As a filmmaker I love the look of the Sony Xperia 1 IV, but that's the problem

A Sony Xperia 1 IV from the front, with the screen on, recording a video
(Image credit: Sony)

During my recent briefing from Sony on the company's upcoming Sony Xperia 1 IV flagship phone, I found myself getting increasingly excited by each new creative feature that was being announced. A studio-quality audio recording app? Continuous optical zoom? Video recording at 4K and 120Hz with HDR? Count me in!

I haven't used a phone from the company since the original Sony Xperia 1, and I used that to shoot a short film, so I'm understandably excited to test this new handset out (I should point out that at the time of writing this article I've yet to do so).

But while all the cool new video, photo and audio features in the Sony Xperia 1 IV excite me, I'm still not sure that I'll be able to recommend this device to anybody – and that speaks to the big problem with Sony phones.

A niche device

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is a niche device, designed for people with a passion for creating or consuming art and entertainment; I don't think any Xperia fans, or the company itself, would disagree with that characterization.

In particular it's a potent tool for creatives, with its Pro video and photo apps, and given the fact that you can use it as a second monitor for Sony Alpha cameras, or can strap a Vlogging monitor to it.

However TechRadar is not a specialist website by any means – our reviews are written for a wide audience, and for readers with diverse levels of tech knowledge or creative interest. There are websites aimed at artistic types, but that's not really us.

Sony Xperia 1 IV event

(Image credit: Sony)

The majority of people who use our smartphone coverage to inform their buying choices probably aren't looking for complicated and niche devices (though if you're reading this you're probably interested in the new Sony, so perhaps you're the exception to the rule).

And for general smartphone buyers, the Sony Xperia 1 IV is hard to recommend, and I can't quite love it as much as I want.

Not a hugely new phone

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is not a hugely interesting or innovative phone – not, at least, compared to the Sony Xperia 1 III – and I'm sure that part of my excitement for the new phone is down to the fact that I haven't tested an Xperia in a few years.

The 'new' features of the device include extra functions for people who stream mobile games, improved long-distance zoom, a slightly better selfie camera and burst photography.

Most of those aren't going to be useful to the majority of consumers, and will only really appeal to select users. Sure, there are a few more general improvements, like a brighter screen and more powerful processor, but those upgrades won't exactly set the world on fire.

So if you're a photographer, videographer or streamer, this new phone will be great for you; but as we've established, TechRadar has many more readers than fit into those niche categories.

And for general buyers, the upgrades aren't really enough to justify the new Xperia over one of its predecessors – especially because those older models have had a year and more to drop in price.

And Sony Xperia phones have never exactly been cheap to begin with. The Sony Xperia 1 IV is even pricier than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, costing $1,599 / £1,299 (roughly AU$2,300), despite its cameras not offering the same variety of hardware, or the same easy-to-use software-wise; oh, and the Samsung has a more premium design, and comes with a stylus.

So while I'm personally very excited for the Sony Xperia 1 IV, I can't really tell you that you should be too. If your work or hobby positions you as a 'creative' it might be a great option for you, but for general buyers looking for a new flagship phone, it's almost certainly one to avoid.

As someone who loves making films, but also needs to pay the rent, I can't love the Sony Xperia 1 IV as much as I'd like to.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.