Sony today announced its intent to transform its smartphone business with a eye on making it a profitable operation. The company, in effect, admitted its goal of becoming the world's number three smartphone maker behind Samsung and Apple was perhaps too ambitious. The company will reduce the number of handsets it makes moving forward, focusing cuts on entry-level and mid-range devices for select markets. Sony said it expects to layoff some employees as a result. "Our urgent task is to make the business profitable even if we face declines in sales by 20% or 30%," said Hiroki Totoki, the new head of Sony’s mobile unit. The company will further reduce its presence in China and some emerging markets, while retaining a toehold in Europe. Sony said it is still evaluating how much it will commit to the U.S. Sony sells only a few handsets in the U.S., many of which are made available directly to consumers via its web site. Right now, The Xperia Z3v and Z3 are offered by Verizon and T-Mobile, respectively, but the Z3 Compact is not offered by any U.S. carriers.
Sony today announced the Exmor RS IMX230, a CMOS camera censor for high-end smartphones. The sensor captures 21 megapixels at f/2.4 and uses a stacked design that Sony claims keeps the footprint small and adds functionality. The IMX230 has an onboard image plane phase detection AF signal processing function that helps the sensor track and focus on moving objects much faster. It can track subjects in 192 different auto-focus points simultaneously. The sensor is also capable of capturing HDR video at resolutions up to 4K. Sony's current sensors can capture HDR video, but only at 1080p HD. The IMX230 CMOS image sensor will ship in April 2015. Sony said it will offer a 16-megapixel sensor with the same features by the end of 2015.
Sony today announced a system update for the Xperia Z2 smartphone and tablet. The upgrade includes Android 4.4.4 KitKat, as well as a number of new features and improvements from Sony. For example, the Z2 gains PS4 Remote Play, which allows Z2 owners to play their PS4 console games on their smartphone when at home. Sony also added support for high-resolution audio and a tool for optimizing the sound for specific Sony headphones. The update adds several new shooting modes to the camera, including Sound Photo, AR Fun, Multi Camera, and Face In. It also updates Stamina Mode to allow for greater efficiency gains from the battery, and the latest version of Sony's Quick Settings tool. Last, the Xperia Z2 gains the ability to automatically unlock when the Sony SmartBand or SmartWatch 3 are in close proximity to the phone. Sony said the update's arrival will vary by market.
Sony today said it will replace Kunimasa Suzuki, who leads the company's smartphone business. Effective November 16, Hiroki Totoki will be the new president of Sony Mobile Communications. Totoki already serves as Sony's corporate planning director and is a close confidant of CEO Kazuo Hirai, according to Reuters. The change is a reaction to slow sales of Sony's Xperia smartphones and tablets, which have negatively impacted the company's financial performance. Sony has already lowered sales forecasts for the year, and investors fear it will lower its outlook again when it reports earnings on Friday.
Sony today said the Remote Play app is now available to the Xperia Z3 family of devices. Remote Play allows PS4 owners to play theiir console games on their smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi when at home. In addition to the Z3, Sony said it will offer Remote Play to the Z2 smartphone and Z2 tablet in the coming weeks. Remote Play is one of the core functions of the Z3 touted by Sony when it was announced in September. In addition to the smartphone, Remote Play is compatible with a number of accessories, including the Dual Shock controller and a smartphone stand. Remote Play is free to use.
Google today pushed out an update to its Android Wear platform that adds two key features and grants wearables even more independence. First, Android Wear devices will now be able to track location via GPS without requiring a nearby smartphone. This means people will be able to leave their phone at home when they go for a jog or walk. Further, the update adds the ability to play local music files stored on the wearable itself. This means Android Wear device owners can put music on their watch, listen to it via Bluetooth headphones, and leave their phone at home. Google noted that tens of thousands of Android apps have been updated with Wear compatibility. Last, Google said the Sony Smart Watch 3 is now available for preorder through Verizon Wireless for $250. It will reach the Play Store in the weeks to come.
Sony today committed to updating a wide range of its smartphones and tablets to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Some of the handsets slated for Android 5.0 include the Xperia Z, ZL, Z1, Z1S, Z1 Ultra, Z1 Compact, Z2, Z3, Z3v, and Z3 Compact. Sony says its Google Play Edition devices will receive Lollipop first, followed by the Z3 and Z2 series devices in early 2015.
