|

GADGETS

A new crop of smartphones for spring

by Rick Martin

As spring descends on Japan, we’ll all be welcoming warmer temperatures and cherry blossoms in the coming weeks. But spring in Japan typically means new smartphone lineups from Japan’s major mobile carriers, too. And while consumers’ love for Apple’s iPhone is still in full bloom, there are a number of Android smartphones budding for their attention.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony’s new flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z, is one of the more notable Android offerings on the market this spring. First unveiled back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it’s now the top-selling smartphone in Japan, according to Sony execs at Mobile World Congress this week. The handset runs Android 4.1 (it can be upgraded to 4.2 soon) and is powered by a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, and 2 gigabytes of RAM.

One of the standout features for this new smartphone is its full HD 5-inch, 1080p ‘Reality Display’ which uses Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine to ensure a bright, clear picture. It promises to play nicely with the entertainment ecosystem which Sony is trying to build, serving as one of the screens in the company’s multiscreen consumer electronics strategy. The software lets you share media easily to NFC-enabled devices such as speakers, headphones or even your Bravia TV — of course, that’s assuming you have any of these. Sony’s Walkman brand lives on in a dedicated Walkman media application on the Xperia Z, which allows access to your downloaded music, as well as Sony’s own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited service.

The smartphone also boasts a 13 megapixel camera, with HDR (high dynamic range) functions, and it will be LTE-compatible, running on NTT Docomo’s Xi high speed network. All this is packed into a fairly slim body, at 7.9 mm thin, with tempered glass and anti-shatter film on both sides of the handset. As with most modern phones from Japanese makers these days, the Xperia Z is also water- and dust-resistant.

The Xperia Z handset is one of the few Japanese-made smartphones that has a shot at making an impact overseas, in an effort to rebound amid the rise of companies like Samsung and Chinese budget handset makers such as Huawei and ZTE. In addition to launching in Japan earlier this month, the Xperia Z is bound for 60 countries on five continents as of this week. It will be interesting to see if it can help bring Sony back onto the list of the world’s elite mobile makers.

Sony also recently announced a Xperia Tablet Z, a 10.1-inch tablet offering which has a similar design to its new handset. The company is currently showing it off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

Fujitsu Arrows X F-02

Another Japanese manufacturer looking to rebound this year is Fujitsu, whose new flagship smartphone, the Arrows X F-02, boasts perhaps even better specs than Sony’s offering. It also runs on Android 4.1, and it also has a 5-inch full-HD display. But under the hood you’ll find a 1.7 Ghz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, as well as a 12-core Nvidia GPU.

The camera specs also impress, shooting at 16.3 megapixels, with the capability of automatically sensing the surrounding conditions so as to produce bright colors, even in low light. Fujitsu promises speed as well, with a quick camera launch/shutter time of 0.5 second. There is also a feature that lets you shoot continuously by simply holding down the shutter button.

Compatible with Docomo’s LTE network, the Arrows X F-02 also comes equipped with NFC capabilities, as well as osaifu keitai (mobile wallet) functionality. It also has Fujitsu’s proprietary smart fingerprint technology built in, allowing users to unlock their smartphone by simply placing a finger on the sensor.

Softbank Disney DM014SH

For smartphone shoppers out there who prefer style over higher specifications, Softbank is collaborating with Disney to release the DM014SH Android handset on March first. This will be a Mickey and Minnie Mouse themed smartphone, based on the Softbank’s Pantone 6 200SH model.

The Disney theme will include a customized, super-cute user-interface, with Mickey/Minnie-themed wallpapers, widgets, and lock-screen on the phone, plus a body design which comes in “Love pink” and “Love white.” There is also a limited-edition mobile battery available. It’s always interesting to see Japanese carriers cater to specific demographics with their mobile offerings, going uber-cute in an effort to snag the girly segment of the population.

The specifications aren’t too shabby either, with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 8 gigabytes of storage (expandable via SD cards), and a 4.5-inch LCD display. The camera shoots at 13.1 megapixels, with front facing camera at 0.3 megapixels.

If you’re not thinking pink this spring, Softbank’s Aquos Phone Xx 203SH is the perhaps the carriers most impressive offering from this season’s smartphone lineup, with the specifications to compete with the aforementioned Sony and Fujitsu offerings. It features a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, a large 4.9-inch display, as well as a 16.3 megapixel camera, and is also available this spring.

Rick Martin is the editor of SD Japan, the English arm of Startup-Dating.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.

  • BubblesPink

    I would like to purchase the Disney DM014SH phone, but I live in the US. Is there anyway I can get this phone here in the US? I know eBay could have them in the future, but I would rather purchase it myself.