Mid-range devices are often caught in a busy place of the market. Their great advantage is that you get most of the features of the flagship models but often at a considerable discount, providing you’re prepared to compromise in some respects. Long time readers will appreciate that I often prefer the former flagship model rather than this year’s mid-range because software features are usually rolled back into the former champion and you’re more likely to continue receiving software support and upgrades from the manufacturer.
The disadvantage of a mid-range device is that you don’t get so much future-proofing and the manufacturer is usually less keen on keeping the software version up to date. Mid-range devices are typically higher volume, but less profitable per unit for a business and most devote less resources into keeping the software up to date. In essence, the flagship model is used to sell the lesser models. The same way you might go into an autoshop wanting the supercharged V8 but buy the V6.
The introduction of 4G LTE into most Western markets has changed this a little where you might find that a current mid-range product has LTE and the former flagship does not, so there’s definitely a place for devices such as the HTC Desire 601. But today I’m going to write about one particular mid-range model and bring the lack of software updates into focus. Let me introduce the Sony Xperia SP.
Sony’s Xperia SP was an interesting device and one that I’ve personally recommended to a number of people. At the time of launch, early 2013, it had middling-of-the-road features. It came with a dual core 1.7 GHz processor that’s similar to the 2013 Motorola Moto X, a 4.6-inch 720p resolution screen, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage plus a MicroSD card. It had a good quality Sony camera on the back, NFC, Bluetooth 4 and critically, 4G LTE. Sony’s software is easy to navigate and the came with some great features such as Sony’s STAMINA mode, which is a way of shutting down many features to preserve battery life. Oh, and importantly it was about half the cost of the high end Xperia Z for most carriers.
Sony has just announced that the Xperia SP will not be upgraded to Android 4.4 Kit Kat. Many manufacturers cite that the reason for not upgrading older models to a newer version of Android is memory (or lack, thereof) but with Android Kit Kat redesigned to work better on handsets with less memory, this is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many people. Sure, the Xperia SP has 1 GB or RAM rather than the 2 GB that the Xperia Z has (the Z is getting the update to 4.4).
Does this matter? The Xperia SP running on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean is a pleasant enough experience. It’s a little bit smoother compared with the launch version, 4.1, and has better power management. Perhaps it could be improved with 4.4, perhaps not, but Sony’s decision doesn’t change how good the Xperia SP is in its own right. And I still like the SP, especially the blend of not-too-large screen, great camera and when you use STAMINA, great battery life too.