The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to investigate a complaint from Creative Technology / Creative Labs that accuses eight different smartphone makers of infringing on patents. The ITC is prepared to look at phones made by BlackBerry, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, and ZTE. Creative Labs says these companies are violating a patent related to media playback on mobile devices. The ITC did not say when it might make an initial ruling on the matter. Companies often use the ITC as a venue to settle trade disagreements because the ITC has the power to institute import bans.
Google today added the Sony Xperia Z3 to the list of devices able to download and test the Android N Preview. Z3 owners can obtain the Android N Developer Preview 2 code directly from Sony, but will have to manually flash it to their device. Once this preview is flashed, the Z3 will be able to install future Android N updates over the air. The Nexus 5X, 6, 6P, 9, and Player are already compatible with the Android N Preview.
Sony is creating a new business unit with the express purpose of bringing PlayStation-branded games to smartphones and tablets. The company is changing its name from Sony Computer Entertainment to Sony Interactive Entertainment and at the same time forming ForwardWorks Corporation. ForwardWorks' goal will be to develop games, apps, and services for mobile devices. Sony says ForwardWorks will first look to release gaming titles in Japan and other markets in Asia. Sony didn't say if ForwardWorks' efforts will expand to other regions. Sony has long attempted to make gaming part of its mobile device strategy, but results have been mixed. The most direct effort was a handset called the Sony Xperia Play, which featured a slide-out set of gaming controls. The Xperia Play was sold by Verizon Wireless. Sony currently includes PlayStation apps on its Android handsets, allowing owners to connect to their gaming network to stream games and other content.
Sony recently released the PlayStation Video application for Android devices. The app is essentially a portal to Sony's video content store and lets people watch movies or TV shows they've purchased or rented from Sony. PlayStation Video allows users to access their entire PS Video library and stream it to their Android phone or tablet. The PlayStation Video app itself is free to download from the Google Play Store, but movie and TV content must be purchased individually.
Sony used its official Twitter account to say Android 6.0 Marshmallow is now headed to the Xperia Z5 series handsets, as well as the Z4 Tablet and Z3+ smartphone. The update is being pushed in phases and Sony recommends Xperia owners check with their network operator. Sony hasn't said if or when Marshmallow will reach the U.S. variants of these devices.
Xiaomi today announced the Mi 5 during the Mobile World Congress trade show. The company's new flagship phone is a more refined product, featuring a metal frame, glass front, and ceramic rear panel. The Mi 5 has a 5.15-inch quad HD screen and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The phone will ship with 32, 64, or 128 GB of storage. Xiaomi gave the phone a Sony 16-megapixel main camera with four-axis optical image stabilization and dual-LED flash. The Mi 5 will ship with a 3,000mAh battery with support for Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0. The Mi will pack Cat. 12 LTE, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC. It runs Android 6.0 with Xiaomi's MIUI 7 user interface. The Mi 5 will launch in China on March 1, with India to follow shortly thereafter. Xiaomi said the phone will reach "other global markets" later in the year, but didn't specify which. Pricing will be about $265 for the 32 GB model.
Sony today said it plans to bring its new X Series handsets to the U.S., even if only via its own online sales channel. The company reiterated its commitment to the U.S. market, where it currently sells the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact directly to consumers online. Sony representative Don Mesa told Phonescoop that the company is always talking to wireless network operators, but will sell the X Series phones in the U.S. whether it scores a distribution deal or not. The X Series do not replace the Xperia Z series, they are simply an expansion of the Xperia product range. The X Series is meant to showcase new design language and relies on metals more than the glass surfaces of the Z Series. Sony expects the new X Performance, X, and XA to launch over the summer months. Pricing has not been revealed.
The X Series is an interesting new range of phones from Sony. Although they all look similar, the various specs cover a surprisingly wide range of the market from affordable to high-end, the models hit on a number of current trends. They look like excellent entries from Sony, but how are they in person? Read on for our impressions.
Today Sony announced the Xperia X series at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The new phones focus on performance in two core areas: camera and battery. The first three phones in the X series are the Xperia XA, Xperia X, and Xperia X Performance. The new-generation camera in the X and X Performance sports predictive hybrid autofocus. The X series battery lasts two days and includes adaptive charging tech from Qnovo that extends battery lifespan up to 2x.
- The Xperia X is the base model with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor and 5-inch full HD display. It also sports a 23-megapixel main camera and 13-megapixel front camera. A fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and NFC are also included.
