Bottom line: The Sony Xperia 10 is an interesting phone. It brings some good value to the mid-range smartphone space, with the highlight feature being its 21:9 display. This makes supported videos pop and allows for some truly unique experiences, but it also makes the phone really difficult to use with one hand. If you want an even larger screen and upgraded specs, the Xperia 10 Plus is also worth a look.
- Great build quality
- Truly unique display
- Android 9 Pie
- Headphone jack and expandable storage
- Supports all major U.S. carriers
- Difficult one-handed use
- Weak external speaker
- Iffy cameras and battery
Sony Mobile's presence in the U.S. is not great. Despite releasing some truly solid phones, the company has failed to make much of an impression in the country and has taken the back seat in both the flagship and mid-range space.
In 2019, Sony has a plan to make a comeback with something no one else is doing — 21:9 displays. The company's Xperia 1 (opens in new tab) flagship is the most exciting of its latest releases, but for customers on a budget, we have the Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus. The handsets have a lot of the pros and cons you'd expect in this price range, so is the super-narrow screen enough to make it stand out as a worthy option over its competitors? Here's our full review.
Sony Xperia 10 Plus (opens in new tab) ($350 at Amazon)
More powerful specs with an even bigger screen.
For a bit more money more, the Xperia 10 Plus is equipped with a larger display and more powerful specs. The faster processor, extra RAM, and bigger battery are all nice touches, as is the camera which captures more true-to-life photos. The larger screen is great for watching videos, but for everything else, it can sometimes be a bit too tall.
Sony Xperia 10 Let's talk about that display
If there's one reason why the Xperia 10 manages to stand out from everything else being offered, it's because of its display.
In 2017, smartphones with taller, narrower displays debuted with the 18:9 form factor to replace the aging 16:9 one. This has become common on most new releases in 2019, but with the Xperia 10, Sony's using a 21:9 setup. Sony's reasoning for the super-tall design is that it allows for better multitasking, more immersive movies, and enables you to see more content on the screen at once.
On the note of multitasking, the taller display does give you a bit more room when running two apps side-by-side. Things still feel a little cramped, but it's probably the best split-screen experience you'll find on an Android phone. Sony also likes to really push that the screen allows you to see more of individual apps at once, but compared to phones with 18:9 displays, I found the differences to be marginal at best.
Where the screen really shines is with videos. When watching something that's natively shot in 21:9, the experience is incredibly immersive and really does feel like something special. I don't watch a lot of movies on my phone, but if I was going to, I'd want it to be on a screen like this. Not only do you get to see more content on the screen, but it the wide canvas it creates in landscape mode really pulls you into what you're watching and almost makes the Xperia 10 feel like a little movie theater. It really is something special.
Unfortunately, 21:9 content is tough to come by. If you watch a lot of videos on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc, more times than not you'll get virtual black bars on either side of the clip that pretty much destroy the purpose of having such a narrow display in the first place. You can zoom in to fill the screen with non 21:9 content, but all it does is zoom in on the video and heavily crops the picture. These annoyances are true of 18:9 displays as well, but they're exaggerated on the Xperia 10.
Outside of watching videos, the 21:9 ratio makes one-handed use almost impossible. Sony does have a gesture that allows you to swipe down from anywhere on the home screen to access your navigation bar, but doing so inside apps or trying to reach menus/buttons near the top of the screen usually requires two hands or some fancy thumb gymnastics. As I'll talk about more later on, this is made even more difficult on the larger Xperia 10 Plus.
As for the quality of the display, it's really good. Sony's using an LCD panel with a resolution of 2520 x 1080. Colors are good, text is easy to read, and viewing angles are solid. It's not the absolute best display I've ever seen, but for the price, I have zero complaints.
Sony Xperia 10 What I like
Something that the Xperia 10 really has going for it is its design. Made out of polycarbonate, the Xperia 10 feels sturdy and well-built. There are a few fun colors to choose from, the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is quite fast, there's a headphone jack, and the SIM/microSD card tray can be ejected by just using your fingernail. As someone who always loses SIM tray removal tools, I really appreciated this.
The software experience on the Xperia 10 is also really great.
Shipping with Android 9 Pie right out of the box, Sony's made very little customizations to the user experience. There are some custom apps preinstalled and a feature called Side Sense that allows you to get shortcuts for settings toggles and apps by tapping the right side of the screen, but that's about it. Android Pie's gestures are included, the default launcher has Google Feed on the left-most home screen, and the overall feel of the UI is reminiscent of what you'd find on a Pixel phone.
Sony's Android Pie rollout for last year's hardware went pretty smoothly, so Android Q should arrive on the Xperia 10 just fine. That said, I do wish the phone was included with Google's Android One program just to guarantee major updates and security patches as time goes on.