Sony recently added the Xperia Z3 Compact to its U.S. web site and made it available for purchase. The phone, which comes in black, white, orange, or green, costs $530 and is being sold unlocked and without a carrier contract. It is compatible with the GSM networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile, though exact LTE support is unclear. The Z3 Compact has a smaller 4.6-inch 720p HD display and overall footprint when compared to the Xperia Z3, but carries over the same processor, camera, and waterproof design.
T-Mobile today announced it will sell the Sony Xperia Z3 online and in stores beginning October 29. Customers can place preorders for the device starting at Noon on October 15. Preorders may arrive before the device reaches stores on October 29. T-Mobile is asking for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $26.25. The Z3 smartphone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and is waterproof. It also features a 20.7-megapixel camera, compatibility with Sony PS4 Remote Play for gaming, and Sony's lifelogging service. Verizon Wireless is also selling the Z3, rebadged the Z3v, beginning October 23.
Sony today announced that Verizon Wireless will sell the Xperia Z3 as the Xperia Z3v. Verizon said the two companies plan to work more together, not just with smartphones, but with other products. For example, Verizon already sells the Sony Z2 tablet. The Z3 smartphone, which Sony debuted last month, has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and is waterproof. It also features a 20.7-megapixel camera, compatibility with Sony PS4 Remote Play for gaming, and Sony's lifelogging service. The Verizon variant of the Z3 differs from the global model in that it features Qi-based wireless charging, while the global model does not. It also has minor exterior color variances. The Z3v will go on sale October 23 at most Verizon outlets. For a limited time, customers will receive a $200 discount if they purchase the Z3v handset and Z2 tablet together. Further, Verizon will sell the Sony Smart Watch 3 later this year. Pricing and exact availability of the Smart Watch 3 will be revealed later.
Sony has hatched an ambitious plan to use its booming PlayStation and gaming business unit to support its other, money-losing efforts such as mobile devices. The company this week warned it would report steep loses in its handset division, which is struggling to sell devices. Sony's new plan is to use PlayStation as a hub for entertainment that it can stream to smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Andrew House, chief executive of the game unit, told The Wall Street Journal that it will likely offer its streaming service to non-Sony devices. "A streaming-based approach needs to have a very wide funnel of devices, and that inherently means a broad- and manufacturer-agnostic approach," said House. Sony recently unveiled a lineup of new smartphones, including the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. Both of these devices will be certified to interact with the PlayStation 4, Sony's current gaming console. Sony said it will launch this streaming service in the U.S. before the end of the year.
Sony revealed a new line of Xperia Z-class devices today, including the Z3 flagship and its close cousin the Z3 Compact. Here are our first impressions of these two winsome handsets, in addition to the mid-range E3.
Sony today announced its next-generation flagship smartphones at an event in Berlin. The Xperia Z3 family includes three devices: the Z3, Z3 Compact, and Z3 Tablet Compact. All three devices share nearly identical software features and many hardware features. The Z3 family are all water- and dust-proof and rely on Sony's Omnibalance design language. Some common traits of the Z3 and Z3 Compact include 20.7-megapixel Exmor cameras with a G Lens, 25mm wide-angle viewfinder, and the ability to ramp ISO up to 12,800 for improved low-light capture. The camera includes steady shot for image stabilization, and digital noise cancellation for superior audio capture. The displays use Sony's TriLuminos and Mobile Bravia technology. Both devices are certified with PlayStation 4 compatibility. They both have 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processors, as well as a whole array of wireless radios and sensors, such as LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
- Z3: The larger of the two phones has a 5.2-inch full HD screen with slimmer bezel and smaller overall handprint. It has a curved aluminum frame and boasts two full days of battery life.
- Z3 Compact: This smaller device steps the display down to 4.5 inches and 720p resolution, but keeps most other features of the Z3.
Alongside the Z3 family of devices, Sony today also announced the E3, a more modest handset for the budget-conscious buyer. The E3 uses the Omnibalance design language common to Sony's high-end phones, but dials down the materials. It uses a plastic frame, for example, rather than aluminum. The E3 has a 4.5-inch scratch-resistant display, 5-megapixel camera, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with Adreno 305 graphics. It includes 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage, with support for microSD cards. The front camera captures VGA images and video. The E3 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Sony's branded apps, and comes in several colors. It will go on sale later this year.