- The Xperia X Performance steps up to a top-end Snapdragon 820 processor, faster LTE and a waterproof design, but it otherwise identical to the X.
- The Xperia XA is a lower-range phone with a 5-inch display that is 720p instead of full-HD. However the XA has a bezel-free design that makes the phone exceptionally narrow. The XA runs on a MediaTek processor and its cameras are 13 megapixel, and 8 megapixel in the front. It does not have a fingerprint reader but does have NFC and a memory card slot.
Sony today announced the IMX318, an Exmor RS image sensor for high-end smartphones. The sensor drops the individual pixel size to a single micron each, which Sony says reduces the size of the sensor while also improving low-light photography. Sony claims the IMX318 is the first imaging sensor to use high-speed, hybrid autofocus that can focus in 0.03 seconds for still images and in 0.017 seconds for video. The stacked CMOS sensor also includes three-axis image stabilization that can correct for camera shake and lens distortion. The sensor has 22.5 effective megapixels and can capture full-frame images even while recording 4K video. Sony expects to ship the IMX318 image sensor in May.
VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.
Sony has agreed to purchase Altair Semiconductor for $212 million in a move meant to help shore up its chip business. Sony has invested heavily in building production capacity to meet demand for mobile components, such as smartphone camera sensors. Altair, based in Israel, develops radios to connect small devices to mobile networks. Sony hasn't said what it will do with Altair's technology. It expects the deal to close in February. In other Sony news, the company today announced the launch of Sony Interactive Entertainment, a combination of its Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment business units. Sony Interactive will focus on the company's PlayStation gaming and media platform. The business will be based in San Mateo, Calif.
Sony today announced News Suite, a free news app for Android handsets. The app is a dramatically overhauled version of Sony's older SocialLife app. News Suite allows users too customize preferred media outlets and subscribe to feeds from sites around the world. The two-tabbed system, says Sony, lets people view general and personalized news stories separately. Users can take advantage of key words to find and populate their feed with news about select subjects or people. This redesigned SocialLife / News Suite app strips out Twitter and YouTube browsing, but adds saved reading lists and article sharing. News Suite is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sony today announced that the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 smartphones will go on sale in the U.S. on February 7. The Z5 will cost $599.99 and the Z5 Compact (pictured) will cost $499.99. The handsets will be sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. The two high-end Android smartphones were first announced in September last year. The Z5 series features premium metal-and-glass designs, 23-megapixel cameras, and water resistance to 3 feet. Sony will sell the phones directly to consumers online via Amazon.com, Best Buy, and B&H Photo Video.
Nokia today said it has officially taken the reigns of Alcatel-Lucent after its public exchange offer for Alcatel-Lucent was accepted by the French stock market authority. Nokia expects to merge the two companies in order to form a telecommunications powerhouse to compete against Ericsson, ZTE, and others. "We will move quickly to execute our integration plans," said Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia. "Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent will offer a combined end-to-end portfolio of the scope and scale to meet the needs of our global customers. We will have unparalleled R&D and innovation capabilities, which we will use to lead the world in creating next-generation technology and services." Nokia already divested its handset business to Microsoft and its HERE mapping business to a consortium of automakers. The telecommunications business is now Nokia's core focus.
Sony is looking at sulfur to help improve the performance of rechargeable batteries. Sony says using sulfur as an electrode material can increase the energy density from today's limit of 700Wh/L to 1,000Wh/L. This boost would give a lithium-sulfur battery 40% more capacity when compared to a lithium-ion battery of the same volume. Sony would use sulfur for the positive electrode and lithium for the negative electrode. Sulfur has low voltage, but much greater capacity potential. The company is also investigating magnesium-sulfur batteries. Sony hopes to commercialize the Li-S batteries in smartphones by 2020.
Sony recently made a stand-alone, mobile messaging app available to users of its PlayStation gaming console. The app, which requires a PlayStation Network account, lets gamers see which friends are online and available, send text or voice messages with photos and stickers, and swiftly access messaging groups and lists. PlayStation Messages is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store
Sony has agreed to acquire Toshiba's camera sensor business for $155 million. Under the terms of the deal, Sony and its subsidiary, Sony Semiconductor Corporation, will acquire a fabrication facility, equipment, 1,100 employees, and other assets associated with Toshiba's 300mm wafer production facility in Oita, Japan. Sony plans to use the plant to manufacture CMOS sensors, which it sells to camera, smartphone, and tablet makers. The companies expect the deal to close by March 31, 2016. Sony's camera sensor business is one of its strongest.
