Info & Phones News
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.
Here is a first look at Sony's new flagship and mid-range Android smartphones. Both are thin and light and loaded with all things Sony.
Sony today announced the Xperia Z2, its latest flagship Android smartphone. The Z2 picks up with the Z1/Z1S left off. It uses Sony's omnibalance design language and is formed by two glass panels and an aluminum frame. The Z2 features a 5.2-inch 1080p HD LED X-Reality display that makes use of Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine for added clarity. Sony has improved the water and dust resistance of the phone, so it is able to spend more time submerged than before. The device includes a 20.7-megapixel main camera with Sony's Exmor RS sensor and G Lens. It is able to capture 4K video and includes multiple microphones to eliminate noise and capture stereo sound. It can shoot 1080p HD video at up to 120 frames per second for slow-motion playback, and it can make use of new augmented reality backgrounds for creative results. The Z2 is run by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with four cores clocked at 2.3GHz each, paired with the Adreno 330 GPU. It includes a wide array of Sony apps and services, such as Walkman, Music Unlimited, PlayStation, and Play Memories Online. The Z2 has a 3,200mAh battery and Sony's Stamina Mode software to improve battery life. It measures 8.2mm thick and offers the expected set of connectivity options, such as NFC, Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and LTE. The Sony Xperia Z2 will be available worldwide in April.
Sony today announced the Xperia M2, a mid-range Android smartphone that offers both performance and value. The M2 makes use of Sony's omnibalance design language, but steps down the features when compared to its flagship devices. It includes a 4.8-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, LTE 4G, and a 2,300mAh battery. The M2 includes an 8-megapixel main camera with Sony's Exmor RS sensor. It can shoot HDR images and offers a handful of Sony's advanced camera functions, such as Intelligent Auto. The M2 also offers Sony's entertainment services, such as Music Unlimited and Walkman. The Xperia M2 will launch globally in April. Sony will also offer a dua-SIM variant of the M2 to select markets.
Sony today announced the SmartBand SWR10, a smartphone accessory that offers a variety of fitness and alert functions. The SmartBand is a fully waterproof band worn on the wrist that pairs with smartphones via NFC and Bluetooth. It is accompanied by an Android application called LifeLog. The LifeLog app and SmartBand together track the wearer's steps, activity, sleep cycles, and more. The LifeLog app can be used to set health and fitness goals, as well as track progress. The SmartBand can also be used to control the Walkman music player on Sony smartphones, as well as provide vibrating alerts for incoming calls, messages, emails, and social media activity. According to Sony, the SmartBand was developed using open standards and it is encouraging developers to expand the functionality of the accessory via LifeLog. Sony said the SmartBand SWR10 will be available globally beginning in March. Pricing was not disclosed.
Sony today said the Android 4.3 system update is now available to a smattering of its Xperia devices. Owners of the Xperia T, Xperia TX, Xperia V, and Xperia SP will be able to update their devices soon, though exact timing will depend on carrier and region.
Sony today announced plans to restructure its business and divest some of its poorly performing units. Sony plans to sell its PC division to a group of Japanese investors, which will form a separate company and take over operations. Sony will retain a 5% stake in the new business. Sony will also split off its TV business into a separate company. Last, Sony plans to cut about 5,000 jobs, including some from the PC and TV businesses. The TV spin-off should be complete by July, but the job reductions won't be finalized until March 2015. Sony believes these moves will help shore up its PlayStation, content, imaging, and mobile device businesses, and save the company about $988 million per year.
Sony today announced that its Xperia Transfer application is now available worldwide in the Google Play Store. Xperia Transfer Mobile is a smartphone version of Sony's desktop app that makes it easier to port contacts and other data from one device to another. According to Sony, the new Android app negates the need to use a desktop machine at all, as it allows users to transfer personal data directly from an old phone to a new phone using a peer-to-peer connection or cable. Xperia Transfer can sync contacts, calendar, SMS, MMS, bookmarks, notes, photos, music, videos, and apps. The app can transfer data from another Android device or from an iPhone. Sony said if iOS apps aren't available in Android form, it will suggest comparable apps/services to replace them on the Xperia smartphone. Xperia Transfer is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has dropped its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei. The suit was originally filed last year, and included co-defendents Google, Samsung, and HTC. Rockstar believes the companies are violating its patents. Neither Rockstar nor Huawei indicated why the suit was dropped, nor whether or not Huawei signed a licensing agreement with Rocktar. The lawsuit still stands against the other companies. Google, in particular, is accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents.
