2020 was a pretty good year for Sony. Aside from its next-gen console and excellent headphone launches, the brand unveiled a couple of compelling smartphones too. The high-end Xperia 1 II catered to the premium media crowd, while the Xperia 5 II distilled the formula down to something more affordable and mainstream. Both are notable improvements over Sonyâ€™s previous-generation handsets.
Sony has its hands full keeping up with the pace of PlayStation 5 orders at the moment. But aside from more stock of its new gaming machine, thereâ€™s plenty more we want to see from the Japanese giant in 2021 too. Speaking of the PS5, weâ€™re focusing on Sonyâ€™s phones and other tech products here. Stay tuned for our dedicted PlayStation wishlist very soon.
1. A finely polished Xperia 5 II
The Sony Xperia 5 II made our top five smartphones of 2020. Itâ€™s a solid buy for customers searching for a balance of price, features, and a slimmer form factor. If youâ€™re a media lover or mobile gamer, itâ€™s even more appealing. The Xperia 5 II is a better buy for most consumers than the more expensive Sony Xperia 1 II. It verges on great but has a few small issues that Sony could really do with patching up in 2021.
My gripes with the Xperia 5 II mostly center around the phoneâ€™s various pieces of software. While its clean Android interface is great, the inconsistent theming, settings, and features across its extra apps are unpleasant. Similarly, with the cameras, the Pro app is powerful if not a little convoluted, while the standard app is missing some very basic features. I also wouldnâ€™t mind some more cutting edge camera hardware, AI smarts, faster charging, and sticking with the headphone jack. A marginally more competitive price point wouldnâ€™t hurt either.
Despite this, the Xperia 5 II is Sonyâ€™s best phone in a long time. Itâ€™s worthy of the success that has long eluded the brandâ€™s recent phone efforts. More of the same, with a few small tweaks, and Iâ€™ll be very excited for the Xperia 5 III.
2. A top of the class camera phone
While weâ€™re making a wishlist for next-gen Sony smartphones, weâ€™d really like to see the brand push its photography capabilities to compete with the industryâ€™s very best.
While the Xperia 1 II and 5 II take some great pictures and offer some best-in-class processing, their hardware isnâ€™t quite on the cutting edge. Sonyâ€™s triple 12MP sensors offer consistency across lenses and features like continuous shooting, rather than its bleeding-edge sensor technology. Sony Semiconductor designs the IMX range of image sensors used by most smartphone brands. That includes the 50MP IMX700 used by Huawei P40 series and the 48MP IMX689 found in the Oppo Find X2 Pro â€” two of 2020â€™s best shooters. Weâ€™d like to see Sony put its best sensor hardware into a next-gen Xperia handset.
Between in-house Sony sensors, its high-end Alpha brand, and Zeiss lenses, the company has a lot of photography technology to leverage. A real photography powerhouse from Sony in 2021 would be quite exciting.
3. PlayStation Now for Android
A shiny new console generation may have nabbed the spotlight from cloud gaming services. But taking your games with you anywhere is still likely to be a core part of the next-gen experience. Lots of companies already have their own take on cloud gaming. The list includes Amazon Luna, Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, Xboxâ€™s cloud gaming beta with Game Pass, Steam Link and Cloud Play beta, and Sonyâ€™s PlayStation Now.
Many of these services are still in development, but the general trend is to support as many devices and platforms as possible. PlayStation Now is currently supported on PS4 and Windows PCs. Support for general web browsers would be a good next step for a wider range of PC platforms. However, weâ€™d really like to be able to play PlayStation titles on our Android smartphones while weâ€™re out and about. Make it happen, Sony!
A tie in with future Sonyâ€™s Xperia smartphones seems like an easy advertising win too. So far, however, aside from temperamental remote play support, Sony hasnâ€™t leveraged its PlayStation brand for modern smartphones.
4. Market those phones
Tech enthusiasts may follow and even like Sonyâ€™s latest smartphones, but the general public is pretty much in the dark. The companyâ€™s handset advertising strategy is surprisingly quiet. This is especially true when compared to its PlayStation and headphone marketing department. Despite its position as a major tech brand, consumer awareness of Sony handsets is significantly behind Apple, Samsung, and even Google in some markets.
Part of the problem is that Sonyâ€™s phone sales are pretty small compared to most of its competitors. This makes it hard to justify a big advertising budget. Of course, Sony has its audio, gaming, and other multimedia endeavors that it could leverage. Either way, weâ€™ve seen smaller brands and upstart companies grab industry attention with a fraction of the Japanese companyâ€™s resources.
Sonyâ€™s smartphones are increasingly worth our consideration, and it would really help if potential consumers knew they existed.
5. LC3+ audio support
Sony headphones are some of the best in the business. Weâ€™re obviously keen to see further improvements with the anticipated Sony WF-1000xM4 and eventually the successor to the best selling Sony WH-1000XM4. However, great hardware is just part of the audio equation.
A lesser talked about but equally important audio feature we want to see is support for Bluetooth SIGâ€™s latest LC3+ audio codec. While this is somewhat in competition with Sonyâ€™s proprietary LDAC codec, LC3+ promises a notable boost to audio quality over Bluetoothâ€™s current default SBC standard. Support would give consumers a choice of high-quality Bluetooth audio options, ensuring support for a wide range of playback devices.
The new Bluetooth LE standard, which incorporates LC3+, also supports true wireless earbuds, lower power consumption, and broadcast audio for audio sharing. The latter allows anyone to share audio with an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth devices.
You tell us: What do you want to see from Sony in 2021?
2020 was a pretty good year for Sony and weâ€™re hoping for even greater things in 2021. But thatâ€™s enough from my wishlist, now we want to know what you think! Fill out the poll below to let us know what you most want to see next from Sony.
If thereâ€™s anything else youâ€™d like to see from Sony over the next twelve months, drop us a line in the comments section below.