Sony Xperia XZ2 - equal parts awesome and frustrating

So, when the Sony Xperia XZ2 was announced, I was excited.

Sony was going to have fingerprint sensors in a sensible location, I really enjoyed the mid-range XA2 Ultra, and then not only having some top end specs, it also comes with Qi charging.  Qi is such an underrated feature.

I wanted to try it out.

Receiving the phone came with its own hype too, Sony knows how to showcase.

Taking it out of the box it was as sleek as a sports car.  Shiny, curvy ...

I will say this about the XZ2 after I started using it.

It's equally impressive as it is frustrating.

Now, mind you, the frustrating portion is really just tiny little inconveniences, but it's enough to really draw away from the awesome that it is.  So, at the end I'll address how they could be overcome.  And maybe for you, it's fine; but for me, for an $1100 phone I don't want to have any inconveniences.

On to the review:

So, for $1100 what do you get?

5.7" 2160x1080 (HDR10 capable)
Snapdragon 845
2.7GHz x4 + 1.7GHz x4
64GB storage + microSD
19MP (f/2.0, 1/2.3", 1.22┬Ám)
5MP (f/2.2, 1/5")
Android 8.0

Not a bad roundup of specs.  I was a little upset it wasn't QuadHD+, but you really don't notice, to be honest.  Only when I would compare it to something of QuadHD ... but for my own viewing, it was hard to feel like I was missing out on something.

The 5MP selfie seemed low, but I don't use that much anyways.

Let's go around the device.  It's smooth and sleek.  The outer ridge is a metal and it is smooth, with the little bands here and there.  You'll notice the SIM tray and the USB-C on top and bottom respectively.  No headphone jack (there's an adapter in the box, should you need it).

You will note there's a tiny notch at the bottom of the front display where the speaker is housed, meaning this will provide true stereo.  Stereo is another one of those features you underestimate.  You don't think much of having it until you get something in stereo and go "OH YEAH".  And Sony does sound right.

There's a volume rocker at the top right, the power just slightly lower than the midway point, feeling just a little oddly placed for what I'm used to (I often mistook the volume- for power).  And there's the dedicated camera button way at the bottom right.

The back is a very very subtle curve/dome to it.  It feels a little odd in the and can be slippery (more on that later).  The size is just right.  Not too large, not too small; however, the slippery feel makes it a bit of a complicated feel.

The fingerprint sensor is located just slightly above the middle point of the back, which is lower than I'd expect.  In fact, I thought it was broken at first, and it turned out I was pressing the camera lens.

A couple warning signs with the slipperiness and the placement of the sensor... no biggie.

So, let's plop in my SIM.  I like how it's able to be opened just by getting a nail under the lip of it and pull it out.  No having to go find a pin.

And here's the next 'sign'.  Again, it's being a bit of a perfectionist, but the SIM tray felt a little ... flimsy.  Like it looks like there's a bend in the tray that may snap.  It doesn't, it's perfectly fine, but the impression is there.

Doesn't help that when I want to put it back in the phone that I have to remember which way it orients (that's the plus of the pin... easy to see where it lines up to), feeling like I may be forcing it upside down that it might snap at that bend point.

It doesn't, it's fine.

Then you turn it on for setup.

It's a standard set up.  In the end, Sony has a lot of apps that they include for you.

bonus here is that they're optional to install

That's a screen just of the pre-installed non-Google apps by Sony.

You'll see some are stand alone apps that probably should be bundled in... like the AR, Bokeh and 3D camera.  Video player and Movie Creator should be in Gallery.

And that doesn't include the fact SwiftKey is the main keyboard (I swapped that to Gboard pretty quickly).

The launcher is typical, even has Google "Now" on the far left.

The app drawer is horizontal sliding, and customizable.  Personally, I get rid of it and sort alphabetically, and let my customizing happen on the homescreens.

Playing around in the settings there are some neat features too.  Nothing is too hard to find.

Chief among the features is their Xperia Assistant 

The idea is that it sort of acts like Google Assistant but for features on your phone.  Neat, but I'm hardly often opening up my phone and going "hey, how do I turn on battery care mode... oh Sony..."

Now and again it'll pop up and have a new tip or trick for you.  It's probably really handy for the newly initiated into Android or Sony realm.

The big gimmick I find is the new Dynamic Vibration setting for the phone.

If you've used a Playstation with their ... what was it, Dualshock controllers, you'll know what I mean.

In apps that access the sound, you can have an option for it to have vibration during lower frequencies.  Off / low / medium / high

Kinda cool for games.

Not so cool for when I'm scrolling through Facebook and one of those video plays and my phone starts to buzz.

Weirdly, not every app has it.  Don't know what triggers it or not.

The next gimmick inclusion is their 3D scanning app.  I'd seen it in a  previous Sony device, but could never get it to work.

This time I gave it a shot.  They make you do a bunch of testing first on some items.  Like you have to do a selfie scan before you can do a foodie scan, before you can do a face scan before you can do an 'item' scan.

I have to say, it's a gimmick, but it's pretty cool.

It takes a lot of practice.  I've given it several dozen tries and even still haven't gotten the hang of it.

You have to have a really steady hand and a true feel for ensuring you stay the same distance from your subject at all times.

That scan of the beer wasn't so good.

The selfie scan was better.  Creepy, but better.

