The evolution of Sony's Xperia series from the Windows-based X1 to the brand new Z3

The evolution of Sony's Xperia series from the Windows-based X1 to the brand new Z3
Believe it or not, the Xperia range of smartphones is one of the oldest that’s still around today. Those who’ve been watching the industry for more than just a few years certainly know that the very first Xperia was announced in early 2008, and hit shelves around the world starting October that year. Unlike today’s Xperias, the first model ran Windows Mobile, and was launched at a time when Sony was still in a joint venture with Sweden’s Ericsson - that’s why the handset’s called Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

Since the release of the X1, more than 50 Xperia models have been introduced, culminating with the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact that were announced earlier this week at IFA 2014. 

We’re thinking that the introduction of the Z3 models is a good occasion for us to take a look at all the important Xperias that have been released over the years. It’s interesting to see how the Xperia design evolved, while at the same time retaining something that makes us identify them as Sony products - from the 17mm-thick Xperia X1 to the 7mm-thin Xperia Z3. So, let's sit back and take a look at how things progressed in the 6 years since the first Xperia was unveiled.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

As we already mentioned, the Xperia X1 was a Windows-based smartphone. It ran Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, featuring a sliding QWERTY keyboard, and a 3.0-inch display. This display had a 480 x 800 pixel resolution, offering one of the highest ppi densities among 2008’s smartphones. By comparison, that year’s iPhone (the iPhone 3G) featured a 3.5-inch display with a measly 320 x 480 pixel resolution and a 165 ppi density, while the HTC Touch Pro - one of Xperia X1’s direct competitors - offered a 2.8-inch screen with 480 x 640 pixels (286ppi).

Sony Ericsson Xperia X2

Although it was announced in September 2009, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X2 went on sale in January 2010. It was the second - and last - Windows-based Xperia. The X2 came with an arguably more elegant design, though it retained the overall style of the X1. It offered an improved QWERTY keyboard, and a larger, 3.2-inch display (its resolution remained unchanged: 480 x 800 pixels).

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

The reason why Sony (Ericsson) abandoned Windows Mobile? Android, of course. Two months after announcing the X2, the company revealed the Xperia X10, its very first Android smartphone. The X10 hit the market in March 2010 as one of that year’s Android flagships. Although it was praised for its design and specs (including the large, 4-inch display with 480 x 854 pixels), the Xperia X10 was criticized for shipping with Android 1.6 Donut instead of Android Éclair (which had been available since October 2009).

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc

Announced in early 2011, the Xperia arc was positioned as a uniquely-designed high-end smartphone, featuring a sleek, curved back. Its specs were also attractive for the time: 4.2-inch display with 480 x 854 pixels, 512 MB of RAM, and a 1.0 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor. A slightly upgraded model, Xperia arc S, was introduced in the second half of that year, coming with a 1.4 GHz S2 processor.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

The Xperia Play is important because it’s the first smartphone to offer a dedicated gamepad. It was announced in February 2011, but it failed to be a commercial success. If anything, the failure of the Xperia Play showed that people simply don’t want a smartphone that’s also a portable gaming device in the traditional sense of the word.

Sony Xperia Ion

2012 saw Sony acquiring Ericsson’s share in the Sony Ericsson joint venture, thus forming Sony Mobile Communications. One of the first smartphones to ditch the Ericsson branding was the 4.55-inch Sony Xperia Ion, which can be seen as the handset that signaled a new direction in Sony’s design - you could easily mistaken the Ion for a member of the Xperia Z line.

Announced at the same time with the Ion, the Xperia S introduced a transparent, illuminated strip situated below the phone's 4.3-inch 720p display. This gave the smartphone a distinctive look, though Sony decided to use the same feature on other models (like the Xperia U and Xperia P), thus taking away a lot of its uniqueness. 

This is Sony's first 5-inch smartphone, as well as its first water-resistant flagship, and the first to feature a 1080p display. It was also one of the first high-end Android flagships to be released in 2013, and is still a viable option today - assuming you don't mind your handset being powered by a relatively outdated Snapdragon S4 processor. Needless to say, the Xperia Z kind of kicked off a new era for Sony. 

Only six months after the Xperia Z came out, Sony launched the Xperia Z1, which righted most of the wrongs that the Z included (like the not-so-accurate display, and the questionable rear camera). The Z1 brought a little brother with it: the Xperia Z1 Compact. Unlike other mini smartphones released until then, the Z1 Compact offers the same high-end internals of its larger sibling.

Once again, Sony didn't wait a full year to introduce its next flagship handset. Thus, the Xperia Z2 was launched around the world in April this year, after being announced in February at MWC 2014. The Z2 comes with enhanced specs, as well as a slightly larger display (a 5.2-inch panel, unlike the 5-inch screens of the Z and Z1).

Finally, here we are: several days ago, Sony announced the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact in an attempt to bring the Xperia Z line to perfection. While we'll have to wait until we review them to say if they're the best Xperias ever, the Z3 and Z3 Compact certainly seem capable of overshadowing the older models. You can check out our Xperia Z3 hands-on here, and our Xperia Z3 Compact hands-on here.

