Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Launching of waterproof Xperia Z Ultra phone by Sony

Sony has announced a waterproof Android smartphone with a 6.4in screen (16.3cm). The firm is pitching the Xperia Z Ultra as being the slimmest large-screened handset available around. It can also accept sketches or notes written using a standard pencil or metal-tipped pen in addition to an optional stylus. The firm says it intends for the device to challenge Samsung's dominance of the jumbo-sized handset sector. According to a study, Samsung accounted for 70% of the overall "superphone and phablet" market in 2012 thanks to the popularity of different models.

Earlier this year, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Mega, a 6.3in-screened handset were added to its line-up. Sony already offers a 5in handset of its own, the original Xperia Z. The Ultra follow-up was unveiled at the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai. The new device will go on sale in China, Indonesia and Singapore in July and then in Europe in September. "Southeast Asia is the key market for the product because the trend towards large-screened smartphone devices is stronger there," Calum MacDougall, director of Xperia marketing said.

"But we also see the trend in Europe as well. In the large-screen segment at the moment most consumers are looking at the Galaxy Note. Now we can offer something that is really distinct: a stronger screen, greater portability, waterproofing and something different around the stylus and the pen." Sony is not alone in seeking to erode Samsung's lead. Over recent months Huawei has announced the the 6.1in Ascend Mate; ZTE the 5.7in Grand Memo; Acer the 5.7in Liquid S1; Asus the 6in FonePad Note; and Lenovo the 5.5in Ideaphone K900.

Mr MacDougall said Sony intended to compete against these by promoting the Xperia Z Ultra's "premium" features rather than trying to match the Chinese and Taiwanese. The Japanese firm reported its first annual profit in five years in May, but some analysts said its figures were skewed by asset sales and did not reflect a turnaround for its electronics divisions. 

The Xperia Z Ultra is 6.5mm (0.26in) thick, only slightly deeper than the thinnest device on the market, Huawei's Ascend P6. Sony's new model is a fraction bigger than Samsung's Galaxy Mega. Unlike the original Xperia Z, the new phone does not need a flap over its headphone socket to protect it from water damage, addressing complaints the feature was fiddly to use.

It can also be submerged to a deeper limit, 1.5m (4.9ft) in freshwater for up to half an hour. The device also has:-

A 1080p resolution screen with in-built software to upgrade lower definition videos and photos

16 gigabytes of internal storage with support for 64GB microSD cards

An 8 megapixel rear camera

A battery offering up to 11 hours talk time or 120 hours of audio playback, a figure which Sony claims is a record

Those concerned about using such a big device for quick tasks are also offered an optional bluetooth add-on which can be paired to the handset using NFC to make calls, view text messages or stream music. The accessory is similar to the HTC's Mini accessory for its 5in Butterfly handset. Transparency Market Research said that over 150 million Android super-sized phones were sold in 2012 and predicted the market would grow to 400 million by 2018. Another consultancy firm, Frost & Sullivan, agrees that demand for such devices appears to be robust despite the fact many users would struggle to use them unless they had both hands free.

"For many people in developing parts the phablet is their first communications and computing device and allows them to have a single machine rather than multiple ones," the firm's managing director Manoj Menon said. "But going forward companies are going to find it increasingly hard to differentiate between their products on size - it will have to be on software and other features. So, Sony seems to have the right strategy at this time."

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