Sony Focuses on Iteration, Not innovation

By Tom Allen
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Thanks to Sony’s press conference kicking off as MWC opened on the first day, we didn’t make it in time for opening remarks. However, we were there for the launch of the company’s newest devices – and the reasoning behind them.

Sony Hiroki Totoki“We are spending too much time on screens” was the message of Hiroki Totoki, president and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications. Sony showed a video of a woman walking past some of life’s great experiences because she was glued to her phone. This led to the introduction of four new products – although three of them are still concepts – designed to assist people in their daily lives. All of them are focused on making lives easier.

Sony earpieceThe Xperia Ear is Sony’s newest wearable, set to be launched this summer. It is a Bluetooth headset that, thanks to sensors, can tell when it is in the charging case, when it is in use or when it has been removed. Its functionality depends on its location; for example, the headset won’t try to answer a call if it isn’t in-ear, and will transfer a call back to your smartphone if it placed in the case.

Sony’s Voice Agent, a digital assistant, is built in. The platform can read text messages to a user and listen to voice commands – just press a button on the earphone to activate the command feature. The first time that the Ear is turned on and used every day, it can give the user a run-down of the news, weather and their schedule; it can also alert people to missed calls, messages and upcoming appointments.

Voice Agent is also used, in a slightly different form, on the Xperia Agent projector concept. This is a friendly-looking projector (a bit like a robot), which can control home appliances, show the news and weather and tell users about notifications, like messages and missed calls.

Other concepts are the Xperia Eye, a wearable camera, and Xperia Projector – an iteration on the Lifespace UX demonstration from IFA 2014 (Sony is Committed to ‘Kando’).

MWC is still a smartphone-focused show, and Sony wasn’t going to let the press conference go without revealing new handsets. We were introduced to the Xperia X range, a set of mid-range models that are similar to, but more affordable than, the Xperia Z series. Sony said that there is “More to do to evolve smartphones”, but asked, “Can adding more functions satisfy?” The company does not think so, and will instead focus on perfecting existing functionality, like the camera and battery. For example, the battery in the Xperia X phones will last for two days or more, and its total lifespan has been more than doubled compared to older phones.

Sony will launch the Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia Performance this summer (although the Performance model will only be launched in Asia, we were told).