Until we get the chance to review the latest Xperia handsets, here's an image comparing all the models that we've presented above (it's quite a large image, so make sure to zoom in):

What do you think? Is the Xperia line evolving in the right direction? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Related phones

Xperia Z3
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3100 mAh(14h talk time)
Xperia Z3 Compact
  • Display 4.6" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2600 mAh(14h 3G talk time)



1. MrTzr unregistered

One of the best smartphones if you ask me. Very statisfied with my Z2 at the moment, it has everything I need (good screen, good camera, excellent battery life, good earphones, water resistant, good design and FM radio.) And the Z3 only got better. Can't wait to replace my Z2 with the Z4 next spring!

10. Duketytz

Posts: 534; Member since: Nov 28, 2013

One of the best craftsmanship in the industry ever since WM days. Hats off to Sony

39. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Innovation through the years. Nice to have Sony in the market.

53. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I'm a happy owner of Z2 as well. I have to say that Z2 really got it all :D

2. Peeyushmalik96

Posts: 75; Member since: Jun 08, 2013

more than 50 xperia models since xperia X1....while on the other hand more than 50 galaxy models since Galaxy S5...

19. maherk

Posts: 7017; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

See how insecure you are? Instead of complementing Sony for their sexy designs, you opted to compare it to Samsung. And can you please tell me what's wrong with flooding the market with products? Last time I checked, there around 7 billion people and each has their own taste, needs, and budget, and Samsung is offering low end, mid rangers, and high end phones with different prices. They have been going with this model for years now, and guess what, if it wasn't working out they would've quit this strategy long time ago. So next time you see another Samsung phone introduced, I advice to go see a Dr and check your hemorrhoids, since it seems you're simply butthurt because of a company's success.

21. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

U r so rude....dude.

41. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Fun fact, the Xperia X1 was designed and built by HTC.

56. romeo1

Posts: 824; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

Was it also designed by htc? I know that the 1st couple x1's where good but allot of the later ones got cracks in them even if you didn't hit it to anyting. I always believed that htc did it on purpose to get better sales for them selfs Also the panels where brilliant of the x1 as you could run android or ios in 1 of the panels. I only tried android but loved the windows more back then

54. xperiaworld55

Posts: 12; Member since: Sep 08, 2014

Every two weaks, a brand new galaxy borns.

3. aksa123

Posts: 368; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

Xperia Arc : sony's most beautiful phone.

8. sukampret

Posts: 36; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

ray for me. so petite, so cute, so beautiful. :D


Posts: 106; Member since: May 04, 2012

am using my xperia arc s for more than two years ^_^

22. maherk

Posts: 7017; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

But, butttt it was made of cheap bendable junk glossy plastic (based on Sony fan's comments) Anyways I believe Sony has always been a pioneer when it comes to phone designs. My first phone ever was the T610, then came the K750, P990, K800, K850 (had to sell my soul for this one), then finally the Xperia S. And I got the Arc S in pink for my wife on our 1sy anniversary And If it wasn't for the on screen buttons, I would've be holding a Z2 at.

23. maherk

Posts: 7017; Member since: Feb 10, 2012


45. kurtdean99

Posts: 79; Member since: Jun 02, 2013

Butthurt Samsung fanboy hahah. Did anyone complained about Galaxy s2 back in 2011 for having plastic? Nobody. Htc, Nokia and SONY were using plastic back then too. Why do u want to compare 2011 flagship to 2014? This is 2014 not 2011 and it's not okay to use cheap plastic in 2014. Nokia uses high quality polycarbonate not cheap plastic like samsung

48. maccess

Posts: 742; Member since: Jan 16, 2013

Shut up monkey..

4. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

Xperia S still looks stunning.

5. Fantazma

Posts: 6; Member since: May 27, 2012

where are the xperia T and TX ...also the xperia V? these are the sony flagships of 2012

6. sukampret

Posts: 36; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

is xperia active not a flagship? if yes, then it's the first waterproof flagship from sony (ericsson). it has the same spec as the arc. that year models has same spec (arc, neo, play, ray, mini, active). except the dimension, screen size, and screen resolution.

47. UnlimitedSkye03

Posts: 300; Member since: Apr 27, 2012

nope, it isn't a flagship

7. mss1988

Posts: 41; Member since: Apr 19, 2012

How about Xperia T?

15. FaisalWibowo11

Posts: 166; Member since: Aug 12, 2013

An underrated great phone, Xperia T is.. The fact that it is used by James Bond in SkyFall added more prestige to it

9. FaisalWibowo11

Posts: 166; Member since: Aug 12, 2013

Owned Xperia Arc S and Xperia Z before, I now own Xperia Z2.. My history of owning mobile phone: - SE K320i - SE K610i - SE W385i - SE W595 - SE Hazel - SE Vivaz - Xperia Arc S - Xperia Z - Xperia Z2 Yes, a proud Sony owner here XD

11. LikeMyself

Posts: 631; Member since: Sep 23, 2013

Thank you pa for paying tribute to Sony and its great products!!

12. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

A good design has always been part of Sony :)

25. maherk

Posts: 7017; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

True that. Plus build quality.

13. Brodrick30

Posts: 8; Member since: Oct 31, 2012

My first android phone was that Xperia X10.

14. raf37

Posts: 7; Member since: Sep 03, 2014

Oh yes the same opinion they are just awesome

16. rkoforever90

Posts: 478; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

design of every single phone is outstanding .

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