Sony’s roster of MWC launches included products outside of the usual mobile manufacturer releases. Alongside their XZ Premium flagship level device came Xperia Touch – an interactive projector and Xperia Ear – an in ear assistant.
Even within the new flagship device, there were features beyond the usual display and photography focus expected from the Japanese brand. The main advancement outside of display and photography was their collaboration with Qualcomm in order to deliver the first device capable of achieving 1gbps download speeds – 10 times faster than first generation 4G devices.
Describing the progress made, Sony Mobile UK head Warren Saunders told Mobile ‘EE and Qualcomm are very excited about a 1gbps speeds as you can imagine, EE did a lab test on it as well where’s it’s already achieving 979mbps, really impressive.’
However, with advancement comes new issues, such as what happens when the network can’t reach the speeds the device is capable of. When asked whom customers would find responsible – the device or the network, Saunders answered, ‘There’s a brand issue where as a consumer, whatever brands you trust the most, inevitably you’ll blame the other one as the weak link. So it depends what people are more attached to emotionally. Certain manufacturers and networks have done a better job of nurturing this than others.’
Comparing it to similar industry issues, the Sony boss continued, ‘I remember working at a different manufacturer where even though it had a much lower return rate than others in the industry, the perception was the other way round, and that is an example of the emotional attachment to the brand, luckily we’re Sony so it’s not going to be a problem.’
Another world first in the device is the XZ Premium’s 4K HDR display, following on from the Z5 Premium which featured the world’s first 4K display. Discussing whether the consumer market is prepared for the latest development, Saunders said, ‘I think when the Z5 Premium came out one of the criticisms was that there was a lack of available content, as you probably saw at the launch one of the things we’ve been working on is this. We’ve worked with Amazon Prime to ensure there’s plenty of 4K HDR content out there, their original programming like the Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle is all ready for users. It looks really strong and I think the HDR piece, is a really visible improvement, that colour depth is mind-blowing. It’s the first time you can get true red on a screen.’
At the beginning of the year, Warren Saunders predicted to Mobile that, '2017 is the year Sony reclaims its position as the technology pioneer to watch.' Asked how the new launches fit into this, he stated, ‘This device for me is about Sony’s heritage in innovation, and if you look at the areas of our business where we are growing significantly like compact system cameras, digital SLRs, headphones and obviously Playstation, we grow because we bring innovation back into the market, into the mainstream and this is a device which is absolutely that. It’s not just the 4K, it’s the camera tech and the hi-res audio as well. It’s about us owning an area in market share and standing for what Sony stands for.’
Part of this innovation includes the Xperia Touch projector – a device which turns any surface into a touch screen and also features high resolution audio, proximity sensors and built in intelligence. But how to bring such a product to market? Saunders explains the retail channel approach stating, ‘it’s a retail rather than an online play, it’s an assisted sale. You need to experience the product to part money for it to be honest. So we’ll be looking at those key retail channels in the UK with some announcements coming closer to launch, but in the UK you will be able to go in stores and experience it, to play with it and learn about it and I think that’s key, that’s where the magic happens.’
However, this doesn’t mean it’s right for all of Sony Mobile’s traditional channels in the UK according to the UK head, ‘It may be one of those things that we don’t sell through our traditional channels because you are unlikely to go into a Vodafone or O2 store and spend however much the device is, it’s not cheap! But what we may do is put it in some of their flagship stores just to demonstrate the innovation. If you look at what O2 are doing at the moment with their future stores, where they are trialing new concepts in limited areas, it may be the kind of thing that we can integrate into that environment. It’s driving footfall as well, just how Playstation VR did for video game stores.’
Speaking generally about Sony Mobile’s role in the UK, Saunders told Mobile, ‘We have consistently demonstrated our ability to sell high end devices in good numbers. Outside of the two incumbents we always perform well and we have a strong loyalty within our consumer base. With things like the 1Gbps downloads with EE, there’s a well defined reason for their customers to choose us.’
The XZ Premium is expected to go on sale through Carphone Warehouse, EE, O2 and Vodafone in ‘late spring 2017.’