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The X range, unveiled yesterday on the first day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, marks the most significant overhaul of Sony’s premium handset design since the launch of the Xperia Z range three years ago.
The new range consists of the X, X Performance (the latter containing a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor) and XA. All sport 12.7-centimetre curved screen designs.
The X and X Performance have 1080p displays, with the more mid-range XA packing a modest 720p display.
The X and X Performance come with 23-megapixel rear- facing cameras, with what Sony describes as Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, a focusing system that predicts a subject’s motion, promising less blurry images.
Sony claims that the new devices will be able to run for two days on a single battery charge.
The three devices, available in white, black, “lime gold” and rose gold, are to be commercially available in the summer.
Sony did not share details regarding pricing.
The launch of three high-end devices at MWC highlights Sony’s commitment to the premium device market, following last year’s comparatively subdued launch of the mid-range Xperia M4 Aqua and the Xperia Z4 Android tablet.
The company said last year that it was abandoning the lower-end smartphone market, dominated by Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi, in an effort to boost profit margins. The strategy appears to have been successful thus far. Sony last month announced a 15 per cent year-on-year drop in quarterly mobile revenues, but operating income for the division increased by 40.2 per cent.
“This significant increase was primarily due to an improvement in product mix reflecting a shift to high value-added models, as well as reductions in costs including marketing, research and development and other selling, general and administrative expenses,” the company said in its results statement.
The retreat from the value smartphone segment led to Sony’s market share in the Middle East and Africa falling to just 1.6 per cent at the end of 2015, compared with 2.4 per cent a year earlier, according to figures from the industry analysts IDC.
The company faces a challenge to retain the loyalty of customers tempted by high-profile new devices such as the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, both unveiled in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon.
“The Sony brand is still a prestige brand that has a lot of value, but their market share stands under 2 per cent across the Middle East and Africa,” said Nabila Popal, research manager for IDC in Dubai.
“It is hard to see them getting out of that box. The big question is not whether they can significantly increase their market share but whether they can hold on to what they have now as the market becomes ever more competitive.”
In addition to the Xperia X range, Sony also unveiled the Xperia Ear, a voice-controlled earpiece that responds to verbal commands, together with the RM-X7BT, which enables wireless music streaming and uses Sony’s voice technology to activate smartphone functions while driving.
Both products will be commercially available from this summer, with no details available about pricing.
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