• Reuters, Staff Report

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Sony Corp., lagging behind its South Korean and Chinese rivals in smartphone sales, unveiled on Monday its first 5G handset, a model that also features advanced camera technology to boost its appeal for video and film professionals.

Speaking via web streaming from Tokyo, Sony Mobile Communications President Mitsuya Kishida said the newest incarnation of the flagship Xperia 1, the triple-lens Mark II, will include features from the company’s Alpha camera range, such as eye-tracking autofocus, as well as 5G connectivity.

The company had planned to present its new phones at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, but the event was canceled because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Equipped with three separate lenses, the new phone will include a dedicated app to allow finer manual control over video and photo settings. Along with the mid-range Xperia 10 Mark II, the phones should start to be shipped over the coming weeks, Kishida said.

He also announced plans for a handset aimed at video and photography professionals. The Xperia Pro, which is still in development, will be able to livestream images over 5G connections from professional cameras via a micro HDMI input and will function as an external monitor for cameras.

Sony, which usually pitches its phones to visually minded users who appreciate the company’s high-end screens and cameras, is a small player in the smartphone market, not cracking the top 10 biggest sellers.

The company did not reveal the prices of the new phones.

Analysts are skeptical the latest addition will boost sales, as rivals such as China’s Huawei and South Korea’s Samsung have already made a strong bet on high-performance cameras in their smartphones.

“Sadly, it is hard to see how these devices will change Sony Mobile’s fortunes. Dependence on the home Japanese market is growing and Xperia Pro is clearly aimed at 5G services likely associated with Japanese Olympic Games,” Ben Wood, head of research at consultancy CCS, said in a tweet.

Sony’s domestic rival, Sharp Corp., which has boasted the largest market share of Android smartphones in Japan, introduced its first 5G-ready smartphone model earlier this month.

With some major Japanese carriers set to roll out their ultrafast 5G connection service in March, more 5G smartphone models are expected to debut in the coming months.

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