We reckoned IFA would be an exceptionally busy show, and now that we’ve combed through all of our coverage and condensed it here, it’s clear the event lived up to our expectations. Sure, the venerable CES may have topped IFA in show floor square feet, but the announcements in Berlin generated perhaps even more excitement than those that came out of Las Vegas in January. A pair of high-profile smartwatches, two titanic smartphones, a duo of lens cameras, 4K displays and a bevy of hands-ons await you in a neat, yet massive, roundup after the break.%Gallery-slideshow83286%
Filed under: Cellphones, Desktops, Cameras, Displays, GPS, Handhelds, Home Entertainment, Household, Laptops, Peripherals, Portable Audio/Video, Robots, Tablets, Transportation, Wearables, Samsung, Sony, HTC, ASUS, LG, HP, Acer, Lenovo
Sony is steering its mobile ship into deeper waters with the Xperia Z Ultra. The 6.4-inch device (above, left) slots in the size gap between its former flagship handset, the 5-inch Xperia Z (above right), and its 10.1-inch Android slate, the Xperia Z Tablet. The Xperia Z Ultra might have more sensibly been named the Xperia Z Tablet Mini. Instead, Sony has hedged its bets with a name that doesn’t exclude either possibility: for some people this is a really big smartphone, for others it’s a highly portable small slate.
I got hands-on with the newest addition to Sony’s line up at a press event this morning. First impressions: there’s no getting away from the sheer size of this beast. The Xperia Z Ultra is a mammoth. It’s huge, crazy huge. It looks more like a mini tablet than a phone when you see it wielded in anger, which likely explains why Sony has felt the need to make a dummy handset accessory (powered by Bluetooth) so you don’t have to hold this slab up to your face. Doing that is going to invite ridicule unless you’re one of those Ballmer-sized business men with hands the size of dinner plates.
Even holding the Ultra in one hand feels a little ridiculous if you have smaller hands than average, like myself, but its slender profile (just 6.5mm) helps — meaning it doesn’t feel too palm-stretching. The main offsetting factor is a very lightweight feel. It’s surprisingly light in the hand (212g) for such a large device. You could happily hold it in one hand and not worry about getting wrist-ache. And if you can find a pocket on your person big enough to accomodate the Ultra it won’t feel like a drag, even if it drastically reduces your ability to bend.
Sony says the Ultra is about a third bigger than the Xperia Z (and has a third-extra in battery capacity too, so it’s still good for about one day’s use before needing a charge). And at 6.4-inches it’s considerably larger than Samsung’s 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II, and fractionally larger than Samsung’s newer phablet, the 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega. Rumours around the Galaxy Note refresh suggest Samsung is contemplating adding a 5.9-inch pane on the next iteration. Sony has evidently decided its worth making an even bigger splash with its own phablet foray. But with the Xperia Z already sitting on the cusp of phablet sizing, with its 5-inch pane, supersizing the sequel is the natural next step.
Sony talked up how consumer demand for bigger screens is growing — apparently as fast as the screens themselves are swelling. The likely reason for that, as I have previously argued, is that people are using smartphones for more rich media consumption and visual computing uses more of the time – fuelled by apps and high speed connectivity — rather than for talking on the phone. Screen size is therefore inflating to adapt to shifting use. And Sony reckons it’s well placed to capitalise on the momentum powering media consumption — thanks to its sprawling entertainment empire.
As with its other Xperia devices, Sony’s Android skin foreground access to this media content. Sony is hoping its content empire can become a differentiating force in the mobile devices space — and help it stand out in the crowded Android OEM segment. As with Sony other current Xperia devices, the Xperia Z Ultra is preloaded with its Walkman app providing access to music downloads and its Music Unlimited streaming service; Movies for video content, including access to Sony’s Video Unlimited store for renting or buying films; and PlayStation Mobile for accessing its games app store. There’s also Sony Reader for browsing and downloading ebook content.
Elsewhere, Sony has kept its Android tweaks to a minimum so there’s little getting in the way of enjoying Android 2.2 Jelly Bean as Google intended. The device felt slick and fast during my brief hands on, with no obvious signs of lag. The phone’s engine is a beefy 2.2 GHz quad-core chip (Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor) — possibly the first device to pack that CPU. It also includes 4G/LTE for high speed cellular connectivity.
