Samsung and Apple stand firmly at the stop of the smartphone heap, and players like HTC and LG continue ride their way up the market share rankings. But what of Sony? You know, the Japanese stalwart that occupies a significantly strong (if not dominant) position when it comes to other sorts of consumer tech?
It’s still gunning for that vaunted number three spot behind the folks in Seoul and Cupertino, but it’s preparing to tighten its focus a bit. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai confirmed to Reuters (among other news outlets) that the company will focus building its smartphone business in Europe and its native Japan before attempting to crack the massive Chinese and U.S. markets in earnest.
It may seem like a surprising concession — Sony is a globally-known brand after all — but it isn’t exactly a stranger to abandoning tough-to-crack market segments. Earlier this year Sony Xperia Product Manager Stephen Sneeden remarked to CNET that the company was considering getting out of the low-end Android smartphone racket entirely because thanks to some especially fierce competition. The (then-tentative) new plan? To focus squarely on pushing premium smartphones that are truly representative of Sony’s mobile vision.
Hirai also added that future expansion in the U.S. would start “gradually”, which is no surprise — that’s basically the tack Sony’s already been taking for the past few years. Sony was arguably more prominent in the U.S. mobile market before it very publicly split with joint venture partner Ericsson back in 2011. Since then, Sony Mobile has released only a handful of smartphones into the U.S. by via of carrier tie-ups — there was the Xperia X10 and Xperia ion on AT&T, the reasonably new Xperia Z on T-Mobile, and the immensely curious Xperia Play on Verizon. In fairness, Sony also sold its share of unlocked gadgets through its own online portal but I’d wager the domestic demand for pricey non-contract phones has never knocked Sony’s socks off.
Still, this whole thing does seem shrouded in question marks. Sony is surely waiting on the right time to push back into China and the U.S., but its more nimble, financially oblivious rivals aren’t going to sit idly by and wait for them to construct a viable expansion plan. There’s a very real chance that Sony will get out-innovated or out-marketed no matter when they decide to enter the fray, which is really a shame. From my perch, it looks like Sony is finally hitting its stride with smartphones — the Xperia Z was an awfully impressive piece of kit when it debuted, and more recent efforts like the Z1 prove that the company is willing and able to compete on specs with the best of them.
We’ve had the regular sized one, we’ve got its oversized cousin, and now Sony’s Xperia Z1 is getting a little brother to boss around, in the shape of the Sony Xperia Z1F. And it ain’t half bad!
From what we've seen of the Xperia Tablet Z, it is a skinny little wonder, if not exactly the best Android tablet out there
. Where it is the best though, is size, and its guts are packed nice and tight into that svelte frame. Now, we are getting to see that construction thanks to a teardown by, oddly enough, Sony itself
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We didn’t see a new phone from Sony at MWC this year, though it did take the opportunity to show off the Xperia Z (pictured) it demoed early this year at CES, but a new rumor suggests we’ll see a mid-year upgrade in a few months time that packs Android 4.2, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset with 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage.
The leaked specs come from a tipster providing info to Xperia Blog, and also suggest the C670X will be smaller than the Xperia 7, with a 4.8-inch screen compared to the announced device’s 5-inch display. In most regards, the C670X sounds like a beefed up Xperia 7, however, with a more powerful processor, Adreno 320 graphics and double the on-board storage, while retaining a 13 megapixel rear camera and the same 1920 x 1080 resolution. The device’s pixel density will be higher, however, since those same pixels are fitting in a smaller screen, making for more crisp text and graphics rendering.
If true, this new handset would be pretty much on par with HTC’s flagship One smartphone, which has a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 chipset, and an Adreno 320 GPU. No word on whether the C670X would also inherit the Xperia Z’s impressive water resistance, which could be a tipping point factor for buyers looking to make a decision between the two.
These leaked specs should be treated with a healthy dollop of skepticism (it was accompanied with a render from the setup guide from the Xperia Z, which admittedly doesn’t depict the Xperia Z itself), but they’re far from extreme, and Sony fielding a phone in 2013 that takes advantage of the latest in mobile processor technology does make sense.
This latest Xperia tablet has been the stuff of rumors for a few days now — a release from Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo first hinted that the so-called Tablet Z was in fact a real thing earlier this week – but the time for rumors has passed. Now Sony Mobile Japan has officially lifted the veil, and (to my utter surprise) the Tablet Z is both real and rather striking.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the Android 4.1-powered Tablet Z is its 10-inch display. It runs at 1920×1200, and is bolstered by Sony’s occasionally eyeball-nuking Mobile Bravia image-enhancement engine. The internals in question are no slouch either, though chances are they won’t knock your socks completely off. Nestled snugly inside the Tablet Z’s dust-and-water resistant chassis is an unspecified 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm chipset, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and an 8-megapixel rear camera complete with backlit sensor. Throw in a (slightly anemic) 6,000mAh battery, a microSD card slot, as well as requisite radios for Wi-Fi, LTE, and NFC, and you’ve got yourself a potential contender.
Really, though, perhaps the biggest draw here is just how slim the Tablet Z is. With its 6.9mm waistline, Sony’s latest tab is just a hair thinner than the iPad mini, and makes both the Nexus 7 and its larger cousin the Nexus 10 look downright chubby by comparison. The spec sheet may not be the strongest you’ll find on the market, but there’s little question that the Tablet Z is one of the sleekest, prettiest mobile computing packages to trickle out of Sony’s Japanese headquarters in a long time — if only the company would come clean with pricing and availability.
Sony’s brief (and completely Japanese) release leaves a fair bit to the imagination, but to call the Tablet Z a breath of fresh air for a company that never really managed to crack the tablet formula in a meaningful way is an understatement. What’s really got me excited here, though, is what devices like the Tab Z mean for Sony going forward. It was only a week or two ago that Xperia product manager Stephen Sneeden noted that the company was considering bailing out of the low-end smartphone market entirely, and a similar shift in the company’s overarching strategy for tablets would only be par for the course. Whether or not Sony can really claw its way into a position alongside superstar players like Samsung and Apple remains to be seen, but with hardware like this hitting the market, it seems clear that Sony is giving it the ol’ college try.