Sony today revealed its first smart watch to run Google's Android Wear platform. The SmartWatch 3, Sony's third-generation device, ditches its home-grown platform in favor of Google's platform for wearables. Sony says the SmartWatch 3 offers a wider range of stand-alone features when compared to other Android Wear devices. Some include a media player and built-in accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and GPS for fitness tracking. The screen measures 1.6 inches across the diagonal and includes 320 x 320 pixels set in a stainless steel frame. The SmartWatch 3 is waterproof and dust resistant. It will be sold in several colors in the months ahead. Sony also announced the SmartBand Talk, a wearable that uses a 1.4-inch e-paper display for always-on functionality. The device has a built-in microphone and speaker and can be used as a Bluetooth phone accessory for making/taking calls. It is also waterproof and dust resistant. Both devices are compatible with Sony's Lifelogging platform for tracking fitness activity and sharing via social networks.
Sprint and SoftBank will for the first time sell a flagship smartphone from Sony, according to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Sony is prepared to announce new devices at the IFA trade show in Berlin on September 4. One of the new devices is expected to be a flagship model that will succeed the Xperia Z2. Sprint and SoftBank will sell this as-yet-unnamed device in the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Sony has struggled in the U.S. market for years, and often fails to win distribution agreements with U.S. carriers. It regularly sells devices directly to consumers (at full price) through its own web site. Scoring a distribution agreement with Sprint would be a major win for the company. Neither Sprint nor Sony commented on the reports.
OmniVision today indicated it has received an acquisition offer from China-based venture capitalists. Hua Capital Management offered $29 per share for OmniVision, which values the company at about $1.67 billion. OmniVision makes camera sensors for smartphones and tablets. Its chips are found in devices such as the Apple iPhone. OmniVision's products compete with those from Sony, Samsung, and others. OmniVision, which is based in California, said it is evaluating the offer.
Sony today said it won't support PlayStation Mobile for Android moving forward. PlayStation Mobile gave select Sony Android handsets access to old PSOne titles in addition to those developed specifically for PS Mobile. According to Sony, PlayStation Certified devices running Android 4.4.2 and below will continue to be able to access the service. Devices running Android 4.4.3 and up will be able to access it, but may run into compatibility and performance issues. Devices running Android Release L (which is not yet available) won't be able to access PlayStation Mobile at all. Sony said it won't grant PlayStation Certified status to any more devices. Separately, Sony also announced plans to exit the e-reader market. It cited its inability to compete with devices such as the Amazon Kindle as playing a role in the decision.
Sony plans to make a large investment its in imaging business and will increase production of CMOS sensors for mobile devices. The company will spend as much as $345 million to improve the capacity of its sensor-making facilities. Sony has already purchased several new manufacturing plants. The company currently makes about 60,000 sensors a month. It will improve those yields to 68,000 by August 2015 and eventually 75,000 by the end of 2015. Sony makes CMOS sensors for its own smartphones and tablets, but also for other manufacturers, such as Apple.
Sony recently made the Xperia Z2 available to U.S. buyers via its web store. The Z2, which was announced in January, costs $699 and is being sold unlocked. The Z2 has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 20.7-megapixel camera with 4K video capture, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 3GB of RAM, and various sensors/radios. It is also water and dust resistant. The Z2 is compatible with the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. Sony typically offers its smartphones through its web store when they aren't sold by wireless network operators.
Verizon, Ericsson, and Qualcomm recently announced plans to test spectrum-sharing technology in the 3.5 GHz band. The band is used for military radar systems, but the FCC believes the band can be shared with commercial uses in some situations. This new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band is being considered for various licensed and unlicensed shared uses by the FCC. Verizon wants to use the band to add download capacity to its LTE network in high-demand areas like stadiums, college campuses, or airports. The band is currently 3550-3650 MHz, although the FCC is also considering stretching it to 3700 MHz.
