It wasn’t too terribly long ago that, should you want a flagship smartphone as your newest daily driver, you would most likely be limited in your selection depending on your carrier. Carrier exclusivity was very much a large part of smartphone culture just a few short years ago.
The Apple iPhone was only available for AT&T users until 2011; the HTC EVO was the biggest line-up for Sprint customers, and only Sprint customers; Motorola DROID was the selling point for Verizon Wireless users; T-Mobile had the rights to the MyTouch series. It wasn’t convenient, but it’s how things were. Soon enough, however, the “carrier exclusive” mindset started to dissipate. Manufacturers would make similar models under different names for different carriers. Eventually, this evolved into releasing one flagship across most – if not all – carriers. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S, HTC One, LG G, Samsung Galaxy Note, and Apple iPhone are all accessible to customers of each major U.S. carrier.
However, not all manufacturers have done away with exclusives. In particular, Sony has been oddly fragmented when it comes to which phones show up where in the U.S. market. This has always been strange to me considering how popular Sony is as a household name here in the States; PlayStations, televisions, cameras, and other household gadgets are not uncommon here. Their smartphones, however, are.
It’s a shame, really, because the Sony Xperia Z series is definitely able to hold its own against the most popular flagships in the U.S. The latest generations of the Xperia Z line have several features worth mentioning, such as superb battery life, waterproofing, great camera (with physical camera key), and a microSD card slot. Sony is also one of the few manufacturers that take their “mini” flagship seriously; for those of us who still value one-handed phone usage, a smaller smartphone is necessary, and the Compact gives us that without a terrible spec compromise.
The Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3C seemed to have made a bigger impact on the U.S. this year compared to previous generations of the Xperia Z. T-Mobile has generally been accepting of the Xperia Z, but we recently saw the Verizon-specific version of the Xperia Z3, the Sony Xperia Z3v, come out as well. It’s a small step in the right direction; now we have the largest carrier in the U.S. making an effort to embrace Sony’s flagships, even if it is in their own special Verizon way.
With the Sony Xperia Z5 on its way, I once again find myself hoping that this is the Sony phone that will be widely available across all carriers. That seems to be what it takes to get noticed here. You have to be available across the board, or nobody takes you seriously.
Sony puts emphasis on the important aspects of a smartphone that few others do. When I had my Z3 Compact (for the short amount of time that I did, R.I.P.) I couldn’t believe the amount of battery that I was getting out of it. The performance was great, the camera was good, and I was happy knowing that Sony at least put in some effort to protect the device from water – a mortal danger to any smartphone. The Compact was a good size for one-handed use, and the ability to expand my storage with a microSD card is a feature that many consumers still value. I imagine the Z5 will focus, as well as improve, on these same aspects.
In an industry where flagships (more often than not) strive to have the biggest screen or to be the thinness of a credit card, I’m confident that Sony’s flagships have its place. But in order to gain any traction here in the U.S., they’re going to have to figure out how to be available on all major carriers. Last year, two carriers were on board with Sony; perhaps this year is the year we get all four, and that, I believe, is the ticket for Sony to start making headway here.