The hardware design of the Xperia Z Ultra follows the same mold as the Xperia Z and Xperia Z Tablet. There are no showy embellishments. What you get is a clean, relatively blunt-sided high gloss slab (or at least it’s clean until you touch it, when the high gloss becomes a fingerprint magnet). The user’s eye is clearly intended to fall squarely on the screen — where Sony gets to really strut its stuff, by pulling in IP from its Bravia TV division to amp up the colour clarity and video playback experience on the handset. The Ultra is also the first device in Sony’s Xperia line-up to be badged with its latest Triluminos TV tech, which it said supports a greater range of colours.
The screen looked plenty bright during my hands on but as with other Sony mobile screen it’s not as saturated as Samsung’s high end AMOLED screens typically are. Sony opts for more true-to-life colourings with its display tech. The Xperia Z Ultra’s big, bright full 1080p HD pane obviously comes into its own for consuming video content. You can image the device being a handy travelling companion for watching TV shows and movies on the go, assuming you don’t want to lug around a full-fat tablet. Or for watching TV in the bath — being as the Ultra is waterproof. Gaming is also likely to work well with so much screen space for mashing virtual buttons.
The Ultra’s large physical size (179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm) does mean typing can require two fingers to reach all the keys. But Sony has a software fix for that. It’s added a one-handed keyboard option which allows the user to switch from a screen-filling QWERTY to one which compacts into the right or left hand corner, depending on your choice (so that both right- and left-handed people can use it). So that’s pretty neat. You can of course further augment the Android keyboard experience by downloading alternative third party apps.
Sony has also added support for stylus input on the Ultra — presumably taking another cue from the Galaxy Note — for taking notes, sketching and for handwriting recognition. In a laudable move — especially for Sony, once the king of propriety accessories — there’s no specific stylus required here. You can draw on the screen with a pencil. Or even a fingernail.
To sum up, the Xperia Ultra Z feels like it has a lot going for it. Sony is refining its Android play to zero in on media consumption. And if it’s content you want to consume, then a 6.4-inch screen is exactly the sort of thing you’ll want in your pocket. Or, more realistically, in your handbag/manbag. Flagship smartphone screens aren’t getting any smaller either, so even if the Ultra feels like it’s pushing the screen size envelope a bit far right now, it’s unlikely to remain the biggest phablet in phablet-town for long.
Americans who likes the Sony Xperia go’s approach to lifeproof smartphone design won’t have to live vicariously through their overseas friends anymore. Keeping up its recent habit of selling unlocked versions of niche devices, Sony is selling the toughened smartphone in the US as the Xperia advance. The 3.5-inch handset won’t initially be a surprise to those who’ve had a peek at an international version, right through to the out-of-the-box Android 2.3 installation — you’ll be sitting in line for a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean like everyone else. For most, the advantage will rest in a dust- and water-resistant phone that can wield its 3G on AT&T or Straight Talk while being free to use at least basic GSM calling abroad. Be sure to shop around before committing to an Xperia advance, though. While Newegg’s $ 250 price makes a reasonable case, the $ 300 official cost has our minds wandering to the much more powerful (if more fragile) Nexus 4.
After just under three months of development, Google’s wrapped up its experimental work on bringing the Sony Xperia S into the Android Open Source Project fold. According to Sony, AOSP Technical Lead Jean-Baptiste Quéru considers the effort a success, but the device is being taken off the project’s roadmap so Mountain View can focus on its own hardware. Currently, an AOSP build boots on the Xperia S hardware with support for SD-Cards, Wi-Fi and its built-in sensors. Audio and the phone’s modem are also operational, but they require proprietary binaries Hirai and Co. can’t publish just yet. Work on polishing the handset’s vanilla Android experience isn’t over, however. Sony has moved the code to its GitHub account and is welcoming developers to pitch in and help with the open source effort. For more details and to see what code has already been laid down, tap the second source link or check out the video of the smartphone in action below.
Sony Xperia T and TX owners won’t have to wait until the eventual Jelly Bean update to eke some new life out of their software. From this week onwards, the Bond-blessed Android phone is getting an update that adds screen mirroring through Miracast; provided the stars align and you’ve got a compatible TV, the high-end Xperia gets that much larger a canvas. Upgrading also introduces an extended standby mode that temporarily shuts off data, a movie app with a small video player and a photo album that makes use of Sony’s full image processing engine. We’re further reminded as to how much sweeter that HD Voice calling on the T (but not TX) should sound. As much as we’d prefer a full-fledged OS update, it’s a welcome dose of relevancy for a smartphone that has had fierce competition almost from the start.