Sony recently added the Xperia Z1 Compact to its U.S. web store. Sony is selling the phone unlocked for the full retail price of $549. It is compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+/LTE networks. The Z1 Compact, which was introduced in January, has many features found on the Z1S flagship device, including a 20.7-megapixel Exmor camera sensor with G Lens, IP58 rating for protection from water immersion, and Sony applications and services, such as Video and Music Unlimited. The Z1 Compact has a 4.3-inch 720p HD TriLuminos display with Sony's mobile Bravia Engine, and a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM. The Xperia Z1 Compact runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
Google today announced Android TV, a new platform that will bring certain features of the Android operating system to smart TVs. The platform can be embedded in HDTVs, as well as installed in stand-alone boxes. It lets Android smartphones and tablets connect directly to TVs and control them. Android TV supports Play Store content, including games, and third party apps. Some of the initial batch of apps that will work on Android TV include Netflix, Plex, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and others. Further, Android TV supports casting, which will let Android smartphone and tablet owners push content from their mobile device to Android TV. The Google Play store for television sets will launch in the fall, as will Android TV set top boxes. Television makers such as Sony and Sharp will incorporate Android TV into their 2015 lineup. Google also talked about its Chromecast product. Chromecast is a thumb drive plug-in for HDTVs that can project audio and video content from Android devices to TVs. Until today, Chromecast required users to connect via the same Wi-Fi network. Chromecast is being updated, however, with the ability to cast from separate Wi-Fi networks. This means people can push content to a TV even when they aren't there or even nearby. The tool uses Google's cloud for authentication. Chromecast also adds the ability to exactly mirror what's on the screen of Android smartphones and tablets. The new features for Chromecast will arrive later this year.
Sony recently released an application for the Xperia Z2 called Live on YouTube. The app allows the Xperia Z2 handset to stream live video feeds directly to YouTube. The app follows the path set by Sony's Social Live application, released last year, which lets Xperia devices broadcast live video directly to Facebook. The new app permits streaming of up to 15 minutes of live 480p footage, which is then recorded and stored on the owner's YouTube channel. The app displays likes/dislikes, and allows Z2 owners to adjust the privacy of videos as well as share them after the live stream ends. The app requires a verified YouTube account in good standing. It is free for Z2 owners and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Sony announced the Z2 earlier this year, though it has yet to release the phone in the U.S. According to Sony, the Z2 will be made available to U.S. consumers this summer via its web site, where it will be sold unlocked at full price.
The European Commission and South Korea today announced plans to together define the future 5G wireless standard, as well as develop the technologies to support it. The two bodies signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in Information Communications Technology (ICT) and 5G to increase the discussions and research around the topic. A wide number of companies will participate, including Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telenor, and Telefonica from Europe, as well as Samsung, LG, SK Telecom, and others in Korea. One of the key ideas behind 5G is not to just increase speeds, but to significantly boost capacity. Capacity improvements will help the 5G networks of the future handle all the potential devices connecting to them, such as phones, tablets, wearables, vehicles, and the broader Internet of Things. The collaboration has three main goals: First, to develop a broad definition of the key functionalities of 5G and create a time table for its creation by the end of 2015; Second, to kick off joint research in the pursuit of 5G by 2016 in coordination with 3GPP and ITU: and Third, to agree on global radio frequency bands for 5G in order to promote interoperability and roaming between carriers and countries. "5G will become the new lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society once it is established. Both Europe and Korea recognize this," said Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda. "This is the first time ever that public authorities have joined together in this way, with the support of private industry, to push forward the process of standardization. Today's declaration signals the our commitment to being global digital leaders." LTE, which is what most 4G networks use, has some room for growth in terms of speeds, but capacity is limited and the potential for global roaming is limited due to the wide number of spectrum bands used by carriers around the world. It is these and other issues that the EU and S. Korea hope to resolve in their pursuit of 5G.
The Federal Communications Commission today said that Sony Mobile will voluntarily make a $400,000 payment after it was found to violate U.S. law requiring devices to be compliant with hearing aids. The FCC discovered that Sony sold non-compliant devices during a 12-month period in 2011 and 2012. In addition to the payment for selling devices that don't work with hearing aids, Sony agreed to name a compliance officer within 30 days and ensure all devices are compliant with U.S. law within 60 days. Sony did not comment on the FCC's decision.
