Sony Xperia XR: Rumours, release date and everything you need to know

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It might come as a surprise to Sony Mobile fans, but the company’s next flagship isn’t going to be called the Xperia Z6.

Sony announced a new range of smartphones at MWC back in March called the X Series, as well as confirming in a statement that the “Z line has reached its culmination” and the “X series represents a new chapter”.

We’ve been tracking rumours about Sony’s next flagship handset – formerly known as the Z6 – for some time. Here’s everything we know or think we know about Sony’s future flagship.

The next Sony Xperia flagship is rumoured to be coming in the second half of 2016. The company announced the Xperia X Performance at MWC, featuring flagship specs, improvements on the Xperia Z5 and a luxurious metal design but it wasn’t pitched as the next Xperia flagship, keeping the door open for a Z5 successor.

The Xperia Z5 was announced at IFA 2015 so we would expect the next SonyXperia flagship to appear at IFA 2016 in September. The Sony press conference will be on Thursday 1 September so expect to hear more details then.

With Sony confirming, via a rather circuitous route, that the Z family of devices has reached its end, there will be no Z6. A benchmark leaked for a handset called the Z6 but we are taking this with a pinch of salt rather than a sign that the Z name has risen from the dead.

There has also been a leaked device appear under the name Sony Xperia F8331, but if this is the new flagship, it’s likely the name will change before launch. Leakster @OnLeaks has suggested the name Xperia XR, and although he claimed the name was still to be confirmed, that’s what we are going with for this feature.

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Just like its release cycles, Sony has been pretty consistent with its design, especially across the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3+ devices. Yes, things got a little slimmer and overall a little better looking, but the general scheme of things remained the same.

The Xperia Z5 changed things up a little, moving away from rounded edges to flatter and squarer. A fingerprint sensor was added to the signature side power button that changed shape from circular to a flatter oblong and overall, theXperia Z design improved significantly.

The Xperia X series takes the Z5’s design and runs with it. The rear material moves from glass to metal and the result is fabulous. The OmniBalance design remains intact, as does the side fingerprint sensor on both the X and X Performance but the new design gives Xperia a new lease of life.

It looks like the new Xperia flagship could change things up again though. Theleaked images of the Sony Xperia F8331 that has appeared on GSM Arena acouple of times show a device that again features the same OmniBalance design but the top and bottom of the device are flat, while the sides are much more rounded than any previous Xperia devices. It also looks thicker but it’s hard to tell from the photos and it might also be an entirely different phone altogether.

The leaked device features a brush-metal finish and a new camera layout, including a dual-LED flash. There is also USB Type-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack on board. The site has recently published more images of the device, further reiterating the new layout on the rear.

OnLeaks has also tweeted some renders of what appears to be the same device as the one featured on GSM Arena. He calls it the Xperia XR, as we mentioned, and he claims it measures around 146.4 x 71.9 x 8.1mm.

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Display is an area Sony stuck to its guns with when it came to the Z series. While many of its competitors hopped on the Quad HD bandwagon, Sony continued to opt for Full HD for its 5.2-inch Xperia Z5 and previous devices. The only place it changed things up was the Xperia Z5 Premium whereby it skipped 2K altogether and went straight for a 4K resolution.

Will the Xperia XR have a 2K display? Well if it does, it would go against everything Sony has been saying for the last couple of years. It’s always said that at that size, you wouldn’t be able to notice the extra pixels per inch and customers don’t want to trade battery life for display resolution, so we suspect a 2K display is unlikely. The X Performance improved on the Z5 in other areas but the display remained at Full HD.

It might be that Sony will need to play the numbers game to stay in the game, in which case a 2K display kind of needs to happen to stay in the same boat as competition from LG and Samsung. That said, the X series launched with Sonyfocusing on design, camera and battery life so higher resolution displays are not something Sony sees as vitally important features of a smartphone.

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The slightly lower-specced XA did launch with an edge-to-edge display though, which was beautiful despite being 720p. To see the Sony Xperia XR arrive with the same edge-to-edge display but with a Full HD or Quad HD resolution would be amazing. Based on the leaked images on GSM Arena though, it looks like the next Xperia flagship will remain at 1080p and feature a standard display, although rumour has it the display will be slightly larger than the X Performance, with GSM Arena claiming 5.1-inches.

