extremely comfortable to hold for longer periods as well and they looked just as good. The nice thing about the Xperia XZ2 is that Sony changed up its design language so it's one of the first devices that has broken away from a design Sony used for so long, which only adds to its premium label.

One area where Sony really doesn't get enough credit is its software. Its implementation of Android and the user interface that you interact with is top-notch and intuitive. Using it is a smooth experience and short of the Pixel which comes with as pure Android software as you can get, it's the most stable software available. It's also easy to navigate and the performance of the device feels better than many others in large part due to the software, which does have a touch that is uniquely Sony, but for the most part is pretty close to Google's vision for pure Android. Therein lies one of the reasons why the Xperia XZ2 feels premium, and when it comes right down to it, is premium – The software is a really great user experience. The performance is up there and the software just feels smooth, and it's not loaded up with tons and tons of features. That isn't to say that Sony doesn't include some of its own apps and touches, it does, but it's not over the top and there isn't a plethora of apps or services at your fingertips which you'll never use.

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Speaking of software, and while it may be a little more niche than anything else that makes Sony's devices premium, the PS4 Remote Play gives those who own a PS4 something that you won't get from any other phone. The ability to play PS4 games on your phone by way of linking it to your PS4 console. Not everyone is going to want to buy a Sony phone because of this, but those who play PS4 often and would like the capability to play their games remotely definitely should consider a Sony phone because of this feature. Even without it Sony's devices are top of their class (although severely underrated because of the stigma that bleeding edge specs and features make up a premium device) but the PS4 Remote Play feature just helps to make Sony's devices that much better, adding real value for consumers.

Sony's smartphone division may not be in the top three list of vendors when it comes to OEMs. Sony's PlayStation division, however, is doing extremely well. There are loads of PlayStation 4 owners out there, many of whom love and play their consoles on a daily or weekly basis, so it stands to reason that there are a lot of smartphone owners who could benefit from the Remote Play option that Sony offers on its smartphones. It might feel gimmicky to some, but make no mistake it actually has value and it functions rather well. This, of course, may vary if you have a less than desirable internet connection, but if your Wi-Fi is fast and the connection is strong, then you should have no issues.

On a more general level, that perhaps speaks to a wider user audience with the software, Sony is one of the manufacturers that has been working with Google keep its devices involved with the latest software. It's one of a small number of brands which are enabling the Android P beta, the Xperia XZ2 being the device in Sony's lineup which is included, and although this is the only Sony phone so far which is a part of the beta program, there could very well be more down the line. This isn't the first time Sony's phones have been included in the Android beta program either. Back in 2016, Sony was pushing the Android 7.0 Nougat beta software to its devices in November of that year, just a month after Google unveiled the Pixel and Pixel XL with Android 7.1. The point is Sony has had a continued commitment to its phones in regards to new software as early as possible, while also trying to ensure that users are getting a stable software experience that functions properly. Sony's phones may not be the top-selling, and may not have the most bleeding-edge features.

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What they do have is great design that even with having stayed very similar all the way up to last year still looked good. They have user-friendly intuitive software that offers meaningful features and apps, like the Lifelog app which analyze and break down how much time you're spending doing certain things ranging from sleeping to walking to even playing games on the device, giving you a snapshot of how much you're interacting with your phone, well before all the features started popping up this year attempting to show you how much screen time you're getting with your phone. Sony's phone's also have dedicated hardware camera keys. Not all users rely on their smartphone for their photos, but a majority likely do, and there's no denying that having a dedicated camera key which, when pressed, activates the camera, while pressing it again will snap the photo, not to mention simply adjust the focus when only pressed with half the pressure.

Sure, there are apps which can open up the hardware keys on most devices and let the user customize them to launch whatever they wish. These are useful too, but Sony incorporates this function for the camera out of the box as the camera has always been a focal point even if its cameras were not rated at the very top. Sony was also one of the first brands to start incorporating water and dust resistance into most of its phones, something which most people would find invaluable today. Sony may charge almost as much as Samsung for a high-end device that may have a couple specs that are considered less high-end, but as a total package, Sony's phones are also more well-rounded and functional, cutting out what you likely don't need and offering things that will actually be of use, while still looking premium. Sony might not be the best-selling phone brand, but its phones do offer a premium user experience, look premium, and in most cases come with premium specs, and therefore should be considered a premium standard.