Neat thing is you can upload the file to Sony's cloud and they can 'improve' it.  Essentially smooth it out for you.

The sad part is that once you have it.. what can you do with it?  You can share it from the app to a 3D printer, or include it in the Sony AR stickers (my son was not happy to see himself as a dancing elf).

Otherwise, there's not much else you can do.  Google Photos won't 'recognize' it, and if I share it to Google Drive, it goes as a .zip file.


About the only thing you can really do with it is share it to Facebook as one of their 3D posts.

Kinda neat.

I still have to play around as I haven't been able to do a full head scan, always too many issues.  It starts to become one of those 'why bother' because it's so tricky.

Okay, let's get on to the camera.

Typical camera stuff.  I won't get into their AR or other tricks they have, I've covered them before.

I have to say, other reviews out there of the device have given it subpar rating on the camera, whereas I was really impressed.

Sure, indoors, slightly less light it's average.  But we went out on Mother's Day for a hike and the photos were gorgeous.

I even played with the 'bokeh' effect they have. You can access it from it's own icon, or from the camera app.  Essentially, let it take 2 photos and it'll figure out the right amount of blurring.  You can adjust for vertical, horizontal or radial blurring.

It's neat, but ... can't compare to Google's Pixel, especially for speed.

Now the one thing I've noticed with Sony over the years is a tendency for the phone to get warm when in the camera mode.  More so than any other OEM out there.

It wasn't bad here, but I did have some issues when I wanted to use it for a video.  Nice we got to shoot it in HDR (keep in mind that some things may have issues playing it back), but there were some glitches that caused me to have to reset the phone, and after doing about 8 takes of about a minute each, the phone was really hot.  I thought it was fine, but my friend was a little concerned.

Video looked great - by the way...  Maybe Sony will let me keep this one and shoot all my subsequent videos with this phone.

One neat feature I really liked was the 'predicted shot' feature.  Whereas the Pixel does 'auto motion' with pictures, the Sony will take a shot or 2 just before the shutter is pressed, giving you a few options to choose from.

Great for when your subject is someone like my son, that as soon as the camera is on him will move.

Okay ... I've been really impressed with the device.  

It's got a great camera, it's got some neat features.

Did I mention the display?  It's an amazing display actually.  Sure it's not QuadHD, but it's stunning, it's sharp and all around great.  Sony does know displays. So kudos to them on this one.

The battery has been great.  Qi is a great addition to the phone so that I never have to worry about getting the charger out.  Just plop it in place and away you go.  Even without that, I don't think I've ever run into a day of use where I used it normally, hadn't been charging it, and was concerned about how much juice it had.

On to the niggling bits.

First up is the system/notification tray.

So, there's SO much in the system area that it limits how many notifications it can show.

Sure, I could not have it in silent mode for the vibrate icon to show.  I wish there was a way to hide the NFC, but the only way would be to turn it off, so no tap to pay them.  I could turn off the battery percentage, but I'm a numbers guy.

That VoLTE is a real space stealer, and do I REALLY need to have it there?  

The worst offender, and what really gets my OCD fired up is that any time there's an upload/download, the icons appear next to the WiFi or LTE signal.  And when it's done, they go away and everything shifts. Then something happens and they reappear and shift things over again...  really annoying.

There's no real fix for this problem.  You just have to live with it.

There are 6 notifications available in that screen... but I can only see 2, and the ... means there's more.

So frustrating.

The next thing and probably THE most annoying thing with the phone is the slipperyness.

It's holding it you feel that it's slippery.  You can't squeeze too hard or too loosely.

You have to watch how you put it in your pocket and sit down, it'll want to slide right out.

I can't put it on my couch, or some side tables.  It'll just slowly slide away... move away on its own.  Even without notification vibrations going on.

Sitting it on the Qi chargers I have, the NOMAD hub it just slides away and will eventually no longer be in the right position (it is a little particular where it is), and even my dodocool charger that's angled with a bit of a sticky ring isn't enough for it, it just slides and slides.

The WORST thing that can happen to a phone for me is to get a small nick or scratch on the screen.  And I have never been clumsy with my phones, but I have dropped or had this phone fall off of smaller ledges more often in the 2 weeks than I have EVER had in other devices... combined.  So it has a couple tiny scratches that just stare at me now.

Sure.. I could get a case, but if you know me, that's like ... not what I want to do.  But, gotta protect the device.  Sad that the 'official case' from Sony isn't readily available (eBay has it for $90 but other places for like $50... it's hard to find).

So, I could find a case I like, but then I can't do anything about the eye-twitchingly bad system tray.

It's not deal breakers, but it just goes to show you, it's hard to find a 'perfect' phone.  You can't have it all.

Now, I'd be entirely remiss if I didn't mention some very cool tidbit of information about the Sony.

Recently, at Google I/O 2018 they released the Android P Beta 2nd developer preview, and instead of just keeping it to the Pixel, they let it out for several other devices, including the Xperia XZ2.

I'm going to switching back to my Pixel 2 XL after this ... even tho the pros outweigh the cons, the cons are just too ... 'there' for me to ignore.  I'm very particular.

However, hopefully, Sony will let me keep this for an extended review period as I give this Android P a swing around.

Anyways, that's my review.  It was really a yo-yo of a review period.  So much to love, but just being held back by seemingly inconsequential issues ... yet there they were for me.  Maybe they won't be there for you and this will be a perfect device for you.