Sony knows that some people prefer smaller smartphones. That's why it shrunk the dimensions of the Xperia Z1 to create the Z1 Compact. Don't let the Z1 Compact's small size fool you, however; it's quite a powerhouse.
Sony revealed the Z1 Compact at CES this week, a new, smaller Android smartphone that offers many of the features found in the Z1S in a miniature package. It carries over the 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 4.3 Jelly Bean and supports various HSPA+ and LTE bands. It will be available in four different colors and will ship later this year.
Sony announced the Xperia Z1S for T-Mobile, today. The device impresses with its waterproof design and high build quality. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.
T-Mobile today announced that it will sell the Sony Xperia Z1S smartphone. The Z1S is a version of the Z1 that has been optimized for T-Mobile's network and has several other, minor hardware adjustments. The Z1 was first announced in September 2013. The Xperia Z1S features a 20.7-megapixel camera that has BIONZ for mobile image processing engine, a G Lens, and a 1/2.3-inch camera sensor. The camera has a burst mode than shoots 61 images: 30 before you press the shutter button, 1 when you press the shutter button, and 30 more after the shutter button has been pressed. Other camera features include an augmented reality mode that puts subjects in themed locations, such as with dinosaurs. The Z1S has a 5-inch full HD display with TriLuminos and X-Reality processing engines. It is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM, and comes with 16GB of internal storage. It is waterproof and can stand up to 30 minutes in 4.9 feet of water. It includes Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0LE. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. T-Mobile said customers can preorder the Xperia Z1S beginning January 13 and it will be available online and in stores beginning January 22. T-Mobile is offering the device for $0 down with 24 monthly payments of $23 with the Simple Choice Plan. Further, Sony is offering customers who by the Xperia Z1S and PlayStation 4 a $100 Visa gift card. Last, the device comes with six free movie downloads from Sony's Video Unlimited service, as well as a 60-day free trial of Music Unlimited.
Sony Mobile today announced that it is making Android 4.3 available to a handful of its smartphones. Android 4.3 is now available for the Xperia Z, the Xperia ZL, Xperia ZR, and the Xperia Tablet Z. In addition to the core system update, Sony is modernizing its own apps across all the devices. For example, it is adding the Sony Smart Social Camera application, and improved versions of Messaging, MyXperia, Smart Connect, Small apps, TrackID, Sony Select, and the Sony Walkman app. Last, Sony is launching Xperia Themes, which are user interface theme packs that allow users to tweak the appearance of their device. Sony said the exact availability of the system update will vary by region and carrier.
Sony has appointed a new president in charge of its U.S. division. Michael Fasulo has been named president of Sony's U.S. operations, as well as the executive vice president in charge of sales. Fasulo replaces Phil Molyneux, who is scheduled to become non-executive chairman of the board effective January 1, 2014. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai hopes the changes will bolster sales of Sony devices in the U.S., including its smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions, and other equipment.
Sony today announced the availability of the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update to the Xperia Z1 and the Xperia Z Ultra. In addition to the core system update, Sony is modernizing its own apps across both devices. For example, it is adding the Sony Smart Social Camera application to the Z Ultra, and adding improved versions of Messaging, MyXperia, Smart Connect, Small apps, TrackID, Sony Select, and the Sony Walkman app to both phones. Last, Sony is launching Xperia Themes, which are user interface theme packs that allow users to tweak the appearance of their device. Sony said the exact availability of the system update will vary by region and carrier.
Google today made a Play Edition variant of the Sony Z Ultra available for sale in the Play Store. The Z Ultra has all the same specs as the standard version, but like the Play Edition HTC One and Play Edition Samsung Galaxy S4, it runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat. Google is selling the Play Edition Z Ultra for $649. It comes unlocked and is compatible with the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile.
Sony today revealed which devices it plans to update to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Android 4.4 KitKat in the months ahead. Sony said it will begin updating the Xperia Z, ZL, ZR, Tablet Z, Xperia SP, Z Ultra, and Z1 next month. Exact timing will vary by region, carrier, and device. Many of the same devices are on deck to also receive Android 4.4 KitKat down the road. The Xperia Z, ZL, Tablet Z, Z Ultra, and Z1 will all be updated to the latest version of Android, though Sony didn't provide a timeframe for the KitKat update.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Google, Samsung, Huawei, and HTC. Rockstar alleges that the companies are violating its patents. Google, in particular, stands accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Specific details about Samsung, HTC, and Huawei's infringements weren't immediately specified. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents. Google and others attempted to buy the same patents won by Rockstar. "Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe," read a portion of the lawsuit.
