I’ve been talking a lot about what we may and may not see at MWC 2017 during the past week without knowing exactly when Sony would take to stage to reveal their latest mobile products. Now Sony Mobile has made their plans for Mobile World Congress official which will see them take to stage on Monday, February 27th at 8:30am CET. As always Sony Mobile will livestream the event, likely directly on their blog and on Ustream which nobody else on the planet uses but hey, what do I know?
A tipster sent a piece by James Peckham from Tech Radar India about the possibility of an Xperia Z6 Tablet being released at MWC later this year. In it, James writes:
Sony released the Xperia Z5 at the tail end of 2015, but its last slate was the Xperia Z4 Tablet a whole generation earlier, and more recently Sony has shown little interest in either tablets or the Xperia Z range, with new Xperia X and Xperia XZ handsets launching instead.
So we’ve been due a new slate for quite some time.
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet was a great attempt, topping our list of the best Android slates , at least until the Google Pixel C and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 arrived. But there’s plenty that Sony can do better, especially with so much time having passed, so we’ve made a check list of what we’d like to see to help them out.
That’s all well and good, but the piece seems to entirely dismiss what’s been happening in the Android tablet space. In late October, I wrote a piece called
and the gist of it is that Android tablets, as far as Google and its OEM partners are concerned, is a dead market with little being given to the OS to better utilize the additional screen space. With next to no support from Google and a severe lack of native tablet apps, consumers never really flocked to Android tablets and in return, OEMs mostly abandoned it. What follows in the piece reads more like speculation leading up to a product that is typically updated yearly.
At MWC in Barcelona, Sony will likely unveil two mid-range smartphones with specs that could put some flagship phones to shame. Codenamed G32XX, little is known about them so far though some specs have made their way to benchmarking site AnTuTu. As always, specs like this should be taken with a grain of salt but if true, Sony could have some juicy phones on their hands.
In a little less than a month’s time, Android Wear 2.0 will be launching for wearables from the Android camp. The software was originally set to launch in Fall but for unknown reasons was delayed and once it does launch, it’s still unclear what wearables will be eligible to receive it. Patrick O’Rourke writing for mobilesyrup:
It’s believed that negative feedback from the final preview developer build forced the company to hold back Android Wear 2.0’s release. Now, however, a recent notice sent out to developers indicates that Wear 2.0 will launch at some point in the next few weeks.
The notice was specifically sent out to developers with apps using Wear’s legacy APK installation mechanism. Wear 2.0 features an on-watch Play Store with support for standalone application that don’t require a phone companion app. Apps that have not been updated with new support will not show up in the Wear 2.0 store when it launches, according to the email sent to developers.
Prior to its release, IBT had a chance to spend some time with the Sony Xperia Ear, the assistant-driven headset, and when released, didn’t have many positive things to say about it other than some apps like Maps tend to work well with it.
Directions also work quite well. Ask for “directions to Manchester” and the Ear will ask if you want to travel by car, public transport or walking. Give your answer and within a couple of seconds the directions appear on your phone.
Ultimately they concluded with
Xperia Ear is simply frustrating. It lacks any form of wow factor and doesn’t offer any real benefits over talking to Siri or Google Now through the headphones you are already using. The Ear would probably look good on the set of a sci-fi film, but in the real world it just doesn’t make sense.
Now Cherlynn Low from Engadget has released her take on the wearable and it’s not looking good for Sony. For those who like their dessert first, Cherlynn writes:
Nobody, including yours truly, thought that Sony Mobile could get their house in order and release Android updates in a more timely manner but the latter part of 2016 began to prove critics wrong. In early Fall 2016, Sony announced that outside of Google, they wanted to be the first OEM to bring Android 7.1.1 to their fleet and they did exactly that at the beginning of January.
After CES 2017, it’s hard to write off the prospects of OLED displays coming to any of Sony’s product lineup. The biggest challenge with OLED has always been creating them in high volume for larger sized products like TV at a profit, making the introduction of them to the Xperia line a far easier task to achieve. With Sony clearly having mastered and learned a lot from creating the A1E OLED TV which provides beautiful contrast and wizbang features that prevent onscreen burnage which is far more relevant for mobile devices with static UI, the idea of future Xperia phones getting an OLED display isn’t as far fetched as it was 6 months ago.
