Based on a number of rumours and reports accumulated by OnLeaks (aka Steve Hemmerstoffer), however, it looks like a device bearing the Xperia Compact name is set to release soon.
When will the 2021 Sony Xperia Compact launch?
Previous entries have released at a range of points over the years; with the XZ2 Compact touching down in February 2018, the XZ1 Compact arriving in August 2017, the Xperia X, Z5 and Z3 Compacts all launching in September of their respective years, and the original Xperia Z1 Compact debuting in January 2014.
There was, in fact, a time when it looked like Sony had closed the book on the Compact line altogether (making this potential 2021 revival all the more surprising).
Back in early 2019, Sony Mobile's Marketing VP, Don Mesa was quoted as saying, "we stuck with Compact for a very long time, because of the ease of use [...] There’s always room for different sizes, but people want a lot more surface area for their content now."
Word of a Compact that same year emerged only a couple of months later, however, with Japanese site Sumahoinfo.com reporting on the existence of an 'Xperia 4' destined for local carrier NTT DoCoMo.
Despite the Xperia 4 never materialising, AndroidNext also reported on a Weibo post by user Caybule who, in late-2020, made mention of Sony's plans to introduce a new 5.5in device, powered by Qualcomm's rumoured 6nm Snapdragon 775 chipset (the successor to last year's Snapdragon 765 and 765G), sometime in the new year.
AndroidNext later produced another Weibo post (above), suggesting that this next Compact is, in fact, set to be a Japan-exclusive and successor to fellow regional exclusive mid-ranger, the Xperia Ace; powered by a more modest Snapdragon 690 5G chipset.
For those holding out hope, Sony's 14 April announcement held the greatest potential for a new Xperia Compact and while the Sony Xperia 5 III - which launched at the event - distils down the new flagship Xperia 1 III's offerings into a more pocketable form factor, it's not quite the device we had expected, at least in name.
What features will the 2021 Sony Xperia Compact offer?
Price and release date may still remain a mystery but OnLeaks is able to provide a pretty clear picture of what the next Compact is bringing to the table all the same, including what appear to be fully-fledged leaked press images of the phone.
As with Caybul's rumour, this new Compact is said to centre around a flat 5.5in display, set within a body measuring 140mm x 68.9mm x 8.9mm (according to OnLeaks). For reference, the Xperia XZ2 Compact, with its 5in 18:9 display, measured 135mm x 65mm x 12.1mm, while the best small phone currently on the market - the iPhone 12 Mini - features a 5.4in 19.5:9 display and measures 131.5mm x 64.2mm x 7.4mm.
It appears this new Compact will be a little on the chunky side by comparison to the iPhone and what's more, looks as though it won't sport the signature 21:9 aspect ratio that the company's current top phones: the Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II bring to the table.
The images above also highlight a fairly thick bezel with a U-shaped notch to accommodate the phone's 8Mp front-facing camera. There are a pair of snappers on the back, which are apparently led by a 13Mp primary sensor, suggesting an all-new camera setup compared to the aforementioned 'mark II' Xperias.
Other details include a side-mounted volume rocker and power key-cum-fingerprint sensor, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack.
One question that looms over the continuation of the Compact line is the validity of small phones in general in the current mobile market. As Mesa's 2019 quote highlights, Sony had already identified consumers' preference towards larger displays in order to accommodate richer content-driven experiences on mobile, and this trend has only continued since.
Initial sales of the iPhone 12 Mini were described to Nikkei as "sluggish," while separately, 9to5Mac referenced a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, stating that sales of the Mini only accounted for 6% of total iPhone 12 sales through October and November 2020.