Sony has developed new technology that dramatically shortens the time it takes to charge mobile phones wirelessly. Sony's charging device uses 10-15 watts, instead of 5, and can push twice the electricity of today's wireless chargers. According to Sony, cell phones can reach a full charge in one hour instead of two. Sony's charging device is based on the Qi standard, which is being finalized by the Wireless Power Consortium. Sony's semiconductor division developed the technology, reports Nikkei. Another company, called Rohm, has developed similar technology also based on the Qi standard. The improved wireless charging technology is expected to reach consumer-grade devices during the second half of 2014. The WPC's Qi standard is just one of three competing standards for wirelessly charging devices. Other standards are being finalized by the Power Matters Alliance and the Alliance for Wireless Power.
Sony today launched the Xperia Z Ultra and Z1 Android smartphones, and the SmartWatch 2 in the U.S. The company is selling all three devices directly to consumers via its online store and other select e-tailers. The Z Ultra (pictured) features a 6.4-inch full HD TriLuminos display, slim design, 8-megapixel camera with Exmor RS sensor, resistance to water and dust, and a stylus. The Z Ultra costs $649.99 for the HSPA+ model or $679.99 for the LTE model. The LTE model supports bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 17. The Z1 features a 5-inch full HD TriLuminos display, dust and water resistance, 20.7-megapixel camera with Exmor RS sensor, and a slim design. The Z1 costs $669.99. It supports HSPA+, but not LTE. Both phones are available in black, white, or purple. Last, Sony is now selling its second-generation smartwatch, the SmartWatch 2, to U.S. consumers through its web store. The SmartWatch 2 connects to Android smartphones via NFC/Bluetooth and can be used to view notifications, accept/reject calls, control the media player, and record workouts. It is water resistant and offers two or three days of battery life. The SmartWatch 2 costs $199.99.
Sony CEO Kaz Hirai today said the company is in no rush to conquer the U.S. smartphone market, nor China's. "Those two are the most important areas for us and we'll put substantial resources there. But not yet for the U.S. and China," said Hirai, speaking to journalists in Japan. "It's not realistic to try to do everything at once. In the U.S. we'll start gradually." Sony wants its smartphones to be the third-best selling devices worldwide, behind the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The company has historically had poor traction in the U.S. At the moment, T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier selling Sony's flagship Xperia Z smartphone, while Apple and Samsung's phones are available at all four of the major carriers. Rather than focus on tackling U.S. and China head on, Hirai said Sony is first aiming to win over consumers in Europe and its home market of Japan. Hirai didn't indicate when Sony might begin to make more effort in winning over U.S. smartphone buyers.
Sony updated its flagship device with a better camera and smoother design.
Sony today unveiled two lens accessories for smartphones that put a new spin on the idea of improving the on-board camera. The Sony QX100 and QX10 are attachable lenses and also serve as stand-alone cameras. Both lenses connect to smartphones (Android and iOS) via Wi-Fi and, along with a companion app, can be used instead of the smartphone's built-in camera. The companion app uses the phone's screen as a viewfinder and offers some simple controls over shooting mode, zoom, point of focus, and others. The lenses can be mounted on smartphones with the use of clips, as well as used on their own. Both use Sony's EXMOR sensors and can be paired easily with devices via NFC. The QX100 has a 20.1-megapixel camera and offers 3.6x optical zoom while the QX10 offers an 18.2-megapixel camera and 10x optical zoom. The QX100 and QX10 lens-style cameras will be available later this month for $499 and $249, respectively. The come in black and white.
Sony today announced the Xperia Z1, an Android smartphone that builds on the premium experience offered by the Z. It looks similar to the Z, but loses the sharp edges and replaces them with smooth, rounded edges instead. The Z1 features a 20.7-megapixel camera that has a BIONZ for mobile image processing engine, a G Lens, and a 1/2.3-inch camera sensor. The camera has a burst mode than shoots 61 images: 30 before you press the shutter button, 1 when you press the shutter button, and 30 more after the shutter button has been pressed. Other camera features include an augmented reality mode that puts subjects in themed locations, such as with dinosaurs. The Z1 has a 5-inch full HD display with TriLuminos and X-Reality processing engines. It is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM, and comes with 16GB of internal storage. Like the Xperia Z, the Z1 is water resistant. It can stand in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It includes Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0LE. It runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and will be available worldwide later this month.