Two of the most important smartphones of 2012 are the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Sony Xperia T, both potent smartphones with distinctive features. The Samsung Galaxy S III now sports a 4.7 inch screen, taller than the previous Galaxy S2 and higher resolution too, at 1280 x 720 pixels, while the Sony Xperia T is a 4.6 inch monster with 1280 x 720 pixels resolution. The Galaxy S3 is running Android 4.0, same as the Xperia T, with a promise to be updated to Jelly Bean soon on both cases. The construction is different too, with the Samsung Galaxy S 3 being thinner and ligher, but covered with an easy to scratch plastic back, while the Sony Xperia T is heavier, bulkier, but solid built, with a rubbery back that’s very grippy. Performance is similar despite the Galaxy S III being powered by a quad core Exynos CPU and Snapdragon S4 for the Xperia T. While on paper the camera of the Xperia T has a sizeable megapixels advantage, 13 vs only 8, pictures and videos look just about the same on the two, so the question is what do you prefer: TouchWiZ or Timescape, both custom user interfaces with their pros and cons. We invite you now to watch our Samsung Galaxy S3 versus Sony Xperia T comparison. Video Rating: 5 / 5Related Posts:
Sony only outed its newest trio of Xperia smartphones just over a month ago in Berlin, and AT&T has just announced that it’s already grooming the device for a U.S. launch.
Oh, and in case you care, the phone will also appear on-screen as James Bond’s phone of choice in Skyfall. Then again, what else is new — Daniel Craig’s version of the iconic secret agent has been using Sony phones for his two previous forays on-screen.
Here’s a quick recap of the T/TL in case you really don’t feel like clicking that link — Sony’s new flagship sports a 4.6-inch Reality display running at 720p, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260-A processor (the same as the one seen in HTC’s slim One S), and a fast-booting 13-megapixel camera.
In terms of connectivity, the TL will play nice with AT&T’s LTE network, and there’s an NFC chipset tucked in there as well to help facilitate one-touch file sharing (and potentially Isis-powered mobile payments?). The whole shebang runs on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich for the time being, and while Sony confirmed that a Jelly Bean update would be pushed “following launch,” there’s no telling how long it’ll take an update like that to pass through AT&T’s testing and certification process.
Honestly though, AT&T’s announcement isn’t exactly news if you’ve been paying close attention these past few weeks. In the days leading up to Sony’s Xperia unveiling at IFA, it was revealed that Sony Mobile had filed a trademark application for “Xperia TL” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even more tell was the fact that the Xperia T was spotted on a U.K. retailer’s website rocking AT&T’s familiar logo (see below) just a few days after Sony’s official announcement. The real meat here — when the TL will launch and how much it’ll cost when it does — is notably absent in AT&T’s release.Related Posts:
There isn’t much mystery left to an FCC-bound phone that’s already been announced and thoroughly handled, but we must admit that Sony does a pretty good job at making the federal approval documents more exciting than most. How? More often than not, the confidentiality request has already been lifted, leaving us with a user manual and a full trove of teardown photos. Such is the case with the Xperia T, announced recently at IFA 2012. Aside from these additional elements, there likely isn’t much for the average gadget-loving American to geek out about — this particular model offers pentaband HSPA+ / UMTS but lacks LTE, which means it’s probably only going to find its way to purple mountains majesty through the efforts of T-Mobile (or importers, worst-case) — we’re still holding out hope for the AT&T-branded version that leaked a few days ago, however. No matter its fate, follow us below for a gallery full of revealing photos.
Gallery: Sony Xperia T FCC teardown pics
So, you probably didn’t even get the cellophane off your Xperia Tablet S yet (for those in the UK at least), but Sony has already beaten the likes of iFixit to the strip-down post. It’s one of the firm’s own engineers, Takuya Inaba, who takes a knife to the minty-fresh tablet — revealing its NVIDIA innards for all to see. Of course, we could tell you all about how he opened up the tablet, removing 10 screws, and breaking the splash-proof internal seal, but we gather you’d probably rather see the deed for yourselves. Full gory video after the break, but just remember, don’t try this at home or you might as well tear up that warranty, too.
Filed under: Tablets
Of Sony’s trio of Xperia phones announced yesterday at IFA 2012, we’ve now seen the smallest and most budget-friendly model — the Xperia J — make it through the mounds of red tape and federal approval. Fortunately for us, Sony didn’t bother requesting confidentiality on the various teardown photos that typically are kept away from prying public eyes. As always, it’s important to withhold any assumptions that this particular device will make it to any US carrier; FCC approvals never offer any guarantee, and the J’s lack of LTE isn’t going to help matters. Still, this seems like an ideal device for a prepaid operator to pick up, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed. In the meantime, gaze upon the full teardown in the gallery below.
Gallery: Sony Xperia J FCC teardown photos