Update: The Sony Xperia Z6 is AWOL, but while its fate is uncertain some at Sony claim the Z series is still alive.
Sony turned it all around with the Xperia Z5, making up for the lacklustre Sony Xperia Z3+ with a far more stable phone. It also benefited from one of the best fingerprint scanners we've seen on a handset and a camera upgrade that made for much clearer photos.
Yet we can't help but feel that Sony could have done even more. There are still missing features and undercooked specs and there's only so many times the company can wheel out essentially the same design, even if it has been increasingly polished.
But making the best phone it can might mean ditching the Z line altogether, as Sony currently seems a lot more focused on the Xperia X range and it's unclear whether we'll get a Sony Xperia Z6 at all.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Sony's next Z-branded flagship
- When is it out? Not before late 2016, if it launches at all
- What will it cost? It'll be expensive, it's a flagship after all
Sony Xperia Z6 or Xperia X?
The Xperia Z6 is a confusing situation. Sony took to the stage at Mobile World Congress 2016 to announce three new phones; the Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia X Performance. The eagled eyed among you will note none of that trio bears the Z6 moniker.
The phones feature premium specs, with the Xperia X boasting a fingerprint scanner and a 23MP rear facing camera much like the Xperia Z5 - but the assumption is they will slide in below the flagship Z line. Or so we thought.
Sony didn't confirm whether these are its new flagship devices - thus killing off the Xperia Z6 and the Z line - and since the launch it's not exactly made the situation any clearer.
Over the course of MWC the question was put to a variety of spokespeople from the company and the message was somewhat confusing.
Jun Makino Senior Product Marketing Manager at Sony Mobile told uSwitch "I can't comment on the future, but we will not be releasing a Z6." He said that Sony is "turning to the next stage, with the Xperia X series".
But soon after, Sony denied this was the case. In a statement to techradar, a Sony spokesperson said "Although we can never confirm about the future possibilities of our product line-up, we can share with you that we have no plan to launch Xperia Z6 at this stage."
Emphasis on the "at this stage" part, suggesting that Sony does plan to announce the Xperia Z6 in the future. That was then followed by a statement to AndroidPIT from Sony Mobile US which said, ""The Z series is not going away. We want to make it clear."
At the moment it's all very confusing and we are pressing hard at Sony to get clarification on whether we will see an Xperia Z6. What is certain is we won't see an Xperia Z6 for quite some time.
Here's our look at the Xperia X and what it means for the Xperia Z6.
Sony Xperia Z6 release date
Sony announced the Xperia X range at MWC 2016 in February, and the handsets will go on sale sometime this summer.
Usually we see an Xperia launch at both MWC and IFA in September, so it may be that Sony has chosen to give the Xperia Z6 a miss in Barcelona and just go for an IFA launch this year. Fingers crossed for Berlin then.
Though given that the Xperia X range isn't even on sale yet this could be a Z-free year. Then again, a source speaking to cnBeta has previously said that we'd see two Sony flagships this year- one in June and one in October. So the Xperia X Performance could be the June one with the Xperia Z6 launching later in the year. We live in hope.
Sony Xperia Z6 news and rumors
So far little is known about the Sony Xperia Z6, if it even exists, but assuming it does early rumblings are fairly promising.
For one thing it could apparently have a completely new design, with metal playing a big role. The Sony Xperia Z5 and most other Sony flagships have a metal frame with a glass back, so perhaps Sony will be ditching the glass and going all-metal. However, it's possible that this rumor was referring to the Xperia X, which itself is metal-clad.
Other early rumors include a Snapdragon 820 chip, which is the minimum we'd expect to see given that it's the main flagship processor of 2016. But this too could be referring to the X range, as the Sony Xperia X Performance has that chip.
The only rumor that doesn't line up with the Xperia X range is that the Sony Xperia Z6 is said to have a 5.2-inch screen, just like the Xperia Z5, while the Xperia X phones are all 5.0 inches. There's no real news on what the resolution will be, but what it apparently won't be is 4K, despite Sony introducing that resolution on the Xperia Z5 Premium.
So in all likelihood we're looking at either a 1080p or QHD screen. If we had to guess we'd go with QHD (1440 x 2560), both because most flagships are now rocking that resolution and because that would help differentiate it from the 1080p Sony Xperia X Performance.
Whatever the resolution it may benefit from 3D Touch-like technology if rumors are to be believed. In fact, it looks like Google could be building the tech right into Android, making it all the more likely.
There are also a few things we can take a good guess at, like that the Xperia Z6 will probably have a 23MP camera, given that Sony only recently upgraded the sensor for the Z5. Of course if we don't see the Z6 until 2017 or beyond all these guesses could go right out the window.
Whenever it arrives though we'd wager it will once again have a fingerprint scanner and that it will be dust and water resistant. If Sony does change the design it's possible that it won't be, but it's managed to keep waterproofing intact for the Xperia X Performance.