The Sony Xperia Z6 release date is already drawing near. Image Credit: IXperiaZ6
The Sony Xperia Z6 release date is already drawing near. Image Credit: IXperiaZ6

The Sony Xperia Z6 release date is already drawing near. Yes, really. Sony’s current flagship phone, the Xperia Z5 might only be a matter of months old, but the firm’s insatiable need for rapid handset updates means yet another device is already on the horizon. If you’ve just upgraded, sorry, but don’t blame us – we’re just the messenger.

Set to go head-to-head with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 in the race for 2016 smartphone supremacy, the Xperia Z6 looks set to be a relatively low-key update. With no major design or camera advancements tipped to make an appearance, the Z6 will be all about power and software upgrades.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Sony Xperia Z6, from release date and rumours to the latest specs leaks and pricing deets:

Sony Xperia Z6 release date: When can we expect it?
The Z5 was only introduced back in September. That means the Sony Xperia Z6 release date must be the better part of a year away, right? Well, no. Sony doesn’t address the smartphone space like its rivals. Instead, the Japanese giant launches two flagship phones a year. And this frankly ridiculous 6-month product cycle means the Xperia Z6 launch is a lot closer than you might expect.

2015 saw the Xperia Z3+ touch down in Q2 ahead of the Z5’s launch less than 6 months later (just don’t ask what happened to the Z4, yeah?). Although Sony has yet to discuss exact Xperia Z6 release plans, it’s a safe bet that the phone will follow recent patterns, and enter the realms of reality during the first half of the year. Early rumours have even pointed to a Mobile World Congress-based unveiling.

With the European smartphone show to run between February 22 and 25, reports have claimed the phone could formally touch down during a dedicated press conference on the opening morning of the show.

While there’s a little mystery still surrounding the exact date the Z6 will drop, it appears likely the phone will not have the launch stage all to itself. In keeping with the company’s past flagship arrivals, the Z6 has been tipped to launch alongside at least one spin-off sibling, most likely a specs-heavy but stature-small Sony Xperia Z6 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z6 Design:  Don’t expect much change
Sony isn’t one for radical design overhauls. The entire ‘Xperia Z’ family has been built around a similar, boxy, ‘OmniBalance’ frame and things aren’t set to change for the Z6. That means you can expect a phone that’s utilitarian in appearance. One that’s easy on the eye but not quite as visually appealing as the iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6.

Instead of new curves and materials, expect a couple of new colours to drop. Sony likes to follow seasonal colour trends so whatever’s deemed hot in early 2016 will likely be plastered on the handset.

It will be slim too. With the Z5 rocking a 7.3mm frame – having cleaned up its look over previous models – the Z6 is also expected to be on the skinny side. What might change, however, is the tipped switch to the new, faster charging USB Type-C standard.

Sony Xperia Z6 specs: Minor updates to make a minor difference
With little set to change in how the phone looks, it’s under the surface that the Sony Xperia Z6 is getting ready for a revamp. Here, according to multiple leaks at least, we’ll see a significant specs bump, with the current Snapdragon 810 processor making way for Qualcomm’s latest high-end chipset, the Snapdragon 820.

This will provide improved download speeds – up to a massive 600Mbps – enhanced imaging options, especially in low-light, 3D audio support and improved battery life. While the new SoC will bring a number of new features to the Z6 – and a number of other devices – unless you’re a super hardcore user, its power bumps are unlikely to be too noticeable.

According to some early reports, the 820 chip will be paired with a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 rivalling 4GB of RAM – up on the Z5’s 3GB – and the now customary 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD.

The Xperia Z6 is also expected to retain its predecessor’s discrete fingerprint scanner. Instead of sitting beneath the screen or lining up as a rear-mounted eyesore, the biometric sensor has been squeezed into the phone’s side-mounted power button. It’s a feature we’d welcome back.

Sony Xperia Z6 screen: Getting touchy-feely if not better looking
Yes, the Z6’s Snapdragon 820 processor offers support for 4K screens, and yes, Sony’s already dabbled in this gimmicky area with the Xperia Z5 Premium, but you shouldn’t expect to see the Z6 go the 4K route. The screen tech on a 5-and-a-bit inch smartphone is a redundant novelty. And a costly one at that.

You shouldn’t expect a QHD panel either. While the wider industry might be rushing to board the 2560 x 1440 pixel bandwagon, Sony continues to shun the move. Arguing – quite rightly – that there’s little 2K content to support such a switch, Sony is expected to again dodge a QHD upgrade.

Instead, expect the Sony Xperia Z6 to feature the same, stunningly impressive 1080p, Full HD display as its predecessor. Well, at least visually. Beneath the surface, the Z6’s screen is expected to be all change. And change in an iPhone 6S, touchy-feely sort of way.

Early reports have pegged the Z6 to adopt pressure-sensitive screen technology similar to Apple’s 3D Touch panel. This would allow users to perform different tasks simply by applying varying levels of force to the screen.

Sony Xperia Z6 camera: Leaving high standards alone
The Sony Xperia Z5 currently features the best smartphone camera on the market. As such, don’t expect this stunningly impressive 23-megapixel monster to be moved on anytime soon. It has been suggested that the Z6 will retain the same low-light imaging unit, with the new 820 chip helping further enhance its image processing capabilities.

Don’t despair at this lack of change though. This snapper really is without compromise in the smartphone space.

Where the Z6’s camera collection could do with a bump, however, is up front with the selfie shooter. At present, however, there’s no word on whether or not the 5-megapixel front-facing camera will be given a boost or not.

Sony Xperia Z6 software: Enter the Marshmallows
There have been suggestions that Sony is getting ready to overhaul its tried, tested, and tired Android overlay, but details on a potential revamp are still thin on the ground.

What’s more clear, however, is that beneath the custom skin, Google‘s latest OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be running the show. This will bring a number of new features to the phone, including the battery-boosting Doze, support for Android Pay and enhanced fingerprint-friendly features.

Sony Xperia Z6 price: A premium phone with a price to match
The Z6 is a serious flagship phone from a serious and big-name tech brand. As such, don’t expect this thing to come cheap. Obviously, this far out from launch, Sony has yet to formally discuss pricing plans, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a good idea of how much the handset will cost.

In recent years the company’s flagship phones, from the Z5 to the Z3 have all touched down with a day-one price north of the £500 marker. With the Xperia Z5 sporting a lofty £529.99, SIM-free price tag, don’t expect its replacement to come cheap.

That’s all we know right now, but stay tuned for all the latest Sony Xperia Z6 news and rumours as additional details emerge.

[Digital Spy]