Sony today promised to update several of its devices to Android 4.3, though it didn't say when the update might become available. Sony said it is already making good progress with updating the Xperia Z and ZL from Android 4.1 to Android 4.2. Down the road, it will update both the Z and ZL, as well as the Xperia ZR, SP, Z Ultra, and Tablet Z to Android 4.3. Sony also said that it might update a few phones from Android 4.1 directly to Android 4.3, but it didn't name those devices. The timing for the updates will vary by region, carrier, and device.
HTC, Sony, Ericsson, and Alcatel-Lucent did not infringe on four Wi-Lan patents, according to the patent-licensing firm. Wi-Lan sued the four companies for infringing on a handful of its wireless patents, but a Texas jury cleared all four firms in the case. Wi-Lan expressed disappointment in the outcome. Patent-licensing firms often use litigation to generate income. Wi-Lan filed similar litigation against BlackBerry late last year.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced that LG has joined the organization's board of directors. Specifically, Minsoo Lee, chief research engineer for standards and technology at LG, will fill the new seat at the SIG's board. The Bluetooth SIG's board is composed of 11 different companies spread around the globe, including Apple, CSR, Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Nordic, Toshiba, and now LG Electronics. The group has more than 18,500 member companies.
Sony today announced that a new version of its Music Unlimited application is available to iOS devices, such as the Apple iPhone. The new version of Sony's music app adds support for offline playback, higher quality audio streams (320Kbps), and a new menu system. The application itself is free to download and install, but the service requires a monthly fee.
T-Mobile today announced that the Sony Xperia Z will go on sale at T-Mobile stores beginning July 17. It will require a $99 down payment followed by 24 payments of $20. The device is already available directly from Sony.
T-Mobile today announced several new initiatives that it hopes will further entice U.S. consumers to join sign up for its services. The first is called Jump!, a program that lets T-Mobile customers upgrade their phones anytime they want (up to twice per year). The program also includes protection against device malfunction, damage, loss, or theft. The program costs $10 per month on top of the standard plan costs. Jump! goes into effect beginning July 14. T-Mobile announced a significant expansion in the reach of its LTE 4G network. T-Mobile says its LTE now reaches 157 million POPs across 116 markets. Some of the new markets include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Miami. T-Mobile says it is on track to reach 200 million POPS in 200 markets but the end of the year. T-Mobile also debuted Simply Choice Plans for families. With this program, families can put together up to four Simple Choice Plans with unlimited talk and text, but just 500MB of pooled web use, for only $100 per month. Last, T-Mobile added several new devices to its lineup of LTE-compatible devices. T-Mobile said that the Sony Xperia Z and Nokia Lumia 925 will co on sale soon and LTE will be added to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 through a software update.
Sony this week announced the global launch of its "my Xperia" service for locating and/or securing lost and stolen Sony phones. The service is similar to Apple's Find my iPhone, including the ability to remotely sound an alert, display a message on the screen, lock the phone, locate the phone on a map, or erase all data, including a removable memory card. The service has been in testing in Nordic countries in recent months. It will be launched globally "in the next few weeks", while "timing and availability may vary by model, market & carrier."
Sony today announced the Z Ultra, an Android smartphone that features a 6.4-inch full HD display. Sony says the screen has Triluminos technology to improve colors and Sony's mobile Bravia Engine and X-Reality technology for sharpness and clarity. Following in the Z's footsteps, the Z Ultra is water-resistant and has a slim design at just 6.5mm thick. The Z Ultra is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and supports HD voice with Sony's ClearAudio+ mode and Xloud loudness features. The Z Ultra supports a stylus, though it doesn't come with one, and has handwriting recognition software. The Z Ultra features an 8-megapixel camera with Sony's Exmor RS sensor, which supports HDR photos and video, as well as a 2-megapixel user-facing camera for video chats. The Z Ultra has a 3,000mAh battery and comes with Sony's Stamina mode for fine-tuning and extending battery life. Other features include Sony's Walkman software, 16GB of storage with support for 64GB microSD cards, and connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, quad-band GSM/EDGE and HSPA+ in the 850, 900, 1700, 1800, and 2100MHz bands. The Z Ultra runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and comes in black, white, and purple. It will launch in various markets during the third quarter.
T-Mobile USA today announced that it will sell the Xperia Z smartphone in the coming weeks. The Z, which was revealed by Sony earlier this year, has a 5-inch 1080p HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and is water resistant. It will be sold in black and a limited edition purple. The Z will support T-Mobile's forthcoming LTE 4G network. Exact availability and pricing were not announced.