As we approach the midway point of 2014, the march of smartphone progress is as unrelenting as it’s ever been. The latest devices from the likes of Samsung and HTC have pushed specs, screen sizes and price tags to new heights, to the point where the year-old phones they’ve replaced seem quaint and dated. Yet one manufacturer has committed to an even more aggressive upgrade cycle. Sony Mobile may be an also-ran in the U.S., but it’s big internationally, and it likes to refresh its premium smartphones every six months. So as tick follows tock, the Japanese manufacturer unveiled the Xperia Z2 at a press conference in Barcelona this February, replacing the Xperia Z1 a mere half-year after its emergence.

While such a rapid pace can be frustrating for consumers, who may find their shiny new handsets superseded in just a few months, this quick turnover of flagships has allowed Sony to iterate its way to better products. The jump from Xperia Z to Z1 saw the manufacturer finally nail a few important areas — camera, battery life and performance — while advancing its “omnibalance” design language. The Z1’s slab-like design wasn’t for everyone, but it was, and still remains, a fine phone.

The Xperia Z2 is yet another iterative update, and this time Sony is focusing on improved display and sound quality, while addressing the handful of build issues that affected the Z1. That’s not as exciting as built-in fingerprint scanners, heart-rate sensors or Duo Cameras, but it demonstrates a focus on the core experience that competitors sometimes lack. And as we’ll discuss in our review, it’s a big part of what makes the Z2 not just another solid Sony phone, but a true rival to current flagships from HTC, Samsung and even Apple.

Read on to find out why.




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