ZTE today said it plans to push into the high-end smartphone market controlled by the likes of Apple, HTC, LG, Samsung, and Sony. According to Reuters, sales of ZTE's mid-range and entry-level handsets are strong, but margins are too thin. The company wants to use high-end handsets to help increase its margins. "We will make more and more premium smartphones," said ZTE's Zeng Xuezong to Reuters. The company wants to trade its image as a low-cost phone maker for one that rivals the current market leaders. "There is indeed a gap between the brand awareness of Chinese companies and those top global brands, and this is what our team is trying to build for consumers" with handsets such as the Nubia Z5, said Zeng. ZTE believes it can increase is worldwide sales from 40 million units in 2013 to as much as 100 million units by 2016. In the U.S., it is seeking to raise its marketshare from 6% to 10% by 2017 with the help of premium devices and by spending more money on marketing. Most of the ZTE handsets available in the U.S. are entry-level devices sold by prepaid or low-cost carriers.
Sony today made the SmartBand fitness accessory available through its U.S. web site for $99. The SmartBand, announced during Mobile World Congress, connects to smartphones via Bluetooth and Sony's LifeLog app for fitness monitoring.
Sony today announced the Xperia T3, an Android smartphone with mid-range features and a premium design. The T3 borrows heavily from Sony's Z2 smartphone with a metallic rim and a slim, 7mm profile. The T3 includes a 5.3-inch 720p HD LCD screen with in-plane switching and Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 for added clarity. The device is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of built-in storage. The T3 offers an 8-megapixel main camera and a 1.1-megapixel user-facing camera. The main imager boasts features such as HDR for photos and video, image stabilizer, object tracking, red-eye reduction, Sony's Superior Auto function, panorama, and more. Connectivity options include LTE, NFC, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and Miracast. The Xperia T3 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and relies on Sony's user experience, which includes Stamina Mode, Xperia SociaLife, and Sony's wide range of media applications. The Sony Xperia T3 will launch globally before August.
Sony today said a handful of its Xperia smartphones should see the Android 4.4 KitKat system update arrive in the near future. Devices slated for the upgrade include the Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia ZR, and Xperia Tablet Z. In addition to KitKat, the update carries over the new user interface from the PlayStation 4, which includes new animations and wallpapers, and improved status bar and quick setting tools. The update brings a handful of core apps up to date, including messaging, email, Stamina mode, the smart social camera, as well as Sony's Walkman, Album, and Movies apps. Last, the new system software adds compatibility with Sony's SmartWear products, including the SmartBand SWR10 and Lifelog app. As always, exact timing of the update's arrival will depend on device, carrier, and region.
Huawei today unveiled the Ascend P7 at an event held in Paris. The P7 is a successor to the P6 and is Huawei's flagship device for the year. The P7 features a full HD 5-inch display protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3. The phone has glass on the front and back, and a metallic band on the sides. The phone is very thin and measures 6.5mm. The P7 includes a 13-megapixel camera with a Sony sensor inside. The Sony sensor makes use of back-side illumination and has a wide aperture of f/2. According to Huawei, the P7 can be ready to shoot pictures in 1.2 seconds - even from the lock screen. Huawei created a feature for the camera called Voice Photos, which will record a 10-second audio clip to accompany a series of pictures. The P7 also includes an 8-megapixel user-facing camera for self portraits. Huawei says the user-facing camera can shoot wide panoramas. The P7 runs Android and has Huawei's Emotion user interface. Huawei added support for worldwide LTE 4G networks. The Ascend P7 launches in a wide number of markets this month, but Huawei didn't specify if or when the P7 might arrive in the U.S.
Sony recently posted an image on its official Google+ page that showed a version of the Xperia Z2 with Verizon Wireless branding. According to Sony, the image didn't represent a real device. "A mock-up image was mistakenly posted to the Sony Mobile Google+ page. The image has since been removed and we apologize for any confusion this may have caused," said Sony in an email to Phone Scoop. The image suggested that Verizon might eventually sell the Z2. Sony says't that's not the case. "For our U.S. customers eager to find out more information about the availability of Xperia Z2, we are excited to share that the device will be coming to the U.S. unlocked this summer."
