Fresh off their showroom at MWC 2016 in Barcelona, Sony took the opportunity to host local media at a MWC Breakfast in Lyndhurst this morning.
The reason for the breakfast; introduce local media to the devices launched at MWC and have them ask questions relative to the local market. Before we get into the details, It was quite a mystery what Sony was going to unveil at MWC this year, but now we know – a new line of Xperia X smartphones and “smart products” to go with them.
The X-series, as I like to call them, are to replace the outgoing Z-lineup. Rather sad if you come to think of it, or if you’ve just upgraded to the Z5 yourself. The X-series comes in the form of the Xperia X and XA. The devices themselves aren’t going to set any performance records, but Sony has tried to make them as compelling as possible in terms of design and photo features.
As such, the mobile group worked closely with the engineers who created Sony’s popular Alpha hybrid camera products. The result is a smartphone camera that focuses rapidly and accurately by predicting subject motion to eliminate any blur. Both phones also sport all-metal bodies with curved glass around the display “for a familiar form that feels comfortable in the hand,” according to the company. A few media friends noted that one cannot really tell the difference between the outgoing models and the new iterations. Truth be told.
Sony is no doubt hoping the curved glass makes that squarish “familiar form” seem a touch more premium. The lower end of the two devices is the Xperia XA, which has a 5-inch, 720p display, 13-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera and a 64-bit MediaTek MT6755 processor aka Helio P10. Though the screen is hardly what you’d call high-res, it takes up a good chunk of the phone’s total area, because the side bezels are virtually gone. Sony also says that because of its latest battery management tricks, the phone can go two days without a charge (the low-res screen certainly helps that as well.) As befitting its purpose as a camera-first phone, it also has expandable microSD storage to hold all your images and pirated music files.
The Xperia X model, meanwhile, features a 5-inch, 1080p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 CPU and expandable SD storage. That device packs Sony’s 1/2.3-inch, 23-megapixel Exmor sensor and also uses the Prediction Hybrid Autofocus developed by Sony’s camera division to automatically track subjects and keep them in focus. Sony also says you can take selfies in low light thanks to the 13-megapixel front camera sensor. There’s no word on the all-important pricing for the smartphones, but we imagine the devices will come at a premium over what their specs might suggest. We’ll have more information on both the Xperia X and XA once we get our hands on them.
To go with the new phones, Sony has also launched the first device in its lineup of “smart products.” The Xperia Ear is what Sony calls “a next-generation wireless earpiece” that does more than let you take a call. It can respond to verbal commands and let you search the internet, dictate messages or navigate using your smartphone. It will also provide information about your schedule, the weather and the latest news. To make sure it can do all that, Sony built it from soft silicone and gave it an all-day battery life. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and NFC.
In addition to a new phone line, Sony also laid out its grand vision for the future of its Xperia line. Let’s start with the strongest.
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The Xperia Agent is a personal assistant that listens out for voice commands and gestures. It’s clearly a reaction to the Amazon Echo. But it does things a little differently. Rather than just talking back at you, the Agent will project information onto the table. It’s not immediately clear why that’s more useful. The stand-out feature is the animated “head,” which houses a camera, and a ridiculously adorable face. It looks like Eve from Wall-E!
Next up was the Xperia Projector. It’s an interactive projector. It’s not as small as it looked in the promotional video — maybe 9 inches long and tall, and 4 inches wide. It has a short throw and, in its concept stage, a very dim projection. Sony says you’ll be able to interact with it with voice, touch, and gestures, but only the touch was working in the demo. It uses lasers to detect where you’re touching, and it’s not very responsive.
Finally is the Xperia Eye. It’s a life-logging camera, just like the Narrative Clip, the Autographer and countless others. Sony differentiates its take on the genre by fitting it with an ultra-wide-angle “360-degree” lens, and adding some facial and voice detection to capture moments intelligently. At least, it plans to. The Eye doesn’t appear to be working right now — it’s nestled behind glass at Sony’s booth, and we were told the units were non-functional.
We do know that the X-series of smartphones is set to reach us ‘around May’ while the rest of the smart devices are yet to be confirmed.