Unwired Planet landed its first courtroom victory in the U.K. this week after a judge agreed that Samsung and Huawei are violating patents owned by the company. Unwired Planet has 16 employees and 2,000 patents it purchased from Ericsson in 2013. The company filed a similar suit against Google, but Google settled the charges. The judge overseeing the Samsung/Huawei case deemed the patents "essential" to 4G communications, however, which means they must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Unwired Planet said the ruling "goes a considerable way towards validating [our] portfolio." Samsung maintains that it is not violating the patents. Huawei didn't immediately comment on the decision. Tech companies often use patent-based litigation to win fees from competitors. Unwired Planet is a patent-holding company and doesn't make or sell telecommunications equipment or mobile phones.
Google today announced changes to its Google Fit app that it believes make the service a better health and fitness companion. Google Fit now provides real-time stats for runs, walks, or rides, and can better record speed, pace, route, elevation, and more. Together with an Android smartwatch, Fit can track push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, all of which will be added to the daily activity tracker. Google Fit also gains more health insight thanks to new compatibility with nutrition and sleep apps, such as MyFitnessPal, and hardware such as the Xiaomi Mi Band and the Sony Smartband 2. Google said the new version of Google Fit will is rolling out over the next few days.
Sony today said it is delivering a new camera experience to the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium. The heavily revised camera application has been streamlined and simplified. Sony says practical changes make it easier to switch between the Superior Auto, Manual, Video, and Xperia Camera modes. The settings tools have been refreshed, as well. The tools can be customized, and new swipe and touch gestures should help improve usability. Sony said the update's arrival will vary by region.
Toshiba today said it will sell its camera chip unit to Sony as part of a bid to overhaul its finances. The deal is worth about $166 million, according to Reuters, and will shore up Sony's imaging business. Sony will gain Toshiba's plants in Oita along with its 1,100 workers. Sony's imaging sensor unit is one of the shining stars in Sony's numerous businesses. The addition of Toshiba's CMOS division will further strengthen Sony's position. Sony already owns about 40% of the market. Toshiba also said it will exit the white LED business, one of its many semiconductor units.
Sony today said a limited number of people can download and install its concept user interface for Android 6.0 Marshmallow on either the Xperia Z3 or Z3 Compact. Sony says the concept is rolling out slowly over the coming weeks and will be updated over time with new features and experiences. Sony is using this program to test what will eventually become its signature user interface for devices running Marshmallow. Participation in the program is being kept in check so Sony can manage it more easily.
Sony is making more moves to reorganize its varied businesses, including the purchase of an image sensor company and the potential sale of its music-publishing business. First, the company has acquired Softkinetic Systems, based in Belgium, for an undisclosed sum. Softkinetic's technology helps image sensors determine how long it takes light to bounce off an object and return to the sensor. Earlier this week, Sony said it plans to spin off its image sensor business into a separate company amidst strong demand for those products. Second, Sony is looking to sell its half of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing company. Sony and the estate of the late Michael Jackson have each owned 50% of the company since 1995. It is one of the largest music-publishing businesses in the world and boasts the catalogs of The Beatles, Taylor Swift, Marvin Gaye, and the Rolling Stones, among others. The business is valued at about $2 billion, but Sony has not yet put a price tag on it. Sony triggered a clause in its contract with the Jackson estate to sell its half. The Jackson estate will have the opportunity to purchase the entire business or allow it to be sold to a third party. Sony has spent more than year attempting to reinvigorate its numerous businesses as sales of core consumer electronics products such as televisions and smartphones have dropped.
Sony Mobile today named the first batch of devices it plans to update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The list includes the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium; the Xperia Z4 Tablet; the Xperia Z3+, Z3, Z3 Compact, and Z3 Tablet Compact; the Xperia Z2 and Z2 Tablet; and the Xperia M5, M4, C5, and C4. Sony said it hopes to distribute the system upgrade to these devices as quickly as possible, but had no specific details to share just yet.
Sony today said it plans to split its imaging sensor business from the rest of the company. The move is meant to help the unit remain competitive against OmniVision and Samsung, its chief rivals. Earlier this year, Sony committed $374 billion to bolster the unit's manufacturing capacity in order to meet growing demand for high-quality sensors. Sony's sensors are found in a range of smartphones and tablets, including the Apple iPhone. Sony has not set a price for the unit, nor said if there are any initial bidders for the business. Sony will hold onto its smartphone and PlayStation businesses for now.
