Sony traditionally loves to put on a show at the IFA expo in Berlin, and IFA 2018 is no different – the company just unveiled the Sony Xperia XZ3 flagship phone to challenge the top-end handsets from Apple, Google, and Samsung, and New Atlas has been getting some hands-on time with the device.

If you've lost the thread of Sony's phone strategy in 2018, it's been a typically unpredictable year for the company's mobile division. The Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact showed up at Mobile World Congress in February, phones which were then almost immediately bettered by the Xperia XZ2 Premium that arrived in May.

There is some order here though, the Xperia XZ1 was launched at exactly this point last year, at IFA 2017. It's just that Sony has managed to cram in two sets of flagship phones in 12 months, whereas most manufacturers are happy to stick to the one big launch.

The Xperia XZ3 arrives with all the specs you would expect from a premium Android phone in 2018: the same Snapdragon 845 we've seen in numerous flagships this year (including the XZ2 phones), plus 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage (that's not much, but it can be expanded via microSD card by up to 512 GB).

It's the screen that gives us the biggest talking point. Sony has switched from its traditional LCD panels to a 6-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio, OLED display – similar to the OLED tech Sony fits in its Bravia TVs, which means we can expect sharper images, better blacks, and richer colors across the board. That screen is running at a very respectable resolution of 2,880 x 1,440 pixels.

The phone still has very noticeable bezels at the top and bottom of the screen, almost as if Sony wants to follow the lead set by Apple, Samsung and the rest, but can't fully commit to an ultra-thin bezel future. They're not gigantic, but they are definitely there.

You can expect good results from the single-sensor 19 MP rear camera – it's actually the same as the one on the XZ2 phones, which were capable of very decent shots. An upgrade would've been nice, but Sony obviously thinks the sensor is already good enough. The AI behind the camera has been improved, apparently, to better predict the type of shots you're going to take and the best settings for taking them.

Elsewhere, Sony says the phone is IP65/68 rated for water and dust protection, but Sony says not to immerse the phone underwater, so it'll survive the odd splash and that's about it. Wireless charging is included, as on previous Xperias, but this phone will come with Android 9 Pie on board.

We managed to grab some quick hands-on time after Sony's press event had concluded. Despite the glass front and back and the aluminum frame, it doesn't feel quite as premium as, say, a Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone. That said, the screen is a definite highlight – it seems clear that it's here that Sony has put most of the work in.

The use of the same camera lens and the same processor means this isn't a huge upgrade over the XZ2 phones, though that larger OLED screen and Android 9 Pie might tempt some people into making a purchase. This being Sony, there will no doubt be another incremental upgrade along in the not-too-distant future.

The phone goes on sale in September, with pre-orders open from tomorrow in some markets. Black, silver, green, and red are your color choices, and the phone will set you back US$899.99 in the US and £699 in the UK – that's almost, but not quite, as much as the very top handsets on the market right now.

Product page: Sony Xperia XZ3

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