Sony’s 5G-ready Xperia 1 II is coming to the US to battle Galaxy S20

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's getting ready to bring its first 5G-ready flagship phone to the US. But you're going to have to pay a steep price to own it.

The Sony Xperia 1 II, first previewed back in February, will start shipping in the US on July 24. You'll be able to pre-order the phone starting June 1, with the 6.5-inch Xperia 1 II starting at $1,199.

To put that price in context, that's the same amount Samsung charges for the Galaxy S20 Plus, and it puts the Xperia 1 II on the pricier end of the 5G phone spectrum. Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra costs more at $1,399, but you can also buy a 5G phone for much less than what Sony plans to charge, whether it's the Samsung Galaxy S20 ($999), OnePlus 8 Pro ($899) or OnePlus 8 ($699).

Sony clearly hopes that cameras will make the difference with the Xperia 1 II, as the phone boasts a triple camera array with focal lengths of 16mm, 24mm and 70mm. There's also a time-of-flight 3D time-of-flight sensor designed to take better portrait shots with stylish blur effects in the background.

In addition to the camera hardware, Sony is touting the autofocus features on the Xperia 1 II, which performs autofocus and autoexposure calculations at 60 times per second. The result faster focusing, even in low light. Sony's also drawing on the technology of its Alpha camera line to help the Xperia 1 II challenge the best camera phones out there.

(Image credit: Sony)

The 6.5-inch 4K OLED panel on the Xperia 1 II retains the 21:9 aspect ratio featured on last year's Xperia 1. The stretched out screen is meant to evoke a movie theater screen for a more immersive experience when you're watching videos on your phone. In addition to motion blur reduction technology meant to reduce frame lag for improved image quality, the phone boasts a number of audio features from Dolby Atmos sound to 360 Reality Audio hardware decoding to optimize sound.

In terms of specs, the Xperia 1 II is powered by Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip, the same chipset you'll find in those 5G phones from Samsung and OnePlus. A 4,000 mAh battery keeps the phone powered up.

Sony Xperia 1 II pre-order details

If you pre-order the Xperia 1 II by June 28, you'll get a pair of Sony WF-1000XM3 noise cancelling earbuds with your phone. We think those a great alternative to Apple's AirPods, and including some of the best wireless earbuds available will take a bit of the sting out of the Xperia 1 II's $1,199 price.

Sony's new phone works on GSM networks — that means you'll have no problem using it with AT&T or T-Mobile, as well as any wireless carrier like Cricket or Metro by T-Mobile that uses those two carrier's towers. It also means that the Xperia 1 II isn't for your if Verizon is your carrier of choice.

Sony Xperia 1 II outlook

Sony's smartphones have had a hard time finding an audience in the US, in part because they're usually sold unlocked and that's not how most Americans buy their phones. But past Sony phones have also failed to provide a compelling alternative to the best Android phones, while still trying to command top dollar.

The Xperia 1 II does little to address the high prices of Sony phones, but it's clear Sony is putting an emphasis on cameras this time around in an attempt to address one of the areas where the Xperia 1 really fell down on the job. 

At this point it's hard to say if the Xperia 1 II can reverse Sony's phone fortunes — we haven't had a chance to go hands-on with the phone since Sony only previewed it during an online event following the cancellation of this year's Mobile World Congress where the Xperia 1 II would have debuted. But wee look forward to testing the new phone and seeing whether the Xperia 1 II's highly touted cameras are up to the task.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.