I was pleased with the performance of the Xperia 10. It's powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 630 processor, meaning that it's plenty powerful for running all of your favorite apps and some basic games. If you want more speed and RAM, the Xperia 10 Plus offers both.
Lastly, it's really refreshing to see the Xperia 10 support not only AT&T and T-Mobile, but Verizon, too. So few unlocked phones support all the major carriers in the U.S., making the Xperia 10 a go-to choice for a lot of potential customers. (The phone technically supports Sprint, too, but it hasn't been certified for its network, so your luck may vary.)
Sony Xperia 10 What's I don't like
There's not a single deal-breaker with the Xperia 10, but there are a few things about the phone that just feel very meh.
Battery life with the 2,870 mAh battery is fine. You can usually get through a full day of use, but don't expect anything more. If you're really working the phone and rack up a lot of screen-on-time, you may need to seek out a charger in the early evening.
A few other things I don't love about the phone:
- It feels like a disservice to have such a cinematic display when it's paired with a bottom-firing mono speaker. It gets loud enough which is nice, but it's easy to cover and lacks any real depth or life.
- The haptic feedback is terrible. I usually don't expect much for a phone in this price range, but wow is it bad.
- Because the fingerprint sensor is on the side of the Xperia 10, the volume rocker is pushed a lot further down below it. On the Xperia 10 and even more so on the 10 Plus, it's awkward to get to and usually requires you to move the phone around in your hand to press it.
Sony Xperia 10 What about the Plus model?
For $80 more, you can step up from the Xperia 10 to the Xperia 10 Plus.
The Plus model comes equipped with a larger screen, slightly improved rear cameras, a faster processor, larger battery, and more RAM. Here's a breakdown of all the differences:
|Category||Xperia 10||Xperia 10 Plus|
2520 x 1080
Gorilla Glass 5
2520 x 1080
Gorilla Glass 5
|Processor||Snapdragon 630||Snapdragon 636|
Expandable up to 512GB
Expandable up to 512GB
|Rear Camera 1||13MP|
|Rear Camera 2||5MP|
|Battery||2,870 mAh||3,000 mAh|
A few of these changes are quite notable, one of the biggest (literally) being the display.
Having a larger display with this unique form factor creates for a truly gigantic phone. This means that watching videos with that 21:9 aspect ratio are even more immersive and exciting, but as you'd expect, this also makes one-handed use something of a joke. People that love big phones will probably have a field day with the Xperia 10 Plus, but if you're like me and prefer smaller handsets, the regular Xperia 10 is a better choice.
In regards to performance, thanks to its newer and faster Snapdragon 636 processor, the Xperia 10 Plus is noticeably quicker when compared side-by-side with the Xperia 10. Opening apps, starting YouTube videos, and multitasking all feel snappier when using the Plus. That's not to say that the normal Xperia 10 is slow, but if you plan on using a lot of apps at once or want the best performance possible, the newer processor and additional 1GB of RAM are worthy upgrades for the 10 Plus.
Lastly, let's talk a bit about camera quality.
In general, both phones take fine pictures that are perfectly suitable for the likes of Twitter and Instagram. Finer details are often a bit soft, and when you try shooting in low-light situations, the result is about what you'd expect for phones in this price range.
For whatever reason, I noticed that the Xperia 10 tended to make pictures warmer compared to the Xperia 10 Plus which reproduced cooler, more true-to-life shots. I personally prefer the look of the Xperia 10 Plus's images, but if you enjoy pictures with a warmer tone to them. the Xperia 10 may be the way to go.
Sony Xperia 10 Should you buy it?
The unlocked mid-range smartphone space is pretty abysmal when compared to other countries like India and China, so it's always exciting to get new releases in this part of the market — especially ones with radical designs like the Xperia 10 series.
The 21:9 display is a really interesting idea, and while it can be jaw-dropping in certain situations, it can also be quite the annoyance. At the very least, Sony deserves credit for trying something new.
Outside of the display, the Xperia 10 and 10 Plus offer a good, well-rounded experience for the money. Both phones are built really well, the software experience is great, and for $80 more, the Xperia 10 Plus offers noticeable internal upgrades in addition to the larger display.
3.5 out of 5
I'd recommend checking out other phones such as the Nokia 7.2 (opens in new tab) and Moto G7 (opens in new tab) before pulling the trigger, but if you like what you're seeing with the Xperia 10, it's certainly worth checking out.
Sony Xperia 10
The Sony Xperia 10 is an interesting phone. It brings some good value to the mid-range smartphone space, with the highlight feature being its 21:9 display. This makes supported videos pop and allows for some truly unique experiences, but it also makes the phone really difficult to use with one hand. If you want an even larger screen and upgraded specs, the Xperia 10 Plus is also worth a look.
