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Will Sony’s Xperia X Premium be the world’s first HDR-screen smartphone?

sony one megapixel two millimeter sensor
360b / Shutterstock
If there’s one thing for which Sony has become known in the smartphone space, it’s riding the cutting edge of smartphone display tech. It debuted the world’s first 4K-touting phone in 2015, after all — the Xperia Z5 Premium — and rumor has it the company’s prepping a worthy, showstopping successor for release later this year. According to device blog PhoneRadar, the company’s next flagship — the Xperia X Premium — will sport an HDR screen.

The report’s a bit light on the details, but Xperia X Premium’s 5.5-inch, 1080p display will allegedly boast a mind-boggling color depth of 1.07 billion colors (or 1,024 shades per color), a vast improvement over the 16.8 million (256 shades per color) of which smartphones on the market are currently capable. It’ll reportedly feature a 2,000:1 contrast ratio and 120Hz refresh rate, too, and will be able to reach a maximum brightness of between 1,000 and 1,300 nits — a decent notch above the standard-bearing Galaxy S7, which tops out at 855 nits.

The Xperia X Premium’s other specs are about par for the high-end Android phone course. The handset will allegedly pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor paired with an Adreno 530 GPU, 3GB of RAM, and a USB Type-C connector. Unfortunately, PhoneRadar’s sources weren’t forthcoming on its storage configurations, its color options, or even its release date. Those details will have to wait, it seems.

So, why’s Sony going all in with HDR? Quite simply, it represents a breakthrough in display tech. Screens that support HDR, or high-dynamic-range imaging, are capable of reproducing imagery that is much more vivid and realistic than the everyday, run-of-the-mill TVs and smartphones to which most of us are accustomed. Most have incredibly high contrast between light and dark images, the ability to display billions of colors, a much higher theoretical luminance (i.e., brightness levels, basically), and pitch-deep black levels. In concert, needless to say, their characteristics make for a fantastic movie-watching, photo-viewing experience.

The Xperia X Premium rumors are all the more surprising in light of the fact that HDR displays have for the most part so far been relegated to the high-end television market. That’s finally starting to change, though — Vizio’s and Hisense’s new 4K, HDR-capable panels start at $850 and $400 respectively.

And perhaps to the benefit of future Xperia owners, the coming onslaught of affordable HDR TVs has content producers announcing support in earnest. During an earnings call in April, streaming behemoth Netflix pledged to add 100 hours of HDR movies and TV shows by the end of August. Amazon’s Instant Video service, meanwhile, currently streams a portion of its original programming and movies in HDR. And even YouTube’s jumping on the bandwagon: in January, the platform announced plans to support HDR sometime this year.

HDR content won’t be in short supply when/if the Xperia X Premium pans out, but just how it’ll be delivered to Sony’s rumored handset remains unclear, as none of the aforementioned services support HDR playback in their respective mobile apps. Time will tell whether Sony’s new flagship will ship with or alongside updated apps, but if it doesn’t, future owners can perhaps take comfort in knowing that any HDR photos and videos the device captures will look absolutely stunning.

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