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MWC 2017: Sony launches slow-mo Xperia XZ Premium phone

Sony press event

Media captionWATCH: Spencer Kelly tests Sony’s new slow-mo phone

Sony’s latest smartphone is
capable of filming smooth slow-motion footage at four times the rate
possible on Apple and Samsung’s top-end models.

The Xperia XZ Premium captures video at up to 960 frames per second (fps).
The achievement was made possible by a new type of image sensor that has built-in memory of its own.
Sony’s
smartphone market share is small, but it usually makes its sensors
available to rivals about six to 12 months after they debut.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

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Sony

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Sony’s new flagship phone can be bought with a mirrored body among other colour options

Apple, Samsung, LG and Xiaomi are among those to have used its technology in recent handsets.
The
new phone was unveiled alongside several lower specification devices on
the first day of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

Sony press event

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Sony

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Sony showed off the new handset at a press event in Barcelona

“Despite this being one of the best devices at MWC, I
don’t see it changing Sony’s fortunes,” commented Francisco Jeronimo,
from the market research firm IDC.
“If you go through Sony’s
financial statements you can see it now makes more money from selling
phone cameras to its competitors than selling its own smartphones, which
is quite remarkable
“So, its phones are a way to show off its
capabilities, and the new camera is outstanding – not just the slow-mo
but also the picture quality.”
Sony shipped about half as many
smartphones in 2016 as the previous year and has about 1% share of the
market, according to IDC, putting it in 17th place.

More from MWC 2017:

Nokia 3310 mobile phone resurrected
Samsung unveils tablets but no phones
LG G6 phone is made for split-screen apps
Huawei P10 has smarter selfie camera
Google brings Assistant to more Android phones
Blackberry revives classic keyboard phone

Sony calls the new technology Motion Eye.
It
uses a three-layer stacked sensor fitted with one gigabit of dynamic
random-access memory (DRAM). Doing so lets the component temporarily
store a rapid burst of video data locally before it is transferred to
other memory components, which takes more time.

Sony

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Sony

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Sony’s new image sensor will likely appear in its competitors devices before the end of 2017

When the firm first announced the sensor earlier this month it said it was capable of 1,000 fps in 1080p “full high definition”.
However, on the Xperia XZ Premium it has been restricted to slightly fewer frames per second at 720p resolution.
In practice, users can only capture 0.18 seconds of footage at this speed, which produces six seconds of video when played back.
But
they can do so in the middle of filming normal footage to create a
slow-down-and-speed-back-up effect. The challenge is to press the button
at the right moment.
“It’s only a very brief amount of time and
you’ve got to be really on the ball to use it effectively,” commented
Tim Coulling from the Canalys tech consultancy.
“But it’s a great feature.”
The built-in DRAM memory also lets users record action that happened a second before they pressed the record button.
This
buffer function is intended to help them avoid missed moments, but only
works if the device detects motion, which triggers the facility.
Other unusual features include:

  • a 5.5in (14cm) 4K resolution display
    that has four times as many pixels as 1080p equivalents. It also plays
    back Amazon Prime Video content in high dynamic range. HDR delivers more
    vibrant images that reveal extra detail compared to traditional footage
  • the choice of a mirrored body. This
    allows the back of the device to be used to help put on make-up or put
    in contact lenses. However, it also attracts fingerprint marks

Smart projector

Xperia Touch projector

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Sony

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The Xperia Touch projector offers a new way to use Android apps

Analysts were less positive about another of the Japanese firm’s announcements.
Sony confirmed its Xperia Touch projector would go on sale later “this Spring”.
The Android-powered device was first teased at last year’s MWC.
The
machine uses ultrashort-throw projection technology to display apps on a
nearby wall or table. The resulting 720p image can be configured to be
between 23in to 80in (58.4cm to 203.2cm) in size.
Built-in sensors let the surface used act like a large touchscreen.

Xperia Touch

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Sony

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The Xperia Touch can turn table tops and walls into interactive displays

Sony says it expects families to “huddle” around the
image when using it, and showed the BBC a multiplayer game where
several players interacted with graphics projected onto a table at once.
The machine is designed to be used while connected to a power source, but can work for up to an hour unplugged.
A
potential problem, however, is its price: Sony plans to charge €1,499
($1,584; £1,269) when it goes on sale in Europe and Japan.
“I
think Sony should be applauded for being bold enough to push into a new
category, but unfortunately it’s out of reach to all but the most
affluent gadget addicts,” commented Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

Xperia Touch

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Sony

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Sony suggests the projector can be used for multiplayer touch-controlled games

Mr Jeronimo was more harsh in his criticism.
“It’s a huge mistake,” he said.
“If
Sony combined a projector with a device like the Amazon Echo or Google
Home for a third of the price, that would be a very interesting.
“But asking for more than $1,500 – there’s no way they will sell them.”

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