Sony Xperia 10 Plus (opens in new tab) ($350 at Amazon)
More powerful specs with an even bigger screen.
For a bit more money, the Xperia 10 Plus is equipped with a larger display and more powerful specs. The faster processor, extra RAM, and bigger battery are all nice touches, as is the camera which captures more true-to-life photos. The larger screen is great for watching videos, but for everything else, it can sometimes be a bit too tall.
Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.
How's the VoLTE and wifi calling support?
this is what i am looking, does VoLTE and WiFI calling on T-Mobile work?
Running my Xperia 10 Plus on t-mobile. I am getting VoLTE support and can confirm as it shows in settings and when I make a call it displays "hd". I can't find any sign of wifi calling support though.
I wish Sony had a larger presence in the states, as they always bring something unique to the table, for better or worse. I do watch full length movies on my phone, but the screen is only part of the equation. Having a great screen is pointless if the audio is poor. Last night a girl was over and wanted to watch Into the Spiderverse, and the desktop computer was right there, and she chose to watch it on the U12 Plus because of the theater mode audio. And because HTC pulled off making the stereo image perfectly balanced, we both got the full experience.
You watched a film with her on a tiny phone screen?
Yep! Not the first time either, lol. Actually, a 6 inch QHD+ screen doesn't seem that small, especially when it's all screen from corner to corner with no notches, holes, or rounded off corners. Watching from a foot and a half away, a screen that size similar to watching a 22 inch screen from about 5 feet. It's not as terrible as it seems. Besides, it's worth it when she really gets into it and winds up with her face against yours ;)
people are so damn weird. you know they sell TELEVISIONS at best buy? hell a 32" tv can be had for $99 and 43" tv's are $149 and that's without any kind of black Friday special.
It hurts my brain to even think about having someone over and watching a full length 2 hour movie on a damn 6" phone screen....
We have three large flat screen tvs, but look at it this way: if you were casually laying across the bed intending to watch a few minutes of a movie, and a girl climbed next to you and was watching with her face against yours, would YOU want to leave? 😜
If there’s beer in the fridge I’d leave without a second thought! 😋
Outdated processers the 630 & 632? Why not the 660 or 710. Plus the batteries 2870 & 3000mamp's. I really try to understand Sony but they make it very hard!
Well, it is $350, so you have to temper your expectations. But, that being said, the same SOC comes in the U11 Life for $229, so I guess I see your point ;)
You have to temper your expectations only if you buy from an overpriced brand like SONY.
Exactly. I was interested until I saw the three year old procs.
I like the design a lot. It's different
The mid range segment is where companies like Sony and Samsung are haemorrhaging sales to Chinese companies the most. This is because people who shop in the mid range are usually quite wise when it comes to specs but also extremely value conscious. This offering from Sony is dreadfully poor value for money with an "ancient" SoC in the current market. The aspect ratio, pretty much its only unique selling point, simply doesn't justify the cost. Sony's previous XA and XA1 was excellent value for money because it used a relatively competent (for the price) Mediatek chip. The XA2 shifted to Qualcomm and brought with it a price premium for very little increase in performance (mainly a graphics boost from Adreno). The 10 has followed down the same path. I struggle to believe that the likes of Sony and Samsung don't understand the reasons why their mid range models won't sell. The worrying thing is it seems like they're not planning to change their tactics any time soon - selling mediocre hardware for inexcusably high prices.
I think Samsung now understands what's lacking in its midrange lineup. The Galaxy M20 is the most compelling budget phone from Samsung in four years (since the first Galaxy J5, which was able to compete with the Moto G on every level except design back in 2015), and the Galaxy A50 is the strongest phone Samsung has ever had at that price point. It beats the pants off even the six-month old Galaxy A7. As for Sony, they've still got quite a ways to go.
I hate this form factor. Stick a cord in it and attach it to a cradle and you'd have a great home phone. It's too extreme. I never want a phone thats shaped like a plank.
This is just getting STUPID! I don't want to watch a movie on a ruler. The only reason smartphones started getting extra tall in the last year is to get them wider again, so the Sony resolution is even stupider. You wouldn't need a 6.5" screen if they all didn't go to the super stupid/Skinny tall resolutions. So, all the screen stupidity aside, I like Sony Phones. My old Sony from about 5 years still functions as an emergency internet device...
I gotta believe this newer skinnier resolution won't make it.....
The best 21-9 phone is Xperia 5, the Xperia 1 looks too tall and wierd, I tried Xperia 10 plus, is trash phone...I will never recommend to anyone...the Xperia 5 is my favorite...I sold my note 10 for that phone, it has better display, speakers and camera. IDK why nobody compares that phone to galaxy phones like s10 or even note...the screen makes every phone look yellowish...I'm not even Sony fan but I'm not blind...Android 10 update makes it better...I love the Xperia 5...
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