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Why the Sony Xperia 10 might be my favorite smartphone of 2019 (seriously)

By Douglas Black , last updated on July 6, 2019

The Sony Xperia 10 and 10 Plus initially caught some attention due to their uncommonly tall aspect ratios, but in terms of specs the phones quickly fell victim to tough mid-range competition.

The Sony Xperia 10 was released in February 2019 to little fanfare. Initial excitement for the device’s design was mostly quashed by the confirmation of more of its details — mainly the small 2870 mAh battery, two-year old Snapdragon 630 chipset, and $350 USD MSRP. The phone received almost no coverage by the major YouTube review players (Sony is notoriously poor at community management and marketing), and written reviews were sparse and fairly critical: A 6.0 from DigitalTrends, 3.5/5 from both TechRadar and TrustedReviews, and a withering 2.5/5 from PCMag. However, the Xperia 10 is far and away my favourite smartphone of 2019. Allow me to explain.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way, first. The Xperia 10 has mostly worse specs than its competition at both its initial ($350) and current ($300) price points. Reviews frequently compare the Xperia 10 to the Moto G7, which admittedly costs over $100 less despite packing a newer Snapdragon 632 chipset, facial recognition, and a slightly larger battery — and then there are the Xiaomi Poccophone and Mi 9.

Pricing aside, the performance isn’t always flawless (especially on the 3GB version, so make sure you get the 4GB one if you decide to buy), the camera isn’t going to win any awards in speed or quality, the battery won’t last you more than a day, and the button placement is a bit frustrating.

In fact, in terms of daily use, the buttons are probably my biggest gripe with the phone. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor (my favourite location for one) does not double as the power button like it did on the Xperia Z5. The power button is instead located just above the fingerprint sensor, leading me to constantly keep pressing the sensor trying to turn on/off the screen until I remember that the buttons are separate. Below that is the volume rocker, which is decidedly too low on the device, causing me to have to shimmy my hands downward in search of its location every time. Finally, the dedicated camera button, which has long been a highlight of the Sony phones, has been given a miss.

It’s a smartphone. It fits in your hand. It has a 3.5mm jack and microSD card slot. (Image credit: GearOpen)

However, there is something very important about the phone that I think many professional reviewers (and thus, consumers) have missed out on: the daily experience of actually using it. To be precise, it actually fits in your f%&@ing hand and into your pocket(!). It isn’t made out of slippery glass that works its way out of your hand and chips and cracks when it does so, either. It has a microSD card clot. It has a 3.5mm audio jack. And again, it actually fits in your hand and is comfortable to hold and use. I cannot understate how pleasant it is to have a phone that does not make itself an ungainly bulk in my pocket, that does not demand two hands to use, that doesn’t require constant shuffling and stretching of my fingers to perform every single action.

While some have criticized the plastic build of the phone, I have to say the poly-carbonate chassis feels outstanding in the hand. It’s got a slightly rough texture to it, and alongside the compact width of the phone (2.68 inches), it feels absolutely sublime to hold on to despite the 6-inch 1080p x 2520 IPS display. Unlike the ungainly wide-bodied phones most other manufacturers are putting out, the 21:9 aspect ratio means that despite having a 6-inch display, the phone remains comfortable to use and easy to handle. No, it isn’t amazing for playing games or watching movies, but it’s absolutely fantastic for multitasking, allowing a good-sized YouTube video at the top and a full chat window plus keyboard at the bottom.

Do you ‘member when phones were phones? When they weren’t larger and larger computers demanding every waking second of your attention? When companies like Google, Facebook et al. were not solely intent on holding your dopamine receptors hostage in order to keep you as distracted from the real world and on your phone as much as possible? It may or may not have been intentional, but Sony has shown that they (kinda) ‘member.

To be clear, I am not recommending the Xperia 10 to everyone. If you use your phone for hours a day to play games, watch complete movies, as a semi-professional DSLR-replacement, or as your main computing device, the Xperia 10 will fall short for you. If this describes you, more power to you; I don’t mean this article as a slight against power users who need their smartphones to be as close to a fully-fledged notebook as possible. It’s just my take on a unique product being put out in a more and more cynical and consumer-hostile market than I’ve seen in decades.

Sony may have missed the mark on making a phone quite as as compact and eminently usable as their old Z1, Z3, and Z5 Compact series, but the Xperia 10 is a compelling argument for people who don’t want to be distracted and disrupted by a giant metal and glass time-vampire too unwieldy to even be put away. Sony didn’t communicate it in their press, but I think the Xperia 10 was made people for want their phones to be phones. It isn’t the cheapest, fastest, or feature-packed phone in its class, but I don’t think it’s trying to be.

If you are as tired of giant, $1000 USD phones lacking basic features like 3.5mm audio jacks or expansion card slots as I am, consider going out on a limb and giving the Xperia 10 a shot.

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Based in Hong Kong, Douglas Black is a veteran editor of Notebookcheck, university lecturer, researcher, and writer.

10 Comments

  1. Surya

    May 6, 2019 at 6:15 am

    Pretty much how I feel about this phone bought only to see if I could go from iPhoneX to the Xperia 1. I haven't noticed any disadvantage coming from the iPhone and don't feel I would need to upgrade to the Xperia 1 in a hurry.

    I got the Xperia 10 plus 6gb model and am very surprised that it hasn't had more traction all the comments of being to tall don't make sense I feel comfort wise it does not warrant the exagurated negativity.

    • V2fftb

      May 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      I can't help but feel that most of the companies are focusing on "good phones". Whatever they are making, they are just making good phones, with good battery or processing power or camera… Sony is one of the very few companies who has its focus on "good experience". Apps like what's new, lounge, AR effects, 3D scan… They are so underrated. People should at least give the Sony experience a try.

      • Douglas Black

        May 6, 2019 at 3:35 pm

        I think this is an astute observation. Though, I find it quite ironic that I'm surprised when a brand called "Xperia" actually does care about the user experience. I think Sony has not done a good job of explaining that.

    • Douglas Black

      May 6, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      Glad to hear! I got the phone from a tech journalist buddy in Aus who bought it to see if he would like to go to the Xperia 1 as well; he ended up liking the 10 enough to take the plunge for the Xperia 1.

      I think it's half that the Xperia marketing team in many regions is asleep at their desks, and half that the big tech youtubers are used to smartphones that are the size of tablets. They are so deep in the tech that perhaps they forgot what it's like to just use a phone.

  2. Boris Goldberg

    May 6, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Thank you very much for this thoughtful and interesting review! It's worth to read.

  3. Lex

    May 6, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Agree 👍

  4. Ian Cooper

    May 6, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I have the 10 plus 6gb ram in gold really like it

  5. PATRICK MANGOLD

    May 6, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Want to try one LOVE SONY

  6. Anthony

    May 7, 2019 at 2:04 am

    I have the experia xz and bought it mainly for the ip rating, as I work on job sites, I have dropped it over 3m off scaffolding,it's been dropped into a bucket of water used it in the rain and nothing has affected it, not chipped or scratched, the only 2 things that are a down side are battery life and speaker volume(being a Sony I thought it would be made to play music) if the 10 is as good or better than the xz I know what phone I will be replacing it with 8/10 from me

  7. Darrien

    May 27, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    It's not bad, but 2870 mAh kills it…

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