This afternoon, Ausdroid attended a launch event of sorts (see below) for Sony’s 2013 flagship, the Xperia Z. The lunch event, held in the Jørn Utzon room at the Sydney Opera House, was wonderful — the venue was perfect for the day, with nice harbour views complemented by a nice glass of white wine, a tasty and exquisite meal, a quick presentation on the Xperia Z, and the opportunity for a couple of hands-on product demos.
Unfortunately, the focus of the event was more on the meal, the entrées and the after-meal snacks of macarons and jellied fruit squares, and less on the Xperia Z. For a so-called launch event, Sony was rather light on the details of things that we and our audience cared about — availability, launch dates, price, carriers, and local features and accessories.
I had a great time, but I walked away after the two hour event feeling I had received precious little information.
The presentation bit
Over lunch, we heard from John Featherstone from Sony (who didn’t introduce himself to anyone, unfortunately). Some people seemed to know who he was, but unlike other press events, the token-senior-executive-from-the-host-company didn’t introduce himself to the room or to anyone individually — a wasted opportunity to garner some influence, I thought.
However, John made it clear that Sony Mobile Communications really wants to re-capture the “wow” factor; rather than some lacklustre device (as we’ve seen Sony Ericsson cobble together in the past), the Xperia Z is their last best hope for mankind etc., and it shows. This phone packs in the kitchen sink, and a few other things too. Sony has (by itself) been in mobile for about a year, and this is their first real “wow” phone, and they’re pegging a lot on it. A variety of accessories exist which will be available (presumably at launch), and will offer seamless integration with speakers, televisions, and other devices.
While the details specifically relating to the launch of the Xperia Z were scant in John’s presentation, I think this might reflect the way Sony envisages the mobile market. Details — like megapixels, CPU cores, memory and storage are all ‘hygiene factors’ — things that have to be included and be sufficient, but aren’t in themselves the features that sell the phone. It’s the whole package that sells a smartphone, and let me tell you, it’s a sensible way to visualise the market. It also explains why the previous Sony Ericsson Android phones didn’t do too well — they had all the hygiene factors, but they had absolutely nothing that really differentiated them in an increasingly busy and rapidly evolving marketplace.
The emphasis on clean UI and UX (user interface and user experience) for the Xperia Z is something in which Sony have invested blood, sweat and tears, and once we get to experience the review phone we took away afterwards, we’ll report on how well they’ve done with this.
While the product demos covered some key features, the amount of hands-on time was a bit constrained — this is what the review devices are intended for; this was not an event to get up close and personal with the Xperia Z and see what it can do in your own hands. This was an opportunity for Sony to show off its killer features, and show them off Sony did. And how.
Some of those killer features that I took away were:
- Water and dust resistance — you can drop the Xperia Z in water up to a metre deep, and leave it there for an hour or so without having any negative effect on the handset.
- Camera – large megapixels, fast capture rate (up to 10 captures per second), HDR in still and video capture, and large, bright photos in daylight and in low light.
- Miracast and wireless connectivity — all built in and supported by a wide range of Sony hardware, some of which will be available soon, and some of which hasn’t yet been announced for market.
- Screen quality — the screen on the Xperia Z is a 1080p and examination of the screen through a microscope shows just how finely tuned the screen elements are. I personally found this quite amazing to behold. A quick use of the review unit has confirmed just how beautiful the screen is.
How (maybe not) to do a launch event
Perhaps Ausdroid misunderstood the purpose of Sony’s event today, because the kinds of details we expected to see and hear, and the kinds of details we’ve previously received at events like this were simply not present. We do not know when the Xperia Z will arrive in Australia. We do not know which carriers will carry it. We don’t know how much it’ll cost, or whether you’ll be able to buy it outright without a carrier being involved. In fact, all we know is that the Xperia Z comes in black, white and purple. My review unit is purple. Win!
(Of course, we know a lot more than this, but only from other sources — if the event today was the only source of information we had, we’d be unable to tell you anything).
The one area that covered this kind of detail were the product demonstrations — in particular, the range of accessories Sony plans to bring to market with the Xperia Z. From wireless speaker orbs starting under $100, through to more expensive and higher quality speaker units, Blu-ray players with Miracast built in, Sony has quite a bit planned. Included with the review unit of the Xperia Z were a pair of NFC-pairable Bluetooth headphones valued at some hundreds of dollars figure which, from a quick initial test, produce a beautiful sound.
Our feedback for Sony is this: The event was fantastic, the food and wine enjoyable, and the company and networking opportunity invaluable. However, like other journalists (though I dare not liken myself to those who do it for a living) Ausdroid was there to do what we do best — gather the news, and share it with our audience. There was precious little fact and detail to gather, and unfortunately, not much to share, and our experiment with live-blogging reflected this. We will take this experience away and learn from it, and perhaps be a little more careful in selecting good candidates for live blogging. The overnight HTC One news was a good use of live blogging. Today’s Sony event, not so much.
This said, we are very grateful for Sony’s hospitality — I truly had a fun time — and I do look forward to examining the Xperia Z closely to see whether it should be your first phone purchase of 2013.
Nice food and wine aside, readers of Ausdroid should know that we’re not a bought voice, and if a product is no good, we’re not going to tell you otherwise. We look forward to bringing a review to you within the next couple of weeks.