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Sony Mobile Not For Sale Despite Losses, New Model Features Described As “Gimmicks”

Sony’s struggling smartphone business is not for sale executives at Mobile World Congress have said. The comments came as the Japanese Company rolled out new models including a new Xperia XZ2 which rumbles when playing games or watching movies, analysts claim the technology is a “gimmick”.

The Xperia XZ2’s rumble feature adapts technology originally developed for the firm’s PlayStation controllers, Sony has also turned its focus to 4K high-definition video recording in an effort to outperform Samsung and Apple.

Sony’s mobile division was the only part of the company to report a loss in its last financial quarter and there has been speculation that the business might be shut down or sold off.

The firm is about to change its chief executive, and the new boss – Kenichiro Yoshida – was previously responsible for selling off its Vaio PC business and cutting the budget of the mobile division.

Sony has, however, denied that it is actively considering spinning off or shutting down the unit.

The Japanese firm is hoping that its advanced imaging system will help the handset to stand out from rivals.

In a world first, it will record video in 4K HDR, a quality previously only available in top-of-the-range camcorders.

The XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, which also feature vibrating feedback, will go on sale globally from next month.

The new Sony offering also records “super-slow-mo” videos at a higher resolution than Samsung’s Galaxy S9.

Sony has, however, pioneered other phone innovations in the past – including a 4K screen and waterproofing – only to see its sales struggle.

In 2017, it was only ranked the 15th best-selling smartphone manufacturer, according to research firm IDC, with a 0.94% share of the market.

“It is very frustrating when we bring something out to the market first, and maybe the competition comes a year later and does kind of the same thing and gets more buzz around it,” acknowledged Sony’s senior manager Adam Marsh.

“We will definitely be improving how we go to market with the product this time to really ensure the consumers understand the experiences that we can offer.”

According to the BBC, Analysts are not convinced that Sony’s mobile division is able to deliver the appeal of the new features or the marketing spend to take on brands such as Apple and Samsung.
“The rumble tech is a bit of a gimmick,” commented Ben Stanton from the consultancy Canalys.

“I’ve tried it. It does make gaming more immersive, but I don’t think it works very well in a video context.

“And I don’t think it adds the value that consumers are looking for in a smartphone these days”

CCS Insight’s Ben Wood added that he thought the phone’s new industrial design was a major improvement on the past, but that he also had doubts about the new flagship’s prospects.

“Success often comes down to marketing dollars and brand,” he said.

“Taking on Apple and Samsung requires eye-watering investment that Sony is always going to struggle with.”

Last year’s model was the first phone to be able to stretch out 0.2 seconds’ worth of action to create six seconds of footage, in 720p resolution.

24 hours after Samsung was jumping up and down about their new video recording capabilities, Sony has now trumped that by delivering its 960 frames-per-second footage in 1080p – twice the resolution that Samsung is delivering.

It said it had achieved this by using a customised version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chip that features its own image signal processor technology.

The potential problem for the firm, however, is that early reports indicate Samsung’s version is much easier to use.

“Sony hasn’t done much to tweak the user interface since last year’s model, where it was pretty poorly executed and very difficult to capture the key moment,” said Mr Stanton.

“And Samsung has done some brilliant work with AI and image recognition to capture the fast moments as they happen – it’s actually learned from Sony’s mistakes to launch something better, even though technically it’s not to as high a standard.”

Another new camera technology in the XZ2 is the ability to record 4K videos in both a high dynamic range format – meaning images should appear more vibrant and realistic when played back on a compatible screen – as well as in 10-bit colour.
Sony is also releasing a “compact” version of the XZ2 phone with a smaller display but otherwise similar specification.

The latter feat means that users will be able to tweak the colour of the resulting footage with less risk of causing banding and other visual artefacts.

While this is likely to only appeal to a relatively small number of film-makers, it is significant as the firm has yet to offer the facility to many of its high-end cameras.

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