Sony today announced a limited-time app and service offering for the Z2, Z1s, and Z1 that it claims has a value of more than $350. According to Sony, the Z2 will be shipped with six movies on board, as well as a 30-day trial of the Music Unlimited service, eight games from PlayStation Mobile, and a free download of the upcoming Michael Jackson album, XSCAPE. Sony is further providing the full Garmin suite, the full version of OfficeSuite Pro, 10 Xperia themes, and other games and apps. The package also includes 50GB of Box storage for life, Evernote premium for three months, 1TB of Bitcasa storage for three months, and Social Live Premium for one month. In order to grab these offers, Xperia owners need to install the Xperia Lounge application from Sony. Links to the individual offers are available from within the Xperia Lounge app. The offers are available from today until July 31. The Z1s is available from T-Mobile in the U.S., but the Z2 has yet to launch stateside.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
Sony today announced the availability of its Lifelog application, which runs on its Android smartphones and interacts with Sony's wearable devices, such as the SmartBand. Together, Lifelog and the SmartBand can track the wearer's daily activity and over time be used to spot trends and patterns to behavior and sleep. Lifelog and the SmartBand are optimized for the Xperia Z2, which has yet to launch in the U.S., but they also work with the Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1, and Xperia Z1 Compact handsets from Sony. Sony said though the initial feature list of the app is rather short, it will be updating Lifelog over the next few weeks with more functionality.
Sony Mobile's U.S. chief, Ravi Nookala, said the company will not use Google's Android Wear platform for wearables such as smartwatches and will instead use its own platform. Speaking to CNET, Nookala said the company has invested time and money into developing its own Android-based wearable operating system "and we will continue in that direction." Sony released its second-generation smartwatch last year and recently unveiled the SmartBand fitness wearable.
Sony today announced what it says is the first "wearable boarding pass." Sony has partnered with an airline called Vueling, which made an app for Sony's SmartWatch 2 wearable device. According to Sony, the app can be used to display 2D barcodes for boarding, and also offers flight information and other travel details that can be gleaned from the SmartWatch 2. The app will be available through the Google Play Store at the end of the month.
Sony today announced that the Android 4.4 KitKat system update is now available to the Xperia Z1, Z1 Compact, and Z Ultra. In addition to the base software from Google, Sony added a number of its own tweaks to the operating system. For example, Sony added its own Status Bar and Quick Settings tools, as well as user interface elements borrowed from the PlayStation 4. The update includes the latest versions of Sony's own software and apps, such as Small Apps, Smart Social Camera, Messaging, as well as Walkman, Movies, and the Sony Entertainment Network. Last, the update includes Sony's recently-announced Xperia Themes, which are downloadable user interface packs that let Xperia device owners customize the look and feel of their handset with more than 280 possible tweaks. As always, the exact timing of the KitKat update's arrival will vary by country and carrier. Sony said it is prepared to roll out Android 4.4 KitKat to the Xperia Z, ZL, Tablet Z, and ZR from the middle of the second quarter.
Sony today announced Xperia Themes, which are downloads that allow owners of Sony's Xperia smartphones to customize the look and feel of their device. Xperia Themes go far beyond adding new wallpapers. Users can adjust the appearance of icons, fonts, lines and boxes, and UI elements such as switches, sliders, buttons, and even the on-screen Android control buttons. According to Sony, the themes let people customize their device in a way that previously required third-party launchers. It should be easy for most people to use. There are about a dozen themes available starting today, but Sony said that many more are on the way. Xperia Themes are available to all Xperia devices running Android 4.3 and higher. They can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
Sony this week announced plans to shutter two-thirds of its U.S. retail stores. It will keep several open, including its New York City flagship location. The move is being made as part of a cost-cutting measure. Along with the store closings, Sony plans to cut about 1,000 jobs in the U.S. and Mexico, amidst global cuts of 5,000. Last, Sony said that it plans to sell its old headquarters building in Tokyo. Sony used the building, which is now a home for several other businesses, from 1990 to 2007. The planned sale of its old headquarters follows Sony's sale last year of its Madison Avenue building in NYC for $1.1 billion. Sony announced several new devices at Mobile World Congress this week, including the Xperia Z2 and M2 smartphones, the Z2 tablet, and the SmartBand wearable.