We’re still waiting for a new flagship phone from Sony, which will surely arrive at MWC, but for now there are some new devices that were shown off at CES 2018. We’ve taken a look at the mid-range Xperia XA2 which also has an Ultra model.
Sony has been somewhat off the pace in the smartphone world for a while and while the XA2 handsets are unlikely to turn this around, they do have a significant feature change for the US market.
Price and availability
We don’t have official pricing for the XA2 phones in the UK. However, they are up for pre-order on some European stores – and these days you can expect the price to be very similar if not identical in pounds.
So, the Xperia XA2 price is 350 Euros, putting it at the lower end of the mid-range, and the XA2 Ultra is 450 Euro. The Xperia XA1 was £229 so this would be a fair jump in price.
In terms of release dates, the Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra will launch in February and will be available from at least O2 and Three in the UK.
Design and build
This is the third-generation XA phone, with the first having no affixed number, and the design hasn’t changed too much. Well not at the front of the phone anyway which looks largely the same.
Sony has actually made the XA2 somewhat bigger than its predecessors, partly to fit in a larger screen.
We like the metal casing and the slightly rounded ‘loop surface’ shape to the device which accounts for the thicker 9.7mm size. However, it’s a little on the heavy side at 171g for a relatively small handset. The reason, largely a bigger battery, is a good reason at least.
There might still be bezels above and below the screen, but this is a relatively cheap phone and like the previous generations, the screen really does go edge-to-edge and looks nice in this respect.
Sony is well-known for making waterproof phones, but this isn’t something that’s trickled down to the XA range yet. Instead, the firm is seemingly holding it back as one reason to spend more on a Z range device.
What the XA2 introduces for the first time, is a fingerprint scanner. Something we’re used to seeing on phones of even budget prices. Although Sony has built this into the power button on the side of some phones – something we really like – it sits on the back below the now central camera on the XA2.
Interestingly, these are the first Sony phones to have a fingerprint scanner in the US market.
Overall, it’s a nice if unremarkable smartphone, but you’re getting nice design and build for the price and we prefer the XA2 to the much bulkier and more unwieldy XA2 Ultra.
Like usual, Sony offers the phone in four colours: this time you can choose from silver, black, blue and pink. The silver option will be exclusive to O2.
Specs and features
A slightly tweaked design is followed by a number of upgrades to make the XA2 more desirable than before.
Starting with the screen which is not only slightly bigger at 5.2in – pretty small for today’s standards which will be a boon for some – but also finally jumps to Full HD, which is the bare minimum for a mid-range phone.
It doesn’t use a modern 18:9 aspect ratio but as mentioned earlier, does go right up to the edges of the phone on either side. The display looks good enough at first glance and also feels nice thanks to the slightly curved glass front.
If 5.2in is simply too small for you then Sony has the XA2 Ultra which might take your fancy at a much larger 6.0in.
Inside the Xperia XA2 is change from MediaTek to Qualcomm with a Snapdragon 630 – an appropriate chip for a mid-range phone. We’ll test performance properly when we get a review sample, of course.
Other core specs remain the same with 32GB of internal storage and 3GB of RAM. Both of which are expected and reasonable for the price and there’s a microSD card slot as per. The XA2 Ultra has the same processor but 4GB of RAM and the option for 64GB of storage.
Moving on and the main camera sticks at 23Mp with largely the same specs, but a jump in video recording to 4K which is nice. At the front is another 8Mp camera but the aperture has oddly dropped to f/2.4. Preliminary shots on the show floor look ok but we need much more time to give a verdict on photography.
Although the XA2 Ultra has the same rear camera, a reason to choose the larger model might be the dual-front cameras. One is 16Mp with optical image stabilisation (OIS) while the other is 8Mp with a wide 120 degree view so you can fit more in.
The only other hardware upgrade to mention is a larger 3300mAh and Quick Charge 3.0. The battery size – up a full 1000mAh – is the main thing here, accounting for the extra weight and should mean longer battery life.
Lastly, it’s great to see the new phones come with Android 8.0 Oreo which is the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system.
As with previous phones, Sony offer a largely untouched Android experience but with some useful additions. For example, Xperia Actions and Tips help optimise your settings and give you personalised hints.