[MWC 2019] First look at Sony's new Xperia phones

At MWC 2019, Sony introduced the Xperia 1 flagship, as well as the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus mid-range phones, all with 21:9 CinemaWide displays. While all of the devices were on the show floor, the Xperia 1 seems to be too good for ordinary people to try out, so we could only take a look at it without really using it for anything other than the specific demos Sony wanted to show.

The phone does have a pretty nice design though, and this is coming from someone who's typically hated Sony's smartphones. It doesn't exactly stand out from the majority of flagships out there, but the glass back does have some nice colors. The display also looks pretty good, as you would expect from a 4K HDR OLED panel on a smartphone. I've always said that Quad HD is already more than enough for a screen as small as a phone, so I don't really care for the resolution, but it does look good.

As we couldn't really use the Xperia 1, we took a look at the 21:9 display in the Xperia 10 models instead. The quality of the screen and the design are on a completely different level, but it serves to get an idea of what it's like. As you would expect, the 21:9 display is incredibly tall, and it does offer you some more content while requiring less scrolling.

For some reason, Sony was touting its ability to use two apps at the same time in split-screen mode, which just about every modern Android phone can do. Of course, on the new Xperia models, you get more screen real estate for each app, so the experience is a little more enjoyable.

Now, Sony did find ways to take advantage of this and make the experience a little easier for one-handed use. On the side of the screen, there's a small bar which serves as this phone's "one-handed mode" by giving you some shortcuts. This is called Side sense, and it's coming to the Xperia 10 through an update, so it might not be available right away.

You can swipe sideways on the bar to bring up some app shortcuts which the phone learns about as you use it, or you can swipe up to go into split-screen mode, which brings up the list of apps you can open. You'll even get some suggestions for app combinations so you can open them at the same time. Swiping down on the sidebar can also replace the back button of the phone, so you get some functionality right next to your hand.

On the Xperia 1, there's yet another way to open two apps at the same time, which is through Google Assistant. You can use voice commands to ask the assistant to open any two apps at the same time. This is one of the few demos where it's actually possible to interact with the phone, but it wasn't easy to get it to work right because of the noisy environment. When the phone does understand you, though, the feature works as expected.

The 21:9 display on the new phones might also be useful for enjoying media and games with a wider field of view and without seeing black bars on the side. Of course, you can take pictures or record video in that format too, so you can then watch it on the phone's screen. If you actually want to may be a whole other story, since, from our (admittedly short) testing, the camera on the Xperia 10 isn't particularly great.

Possibly my favorite thing about these phones is that Sony is using a pretty clean version of Android, without much in the way of custom skins or icons. This change may not be completely new, but I have usually been the opposite of a fan in regards to Sony's software experience, so I'm really happy to see it. It's also running on Android Pie, so it's fairly up-to-date out of the box.

Changes to the software include a couple of built-in apps and additional features. This includes STAMINA Mode, which is essentially a power saving mode that disables some features in exchange for battery life. It also comes in a supercharged version that goes even further to save even more power. And to keep your battery healthy for longer, there's Battery Care, which adapts charging to reduce the amount of time the phone is at over 90% capacity, since having a full charge all the time can damage the battery.

The Xperia 10 and 10 Plus will be available starting March 18 and they'll cost $349.99 and $429.99, respectively. The Xperia 1 is expected to launch late in the Spring, though pricing details aren't known yet.

Neowin is at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona taking place between Feb 25-28 to bring you coverage direct from the show floor, click here for our other articles at the event.

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