By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Communications launched its latest two waterproof smartphones, the 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra and 5-inch Xperia Z1, in the U.S. but only as unlocked GSM models not available through carriers.
Sony also rolled out its second-generation smart watch in the U.S.
The 6.4-inch Z Ultra smartphone is positioned as offering the world’s largest FullHD smartphone display, and it’s said to be the world’s slimmest FullHD smartphone, thanks to a thickness of 0.25 inches.
The photography-oriented 5-inch Xperia Z1 features a 20.7-megapixel camera and is promoted as offering digital compact camera picture quality and ability to take clear pictures in low-light conditions.
The U.S. launch of the Android smartphones would seem to reflect the company’s reported focus on the European and Japan markets to build its global market share, but a spokesperson denied that the U.S is taking a back seat. “Recent headlines suggest that Sony has limited ambitions for the U.S. and Chinese markets,” the spokesman said. “This is not the case. Both China and the United States of America represent important opportunities for Sony Mobile, and the company is fully committed to building steady and sustainable growth both markets. “
Sony is “continuing to build momentum in both markets,” the spokesman continued. In the U.S., for example, the company recently launched Xperia Z exclusively with T-Mobile. The company “will continue to bring compelling products to these markets [U.S. and China] and evolve our portfolio,” he added.
Earlier this week, Sony president/CEO Kazuo Hirai called Europe and Japan “the most important areas for us, and we'll put substantial resources there. But not yet for the U.S. and China," Reuters reported. "It's not realistic to try to do everything at once. In the U.S., we'll start gradually."
In the U.S., the 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra, unveiled in June, is available at select Sony stores, Store.Sony.com and select e-tailers at a suggested $649 for the HSPA+ version and $679 for the LTE version in black, white or purple. The HSPA+ version works on the T-Mobile and AT&T HSPA+ networks, and the LTE version works in those carriers’ LTE networks.
The 5-inch Xperia Z1, unveiled in September, is available only as an HSPA+ phone through the same channels at a suggested $669 in black, white or purple for use on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks.
The $199-suggested water-resistant Sony SmartWatch 2 retails for a suggested $199 through Store.Sony.com and select Sony stores. Other online retailers will also carry it, the company said.
Both phones feature IP55 and IP58 waterproof and dust-resistance ratings. The phones can be kept in 4.9 feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
The Xperia Z Ultra, although promoted for its FullHD screen size and thinness, is also the first Xperia-series smartphone with the ability to use a capacitive stylus or metal pen with tip diameter of more than 1mm for handwriting or sketching. Other features include 8-megapixel camera and 2.2GHz quad-core CPU.
The 5-inch Xperia Z1 features a 20.7-megapixel camera, 2.2GHz quad-core CPU, f2.0 wide-angle 27mm lens, 3x zoom, and Bionz image-processing engine to reduce noise, deliver a fast autofocus and stable images to keep video shots from blurring. The 1/2.3-type Exmor RS for mobile CMOS image sensor is said to be a high-sensitivity sensor to capture sharp images in low-light conditions. One key camera application is called Social Live, which broadcasts live video to Facebook.
The SmartWatch 2 lets users view text messages, calendar events, Gmail, and Facebook and Twitter notifications. It also manages calls, triggers a phone’s camera shutter, and runs more than 200 apps, many by third-party developers. The waterproof (IP57) device can be submerged in up to 3 feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. It also features one-touch nearfield communications (NFC) pairing to an Android smartphone and offers a number of strap options, including stainless steel, brown or black leather, and five silicon colors.
The new models extends battery life to three to four days over its predecessor via a power-efficient processor and transflective screen, which improves readability in bright sunlight without the need for a backlight.
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