There were also rumours suggesting Sony will introduce its version of a force touch display, like Apple and Huawei both did in 2015. Pressure sensitive displays allow users to perform quick actions or various tasks based on how firmly they press the screen. It’s a technology that is becoming more discussed so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Sony introduce it for its next flagship.

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The Sony Xperia Z5 saw the rear camera jump from the 21.7-megapixel sensor, which was introduced on the Xperia Z1 and remained for the succeeding devices, to a 23-megapixel sensor. Sony made slight adjustments to incremental devices, such as a wider angle lens and software updates, but the sensor itself stayed the same until the Z5.

Given that it took a couple of years for the sensor to change, we don’t expect things to change again for the Xperia XR, especially as the Xperia X and X Performance both feature this sensor. We’d place our bets on the same 23-megapixel rear sensor but with the addition of the Predictive Hybrid Auto Focus at the very least. This feature tracks and predicts movements in order to ensure moments aren’t missed. It launched on the X series but we expect it to be a feature that will move onto the next flagship too.

It also looks like the Xperia XR could see a change in layout of the rear camera, as well as introduce a dual-LED flash, as we mentioned previously. It’s been claimed both cameras will be capable of 4K video recording, which would mean the front camera would have to be at least 8-megapixels.

The Xperia Z5 comes with a 5-megapixel front snapper but with the X and X Performance both offering 13-megapixel front snappers with ISO 6400 sensitivity, we expect to see the same in the next Xperia flagship, perhaps with a few extra software enhancements.

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Sony is one of Qualcomm’s most loyal fans. From the Xperia Z1, Sony opted for the chip manufacturer’s latest processor each time, even when some of its competition went down their own routes for 2015 following overheating concerns about the SD810.

Sony followed the same path for the X series, with the top-of-the-range X Performance featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip. GSM Arena claims the leaked F8331 device will come with the SD820, which is what we would expect. It was suggested by Digitimes that Sony will start producing its own processors for its smartphones like Huawei and Samsung have done in the past but we can’t see that happening. We’d expect at least 4GB of RAM though as this would fall in line with competition.

The leaked benchmark of the apparent Z6 shows a MediaTek MT6595 processor with 4GB of RAM but we’d be surprised to see Sony move away from Qualcommfor its next flagship, even if it opts for MediaTek for its mid-range devices. Although the 4GB of RAM is definitely plausible, the benchmark still refers to a device that Sony has said won’t exist so we wouldn’t use it as confirmation for anything at the moment. It also claims the software on board is Android 4.4.2, reducing its legitimacy even further.

We suspect there will also be a big focus on battery as that is an area Sony really thrives in and an area the company were keen to promote in the new X series. The X Performance has a 2700mAh capacity but this will probably increase for the next flagship, especially if the display is larger than the X Performance’s 5-inch screen. Based on the leaked images and information from GSM Arena, it looks like we can expect USB Type-C, as we mentioned.

We are confident that microSD support will be on board the new flagship too asSony offers this on all its recent smartphones. Sony has previously offered 16GB and 32GB internal storage capacity options, although as Android 6.0 Marshmallow allows you to combine the internal and microSD storage, the 32GB might not be necessary. We would certainly be surprised to see anything above 32GB if microSD is on board. The X Performance comes in one variant offering 32GB, which indicates the next flagship will do the same.

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The next Sony Xperia flagship will come with Android Marshmallow and it will more than likely have the company’s bloatware over the top.

We’d love for the extra apps to be reduced slightly and perhaps offer it in a less-so-in-your-face way, like Motorola do, but this probably won’t happen.

So what do we expect from the next Sony Xperia flagship? Well, we’d say an IFA 2016 release date is likely, as is the continuation of the OmniBalance design but with the metal build found on the new X series.

A pressure-sensitive display seems like a reasonable suggestion, but we aren’t convinced it will happen and we’d place our bets on Full HD over Quad HD. An edge-to-edge display like the one on the Xperia XA would be lovely to see, though unlikely and we will certainly put money on the SD820 processor making an appearance, as well as a side fingerprint sensor.

We don’t expect many hardware changes for the next Xperia flagship’s rear camera, but we do expect to see the 13-megapixel front snapper from the X and X Performance appear along with a few software changes. We will update this feature as more rumours appear so keep checking back for the latest on the speculation surrounding the next Sony Xperia flagship.

(pocket-lint.com, http://goo.gl/TNbJxs)

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