There’s considerable confusion surrounding Sony’s 2016 mobile release plans. Rumors have gathered around an entire family of Xperia Z6 devices, plus talk of a reduced selection of models, and even hints the company may leave the business entirely. Sony says the latter won’t happen, but we’re still no closer to understanding what devices it’ll release over the coming year. Here’s a roundup of everything we think we know about Sony’s Xperia Z6 product range.
Updated on 12-30-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in rumors of an Xperia Z6 Lite smartphone.
Xperia Z6 Family
How many Xperia Z6 phones are being rumored for 2016? A lot. Reports began by describing the Xperia Z6 with a 5.2-inch screen, a Z6 Plus with a 5.8-inch screen, and the return of the massive Ultra line, this time with a 6.4-inch Z6 Ultra model. These may be joined by a 4.6-inch Z6 Compact and a 4-inch Z6 Mini. It doesn’t stop there either. A report from Mobile-Dad.com added an Xperia Z6 Lite to the list, claiming it’ll have a 5-inch screen and a Snapdragon 650 processor.
An update to the Z5 Premium has not been mentioned by name, but it may end up being called something different, or the 4K screen technology could be folded into one or more models in the Z6 range.
Although bewildering at first, the rumored Z6 range isn’t entirely unlikely, although not all agree the phones will be promoted as flagships. Sony has expanded the top-range Xperia smartphone family in recent years, moving from one device to the three — the Z5 Compact, Z5, and Z5 Premium — earlier this year. For 2016, rumors are pulling in two opposite directions, with some suggesting we’ll see the larger Z6 line-up noted above, while others indicate it’ll be reduced down to two models.
The first hints came from an AnTuTu Weibo leak, which claimed Sony will launch the Z6 Mini and Z6 Plus alongside the Z6 Compact, Z6, and Z6 Ultra. This was followed by another report, this time from G for Games, saying the Z6 family might shrink to two devices in 2016, both using the Snapdragon 820 processor.
It’s all a mystery for now, but there’s a chance both might be right, with Sony choosing to separate two models as flagship devices, leaving the others out in the mid-range cold. It’s a similar strategy to Samsung with its Galaxy phones.
Snapdragon 820 processor
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor may run inside the Z6 Compact, Z6, Z6 Plus, and Z6 Ultra, but the Z6 Mini will use the Snapdragon 620 processor, according to the AnTuTu report mentioned before. The Z6 Lite’s possible Snapdragon 650 chip was previously known as the Snapdragon 618.
At a launch event in New York, Qualcomm said that the Snapdragon 820 processor would be 40 percent more power efficient and offer 40 percent more performance than last year’s Snapdragon 810. It will be the first time Qualcomm has built a processor using the 14nm manufacturing process, borrowed from Samsung’s second generation FinFET process. The Snapdragon 820 will support Cat. 12 LTE for 600 Mbps download and 150Mbps upload, alongside support for unlicensed LTE bands.
Force Touch display
Huawei and Apple both launched smartphones that support Force Touch earlier in the year, and Sony might join the growing group with its own Force Touch capabilities on the Xperia Z6. According to a report from Mobipicker, citing a source closely associated with the distribution network for Sony Mobile Communications, the Xperia Z6 may feature a pressure sensitive display allowing users to quickly access functions by applying varying amounts of pressure onto the display.
Google has not currently added an open API for Force Touch, but interface experts Synaptics revealed ClearForce earlier in the year for manufacturers to license. The company said it is working with manufacturers for an early 2016 launch, around the time the Xperia Z6 will supposedly release.
Sony will most likely continue its six-month launch cycle, meaning the Xperia Z6 family should launch in early 2016. The newest report says that Sony will launch one phone in June and another in October. The source reporting on the Z6 Lite states Sony may release the entire Z6 family in May 2016.
The Xperia Z3+ (Xperia Z4 in Japan) was announced in May 2015, but Sony quickly pushed that aside for the Xperia Z5, announced three months later in September.
Updated on 12-14-2015 by David Curry: Added in rumor that Sony would only launch two flagships in 2016.