Business / Corporate

Sony unveils flagship Xperia Z4 smartphone in Japan

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Sony Corp. unveiled the latest version of its flagship smartphone on Monday, with the product set to debut in Japan this summer.

The new Xperia Z4, which is the upgraded model of the current flagship Xperia Z3 handset, has improved camera and digital-effect image functions.

“As we developed the Xperia Z4, we had a goal of making the utmost efforts to produce the best camera smartphones,” Tomokazu Tajima, senior vice president at Sony Mobile Communications Inc., Sony’s smartphone arm, told a news conference at the company’s headquarters on Monday. “We think the Xperia Z4 is one form of perfect camera smartphone at this point.”

The electronics giant upgraded the phone’s front camera to 5.1 megapixels from 2.2 megapixels, while the 5.2-inch Z4 also has more entertainment features.

For instance, there is a “style portrait” function that enables users to take selfies with various digital effects, such as brightening skin color or using digital imaging to paint on faces.

The front camera has a 25-mm focal length, so group selfies can be taken with ease, Sony said.

While the overall design, with its aluminium body covered with glass, has not changed much from the Z3, the Z4 has a more powerful processor and is run by Google’s latest Android 5.0 operating system. The Z4 is also 0.4 mm thinner and 8 grams lighter than its predecessor.

The Z4 is expected to debut with major carriers in Japan this summer, though Sony did not say which carriers would be selling it.

Asked how the struggling mobile giant will tackle the global market with the Z4, Sony appeared to be taking a cautious line, declining to say where the new flagship model would be sold, but saying that it would make an announcement upon deciding its overseas strategy.

For now, Sony is apparently focusing on the domestic market, where it has registered a fairly strong 10.8 percent share, following Apple and Sharp in the first half of this fiscal year.

“When we think about our shares and profitability in a comprehensive manner, Japan is the most important market at this point,” said Sony Mobile CEO Hiroki Totoki.

It is rare for Sony to introduce its flagship smartphone model in Japan, as the firm usually does so at large-scale overseas trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show in the U.S. or the Mobile World Congress in Spain, which could point to a more domestic focus for the firm.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said the electronics-maker will be selective about which overseas markets to enter and what products to sell, in an effort to ensure the profitability of its smartphone business.

Sony has been struggling to keep up with overseas rivals in the sector. It had originally set a target of selling 50 million smartphones worldwide this fiscal year ending in March but slashed the figure to 39.2 million as the competition heated up, especially in Asia. China, with other smartphone-makers like Xiomi, has been especially tough market.

Sony also took a ¥180 billion write-down in the value of its smartphone unit in September. Because of that, Sony is expected to post a ¥170 billion net loss.