Verizon Wireless today said it no longer plans to sell the Sony Xperia Z4v. The company announced the phone in the spring with an expected summer launch. "Verizon will no longer be launching Xperia Z4v," said the company today on its web site. "However, we are committed to supporting Sony Mobile's product portfolio and will support existing products. Sony is a strategic partner as we continue having ongoing discussions together as part of our future portfolio." The cancellation isn't much of a surprise, but it is still a blow to Sony. Sony has had trouble convincing U.S. network operators to sell its handsets and the Z4v was a major win with Verizon. Sony announced the Xperia Z5 last month, but no carriers have committed to carrying the phone yet. Sony may attempt to sell it to U.S. consumers directly online.
Google today announced the Nexus 5X, a less-costly alternative to the Nexus 6P. Where the 6P is made by Huawei, the 5X is made by LG. Notable features include the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor positioned on the back of the phone, which can be used to secure the phone and authenticate Android Pay purchases. The 5X also includes a USB Type-C port, the new connector for phones, tablets, and laptops. The Nexus 5X has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and is powered by a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor with 2GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. The phone's main Sony camera sensor captures 12.3-megpaixel images and relies on laser-assisted focus. It has an aperture of f/2.0 and a dual-tone flash for more accurate color. The user-facing camera rates 5 megapixels and has an aperture of f/2.2. The Nexus 5X includes a 2,700mAh battery, a wide range of sensors, and comes in white, blue, or black. The Nexus 5X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will be sold directly from Google unlocked. The 16GB model costs $379 and the 32GB model costs $429. It is available for pre-order beginning today and will ship in mid-October.
Google today announced the Nexus 6P, one of two new Nexus-branded smartphones and the first ever to be made by Huawei. The Nexus 6P is a slim, upscale handset skinned in aluminum. The 6P has a fingerprint sensor on the back for security and Android Pay authentication called Nexus Imprint. The phone has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen and is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor with 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage. The phone boasts a Sony 12.3-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. Google says it improved the camera with burst mode and slow-motion video capture. Further, double-tapping the home button will launch the camera even when the phone is locked. The Nexus 6P has what Google calls the Android Sensor Hub, which includes activity and gesture recognition along with power management techniques to keep battery drain at a minimum. The 6P packs a large 3,450mAh battery, includes a USB Type-C port and charger, and offers stereo speakers on the front. The Nexus 6P runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will be sold unlocked directly by Google. The phone costs $499 for 32GB, $549 for 64GB, and $649 for 128GB. Pre-orders start today and the Nexus 6P will ship in mid-October.
Sony's latest flagship family impresses with high-quality materials, top-notch specs, and user-friendly features. The Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium make for a formidable lineup of Android handsets. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.
Sony today announced the Xperia Z5, a family of flagship smartphones that range in features and size. All three versions rely on the same slim metal design from previous generations of Xperia Z devices with glass on the front and back surfaces. The Xperia Z5 is waterproof and protects the handset from accidental spills as well a dunks in the sink. The Xperia Z5 features what Sony says is "the best camera." Sony sped up the autofocus to 0.03 seconds, while also improving the sensor count to 23 megapixels. The camera features Sony's G-Lens and uses "clear image zoom" to power 5x zooming with no loss in clarity. The camera also performs well at night and in low light thanks to a new night capture mode powered by the latest Exmor RS mobile sensor. Last, video includes steady shot intelligent shake reduction. Sony added a fingerprint sensor to the screen lock button, which is positioned on the right edge. The phone will be offered in three variants. The standard version has a 5.2-inch 1080p HD display; the Xperia Z5 Compact has a 4.7-inch display; and the Xperia Z5 Premium features a 5.5-inch 4K display (with upscaling for full HD content). All three are powered by octa-core Snapdraon 810 processors and run Android with the latest software and services from Sony on board. The handsets will go on sale worldwide in October.
Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with a China government-backed investment company called Huaxin in order to encourage approval of its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The acquisition has already been approved by U.S. and E.U. antitrust bodies, but is awaiting China's decision. The joint venture, named Nokia Shanghai Bell, will mirror one Alcatel-Lucent had in place with Huaxin and may facilitate China's approval of the deal. Nokia will hold 50% of the company plus one share, and Huaxin will hold the rest. Nokia believes merging with Alcatel-Lucent will allow it to better compete with companies such as Ericsson and ZTE, which also provide network operators with telecommunications equipment.