The obvious big announcement from Sony at CES 2017 is their foray into OLED TVs with the A1E but if we look beyond the glamour of it, there are a lot more interesting products Sony is working on and one is dubbed Project N. Chances are that you’ve seen or heard of this product before, as it’s shown up at various trade shows and events like SXSW.
So what exactly is Project N? Think of a wearable that lives around your neck that’s powered by something like Siri, but it can also take pictures for you, and can also take calls, and can also play back your music, that’s equipped with GPS, gyro sensors, and a lot of other wizbang gadgetry. Confused? Perhaps it’s best to let Sony explain it.
Shown previously at other conferences, Sony had the Xperia Agent once again front and center at CES 2017. Designed to compete in the same space as Amazon Echo, Xperia Agent hopes to bring a personal connection to voice-driven products by literally putting a face, albeit an adorable robotic face, on the technology that we’re meant to interact with. Here is our video preview of what all it can do for you.
In early December, Sony made the bold announcement of wanting to beat all other OEMs to the latest Android build. For a company that’s had a checkered history with OS releases, 2016 shaped up to be a strong year with more consistent and timely updates across the Xperia lineup. Now, to everyone’s delight, Sony has kept its promise and in doing so, has released Android 7.1.1 Nougat for the Xperia X which paves the way for the build to arrive on other Xperia phones as well.
If Sony’s product roadmap holds, we’ll be given two more voice-driven devices sometime in 2017: the Xperia Agent and Xperia Projector. Until that time, the best example we have of Sony’s ambitions towards AI and voice-enabled products is the just-released Xperia Ear, their competitor for – or take on – the Apple AirPods. As Alistair Charlton from the International Business Times writes in his Xperia Ear review, you start off with a lot of slick tech.
The Ear comes with a lovely charging case with a spring-loaded lid and a snug pocket for the Ear to sit in, where it recharges from the case’s own battery, which in turn is charged via a microUSB port. There is no on button; you just take out the Ear, wear it and it starts working via a Bluetooth connection to your Android phone.
But before we even dive into its functionality and what it can do, the most profound knock against the Xperia Ear is its comfort level and no matter how amazing the technology behind it is, if you can’t bear to keep it in your ear, the entire thing becomes pointless.
A quick heads up to our friends in the north – you can now download Android 7.0 Nougat on the Xperia X. From Sony Mobile Canada:
We’ve cooked up a treat for you! Nougat is now available on the Xperia X. Follow our channels to see when it will be available on your device.
Rose Behar writes for mobilesyrup about the prospects of Nougat coming to additional Xperia models in Canada:
Prior to Christmas, a bit of data began to circulate regarding the demise of Samsung and the rise of Sony in their place. In short, in the vacuum left by the recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, it was the Sony Xperia XZ that was getting the biggest boost from it. At the time, I was skeptical of the results which lacked any meaningful sales figures, writing that
while this sounds good for Sony and I’m not arguing it’s not, the overall effects of it are still unknown. Part of the problem with the above graphs is that they lack any form of quantity, think of them as Jeff Bezos charts, where things just go up.
And it looks like Sony Mobile isn’t ending the year with a bang after all, or certainly not in the scale the previous data was depicting things.
Many people wondered what the demise of Samsung and their Galaxy Note 7 fiasco would mean for the greater mobile market and more specifically Android. Some had predicted that it might be the newly launched Google Pixel that would sweep up users left behind or Apple with iPhone 7 (something that Tim Cook himself denied). Well according to a new study by Apteligent Data, it was actually Sony and the Xperia XZ that benefited the most.
Quick heads up to owners of the Sony SmartWatch 3: over the next few days, Google’s December security update will be available to download. It’s not clear what specific changes will come with the update and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever learn, other than typical patches. Once updated, your SmartWatch 3 will move to firmware M1D64T. It’s always good to see that Sony is keeping up with the updates that it has access to. Everything else, like Android Wear, is entirely out of Sony’s hands as OEMs are only able to customize the front face.