With just two announcements at CES and two more at Mobile World Congress, Sony hasn't exactly buried us in new smartphones this year. But considering that the company enjoys big showcase events at tech trade shows, we also weren't surprised that it used IFA to introduce a few more.
Joining the Xperia Tablet S on the Berlin stage were the new Xperia T, V, and J Android handsets. Though the devices look largely alike, they run the gamut in power and features, with the T out in front, the V in the middle, and the J bringing up the rear. As such, it's the T that's the most exciting of the three and the one I'll talk about here. Oh, and by the way, Sony played a clip from the upcoming James Bond movie "Skyfall" when presenting the Xperia T. No, the phone won't open a safe or shoot a poison dart, but it will play a starring role in Daniel Craig's hand.
On the outside, the Xperia T breaks from recent devices like the Xperia P, Xperia U, and Xperia S (you have to wonder if Sony will eventually hit all the letters of the alphabet) by ditching the lighted band at the bottom of the handset. In fact, it's more akin to the Xperia Ion, but it's just a vague resemblance.
As simple as it is, the candy bar phone has a trim profile with clean lines and slightly rounded corners. It won't stand out in a crowd, but it's not unattractive. The 4.6-inch HD Reality display runs on Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine. I haven't held it in my hands personally, but CNET's team on the ground in Berlin reports that it's sharp and crystal-clear. And from the photos that CNET's Stephen Shankland shot, it certainly looks that way.
Otherwise, there's not much to say about the Xperia T's style, though I may feel differently once I get it in my hands. I'm just hopeful that a high-end phone like this will come in aluminum rather than plastic. It will be available in black, silver, and white versions.
Inside there's a bigger story to tell. The star attraction will no doubt be the 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording and a second 720p HD front-facing shooter. Sony says that the camera will be able to go from sleep to snap mode in just over a second. Other features include a media player, PlayStation certification, and the ability to connect to an Xperia TV Dock for viewing photos and videos on an HDMI-enabled television.
The promised near-field communication (NFC) features should also win some fans, provided that you have other NFC devices. Though mobile payments have developed as a popular NFC implementation, the Xperia T also will focus on wirelessly transferring media back and forth. As CNET UK's Rich Trenholm describes it, a pairing with NFC-enabled speakers could be one use. By pairing the handset with a set of Sony speakers you can play music on the speakers without a wired connection. Also read Rich's post for some awesome James Bond puns.
Deep inside there's a respectable 1.5GHz dual-core processor to keep things running. Sony says it will deliver "improved battery life, fast performance, and ultrasharp graphics," but we'll have to see how it fares for ourselves. The Android OS is 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, though the company says it will be upgraded to Android version 4.1 Jelly Bean following launch. That's all we've got, so I trust that Sony will keep its users in mind when planning that schedule.
Sony's recent crop of handsets have been hit or miss. Brian Bennett liked the Xperia S, for example, but the Xperia Ion and Xperia P weren't quite as hot. Still, NFC and the high-powered camera (provided it takes good shots) warrant a closer look.
Fortunately, the device also offers more power and a more updated Android OS than its immediate predecessors, and there's that eye-popping display (pretty screens are a typical Sony trademark). So, yes, the device holds some promise, but there's no escaping the fact that it will face heavy Android competition from the likes of HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. So besides ensuring that the Xperia T will perform well, Sony also needs to get to enough carriers, including one in the United States, and give it a reasonable price (no more than $199 with service). Note that in some markets Xperia T will be known as Xperia TX.