Sony took to Twitter to tease a new Xperia-branded handset. "Get ready for a smartphone with greater focus," said the company. Sony has always placed an emphasis on it devices' cameras. "All will become clear on 09.02.2015." Sony is holding a press conference at the IFA trade show in Berlin on that day and is expected to reveal its next-generation flagship smartphone. The company announced the Z4v for the U.S. market earlier this year, but the phone has yet to land on Verizon's shelves despite a promised summer launch frame.
Sony is telling visitors to its online web store that the site will cease taking orders and shut down on August 28. Sony's web store is one of just a handful of places to purchase its Xperia-branded smartphones in the U.S. Sony did not say why it is closing the web store, but did say it plans to "improve our online shopping experience" with "an exciting new product web site that includes our authorized retailers for your purchasing preference." Customers who have questions about their Sony web store account or any online purchases they may have made can find answers on a FAQ posted to the site. Sony has already closed the majority of its U.S. brick-and-mortar retail stores, with only its NYC flagship store remaining. Verizon plans to sell the Sony Xperia Z4v later this summer.
Sony today announced the Sony Concept for Android program in Sweden, which is a way for the company to test new user interface features for its smartphones. To start, Sony is offering 500 Swedish owners of the Xperia Z3 access to a new user experience that's based on a nearly stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, with some core Sony elements tossed into the mix. Sony said it is significantly different from the user experience available on its current lineup of devices. "[This is] a chance for us to listen and act upon bug reports, opinions and experiences, so we can acquire feedback to improve the experiences based on what you like and what you don't," said Sony. Sony indicated this is the first step in a new business model that it hopes will see the company responding faster to customer wishes while being more transparent at the same time. If the small trial in Sweden is successful, Sony may expand it to other regions.
Sony today said it has prepared Android 5.1 Lollipop for a number of its Xperia smartphones and tablets. The updated operating system is available to the Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, Z3 Tablet Compact, Z2, and Z2 Tablet. Sony said it blended the features of Android 5.1 with its own user interface tweaks. For example, users now have more control over the volume and silent mode functions; can enjoy tighter integration with LinkedIn; and should experience faster, more accurate Superior Auto Mode with the camera. Sony also added some business-focused features. Though Sony is pushing the system update, timing of its arrival will depend on region and carrier. Sony said it should have Android 5.1 ready for the Xperia Z1, Z1 Compact, and Z Ultra in the coming weeks, followed closely by the Xperia T2 Ultra, C3, and, finally, the original Xperia Z Series.
Sony today announced a new partnership with Twitch that will let select Xperia smartphones broadcast gameplay directly to Twitch. Twitch has allowed Android devices to view gameplay before, Sony's Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z4, and Xperia Z4v smartphones, and the Xperia Z4 Tablet can now push Android games to Twitch live. Twitch is an online community for gamers that lets people broadcast, record, and view gameplay from various platforms, such as Sony's PlayStation consoles. Amazon bought Twitch, which has 100 million monthly users, earlier this year. Google announced a similar product, called YouTube Gaming, in June. Google's game-broadcasting service has yet to go live. Twitch for Android is available from the Play Store.
Hiroki Totoki, the President and CEO of Sony Mobile, said the company has no plans to exit the smartphone business. Totoki covered a wide range of topics during an interview with Arabian Business. He said the firm is working hard to turn its smartphone business around. By the end of 2016, Sony expects to reduce headcount by 20% and operating expenses by 30% to streamline the business and the product portfolio. Totoki said smartphones remain a vital part of the company. "Smartphones are completely connected to other devices, also connected to people's lives — deeply. And the opportunity for diversification is huge. We're heading to the IoT era and have to produce a number of new categories of products in this world, otherwise we could lose out on a very important business domain. In that sense we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile business." Totoki said the company plans to respond to fierce competition from Chinese companies by developing new technologies to help its products stand out. Sony will also pay attention to providing a better experience through the software of its devices, too. Sony recently announced the Z3v for Verizon Wireless and the similar Z3+ for other markets.
Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.
Sony plans to issue new shares of stock for the first time in 26 years as it hopes to raise about $4 billion in capital. The company said it will spend the money on bolstering its image sensor business, which is seeing high demand from smartphone and tablet makers. Sony's image sensor business, along with its PlayStation unit, have helped push the company back to its feet in recent quarters. Earlier this year, Sony said it would ramp up production in its image sensor plants, but now admits that it is struggling to keep up with demand. The capital plan marks a wholesale change in strategy for Sony, which will now bank on the image sensor and PlayStation businesses to keep it afloat. Sony said it will continue to make other electronic devices, such as TVs, but it will reduce its investments in such products. Sony did not specifically address what it will do about its smartphone operations.