Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Sony Ericsson Xperias May Be Lost in Android Flood

Sony Ericsson on Wednesday unveiled two new Xperia smartphones, a feature phone, and a new service it hopes will help it stand out from the pack. But analysts said the new phones may not offer enough differentiation to help Sony Ericsson compete in the broader Android market.

Sony Ericsson introduced the Xperia ray and Xperia active. Both run on Gingerbread 2.3, the latest version of the Android platform. The company also announced Smart Extras, a suite of services that aim to provide a unique consumer experience.

"These look like very nice devices with a couple of differentiating features. The question is whether there's much room in the market for nice devices versus great devices -- things that really stand out," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner Relevant Products/Services. "Staying ahead of the curve and standing out from the crowd is going to be the challenge going forward, particularly for phones being built on Android."

A Unique Experience?

The Xperia ray aims at consumers who want a sleek phone. Its aluminum frame is just 9.44mm thin and it offers a 3.3-inch screen. The ray sports a one-gigahertz processor and uses Sony technology such as Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA engine. It has an 8.1-megapixel camera.

Meanwhile, the Xperia active targets consumers with an active lifestyle, as its name suggests. This is a compact phone with a three-inch screen, a one-gigahertz processor and a five-megapixel camera. Sony Ericsson says it's also dust-proof, water resistant, and offers wet finger tracking.

The active offers a corner user interface and comes pre-loaded with sports apps Relevant Products/Services that let users track their fitness levels. By using the built-in GPS, barometer and compass in combination with the on-screen heart rate and pulse monitor, plus the iMapMyFitness app, users can monitor their day-to-day performance.

"The problem with a lot of these devices is that the way that they've been looking to stand out from the crowd are things like feeds and speeds and dual-core processors and features that don't matter that much to consumers," Gartenberg said. "So it's going to be a question of whether Sony Ericsson can come up with some sort of unique experience that these phones will deliver to help them stand out from the competition."

New Feature Phone

Finally, the company announced Sony Ericsson txt, a feature phone with specifications inspired by Xperia at a more affordable price. The txt lets consumers message on the go with a full QWERTY keyboard. The 2.6-inch screen offers an SMS shortcut key. The phone also comes equipped with a "friends" application Relevant Products/Services that lets users see Facebook and Twitter updates from their top five friends.

"HTC has done well using their Sense user interface, which some people love and some people don't. But at least their devices don't look like every other Android device on the market," Gartenberg said. "They are constantly upping the game with that experience and what it delivers, so they are nice phones, but this is a world where nice phones tend to get swept up with all the other devices. (Sony Ericsson is) going to need something more to stand out."

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