Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact vs Apple iPhone 8: the weigh-in

Seeking a smaller flagship? Here's how these top options compare

The rumoured Xperia XZ Pro didn't end up debuting at MWC 2018, but Sony brought a couple of other phones – the new base Xperia XZ2 model and the smaller Xperia XZ2 Compact.

And despite being the smaller and less robust of the two, we're actually more interested in the XZ2 Compact. In a field full of ever-expanding screen and device sizes, it's a smaller phone with some serious perks, packing a 5in, extra-tall 18:9 display along with top-of-the-line tech. In other words, it can hang with the other, larger Android flagships debuting this year.

Of course, if you're looking for a smaller, flagship-level smartphone, it's hard to ignore Apple's iPhone 8. While not as glitzy and glossy as the wallet-destroying iPhone X, it remains an incredibly capable handset – and even those with smaller hands shouldn't struggle with it.

Considering one of these handsets in the coming months? Here's how they compare, based on the specs and our hands-on with the Xperia XZ2 Compact.

Design: Neither's a stunner

The iPhone 8 is Apple's fourth straight core model with the same overall design, and truth we told, it's become a bit boring. It's fine, certainly: super minimal and plenty polished, but the gleaming iPhone X makes the iPhone 8 look even more tired. At least the iPhone 8 adds sleek glass backing over the earlier editions, which is definitely a plus.

On the other hand, the Xperia XZ2 Compact isn't going to win any awards for Android design. It's fairly plain on the front, with a good amount of bezel here (much like the iPhone), and the backing goes simple with rounded polycarbonate. Nothing too alluring, really, but it's still a nice shake-up from Sony's typical rectangular, bezel-heavy look.

Screen: The Sony edge

The Xperia XZ2 Compact doesn't go for broke compared to other Android flagship screens: not only is this LCD comparatively small at 5in, but it's also a modest 1080p display as well. However, it does go extra-tall at an 18:9 aspect ratio, providing more room to view photos, videos, games, apps, and anything else you can throw at this display.

By comparison, the iPhone 8's screen still underwhelms – but that's true against most flagship phones these days. Apple is sticking with the 4.7in, 750p, 16:9 Retina LCD display that we've seen some version of over the last few years, and it's pretty good, especially with True Tone to automatically adjust the colours based on your natural light. Even so, it loses something on crispness, and the sharp-looking Sony has a slight edge here.

Apple's screen does pack in 3D Touch pressure-sensitivity, which lets you press harder to interact with games, apps, and menus, but we use it so infrequently that it hardly feels like a notable advantage anymore.

Camera: Photo finish?

Sony isn't usually known for having the best smartphone snappers around, but the Xperia XZ2 Compact could really buck that trend. It has a single 19-megapixel back sensor with ISO 12,800 sensitivity for better low-light performance, plus it gets an image signal processor boost from the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip inside.

Furthermore, it takes slow-motion video at an utterly mad 960 frames per second, plus it'll shoot 4K HDR footage at normal speeds. We haven't used it enough to make any confident verdicts yet, but based on our initial demo, we wrote that it "it feels like the Compact should be Sony’s best camera in ages." We'll see whether that actually pans out or not.

On the other hand, we already know that Apple's iPhone 8 camera is rather stellar. Granted, Apple has been gradually edged out over the last couple years, not only by better Android cameras on the likes of Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S phones (among others), but also by Apple's own iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

Even so, there are few better point-and-shoot smartphone cameras out there, with the iPhone 8 delivering routinely excellent shots without any fussing or fiddling. It's a 12MP shooter with an f/1.8 lens and optical image stabilisation, with impressive detail and colouring along with crisp 4K footage at 60 frames per second.

Performance: Heavy lifters

The Xperia XZ2 Compact might be small, but it's certainly mighty: Sony has packed in the same aforementioned Snapdragon 845 chip that we're seeing in a lot of newly-announced flagship phones, along with 4GB RAM. Only Samsung's new Exynos chip seems to pack in more power on the Android side.

And yet Apple has it beat, amazingly enough. The A11 Bionic chip, the same seen in the iPhone X, is an absolute barnburner of a mobile processor, driving benchmark numbers that still haven't been equaled even after six months on the market. The iPhone 8 only has 2GB RAM within, but we never experienced any real bottlenecks: it's impressively fast.

In day-to-day usage, we honestly don't expect that much of a difference here. Apple's iOS 11 is super speedy and streamlined, and Android Oreo will be much the same on the XZ2 Compact. But that extra smidge of raw power could come in handy for the iPhone 8 at some point.

Battery and perks: Xperia advantages

When it comes to battery capacity, the XZ2 Compact has a big advantage: it wields a 2,780mAh battery pack, while the iPhone 8 has a paltry 1,821mAh. But the iPhone 8 does a solid-enough job of lasting through a day, presuming you don't put too much stress on it, so we'll see how the XZ2 Compact matches up once we have one in our pocket.

The iPhone 8 does have the advantage of wireless charging, however, which isn't available on Sony's Compact.

Both of these handsets start with a solid 64GB of internal storage, but the Xperia XZ2 Compact has a significant edge with microSD support. It's a lot cheaper to add a memory card than to spend more bucks to bump up to 256GB on the iPhone 8.

Initial verdict: An XZ decision

Ultimately, it'll depend on price. We don't have a price point for the Xperia XZ2 Compact just yet. If the XZ2 Compact comes in anywhere near the iPhone 8's price point, then we think it'll be easy to give the nod to Sony here.

Why? Well, the iPhone 8 is a great phone – but it's a ₹64,000 flagship in an era of, say, the brilliant OnePlus 5T at ₹32,999. Save ₹31,000 and get a phone that's arguably better and fresher in some key ways? Absolutely. And if the XZ2 Compact ends up in fairly similar pricing territory, plus it's as stellar of a handset as we expect, then it will probably get the easy recommendation.

We'll have to wait and see, though – both on pricing and on our full review. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is slated to release soon this year, and we expect to have a review for you around that time.