Sony Tips Selfie-Focused Xperia XA Ultra

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With its 6-inch frame and 16-megapixel front-facing camera, the Sony Xperia XA Ultra is the most distinctive and unexpected addition to the Xperia X series.

The device comes as something of a surprise, as Sony was only expected to launch the Xperia X Performance, Xperia X, and Xperia XA in the US soon. We went hands on with all three 5-inch Xperia Xs during Mobile World Congress earlier this year, and found the X Performance and X to be the more premium and capable of the bunch, while the XA was an affordable but midrange device. Overall, they're your standard mid-to-high offerings.

The XA Ultra is something different, not just because of its size—Sony has generally shied away from the phablet craze—but because of its focus on front-facing photography. That 16-megapixel front-facing camera is one of the highest megapixel counts we've seen for a front shooter and Sony's sensors are well-known for solid picture-taking abilities (though post-processing is another story).

In the case of the XA Ultra, Sony is emphasizing its low-light capabilities and the presence of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). OIS is relatively common to have on rear sensors; it prevents your shaky hand from ruining photos and videos, and improves low-light performance, but we've almost never seen it in a front sensor before. There's also a selfie flash and a hand shutter, which starts a timer countdown when you raise your hand. The 21.5-megapixel rear sensor is fast-launching and can capture shots in the blink of an eye.

Expect the XA Ultra to boast an edge-to-edge display with a metal frame, similar to the smaller XA. Sony claims that despite its large size, the XA Ultra will be comfortable to use one-handed thanks to a svelte build and one-handed operation mode.

Battery life shouldn't be a concern either, according to Sony, which promises two days of battery life from a single charge with normal usage. We doubt it will score the same in PCMag's grueling battery test, where we set screen brightness to maximum and stream full-screen video continuously over LTE. But the XA should be helped by the Quick Charge UCH12 adapter (a separate accessory), which can provide five hours and 30 minutes of usage in 10 minutes of charging.

The Xperia XA Ultra will launch starting in July in certain markets. It will be available in black, white, and gold, with accessories including covers and flip cases. Price isn't known yet and we don't have all the hardware details, but the Xperia XA Ultra is intended to be a midrange phablet, suggesting it'll have similar internal hardware to the Xperia XA and perhaps a slightly higher price.

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