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Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

TECH_JAPAN

GADGETS

Sony and Fujitsu take Japan into the battle for global smartphone dominance


Last year was the year that finally saw Android phones achieve booming growth all over the world, including here in Japan. But thus far, Japanese manufacturers have yet to crack the top tier of smartphone makers, as South Korea's Samsung and the Taiwanese HTC have led the charge thus far. But at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, both Sony and Fujitsu were trumpeting new handsets, and we're going to see new offerings from both companies for the Japanese market as well.

News photo
Sony's Xperia acro HD

Sony, fresh from picking up Ericsson's stake in Sony Ericcson this past October, announced four new phones at CES: two for the U.S. market, the Xperia Ion and Xperia S, and two for the Japanese market on the Docomo network, the Xperia acro HD and the Xperia NX. The phones have much in common as far as hardware specs are concerned, being powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. As well, they both sport a 12-megapixel camera, and 4.3-inch, 720 x 1,280 LCD display. The Xperia acro HD looks to be the more full-featured of the two Japanese offerings, with capabilities the local market tends to like, such as water-resistance, one-seg TV, and NFC digital wallet functionality. Sony tells The Japan Times that the Xperia NX is expected to launch in Japan in February, with the Xperia acro HD to follow in March.

In the announcement at CES, Bert Nordberg, the CEO for Sony Ericsson, noted that new offerings are a part of its multi-screen strategy: "CES marks an important milestone for both Sony Ericsson and Sony, with the introduction of the first smartphones from Sony. As the market continues to evolve into a world where we consume content and entertainment across multiple screens, the Xperia portfolio will deliver a mobile experience that is an important cornerstone of Sony's strategy to provide seamless connectivity and networked entertainment across smartphones, TV, laptops and tablets."

According to a recently leaked Sony road map (reported by CNet), these new smartphones are only the beginning of what could be as many as a dozen Android offerings in just the first nine months of 2012. Mobile World Congress is coming at the end of February in Barcelona, so we could learn more about the company's plans at that point.

Meanwhile, fellow hardware-maker Fujitsu is also aiming to do better in the smartphone market this year, with its CEO Hideyuki Saso proclaiming at CES that North America is the company's priority market, according to the technology website AllThingsDigital.

In Japan, Fujitsu has recently launched its Arrows ES IS12F on KDDI's au network. Measuring just 6.7 mm thin, this smartphone is up there with the slimmest in the world, and it weighs only 105 grams. It is water-resistant, and claims solid durability despite its dainty profile, with special scratch-resistant paint as well as Corning Gorilla Glass implemented in its screen.

The Android handset is driven by a 1.4-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and boasts a 4.0-inch AMOLED display. It only has a 5.1-megapixel camera, but claims high performance in low light. It also features one-seg TV and mobile wallet functions, and is available in two colors, ruby red and gloss black

On a related note, Fujitsu is also making a push into the tablet space too, as its new Arrows Tab went on sale in January. Besides its LTE capabilities, what's unique about this tablet computer is that water-resistance is being pushed as one of its main selling points, with Fujitsu saying that it can be used even in the bathtub without worry. The Arrows Tab also comes with a super-cool fingerprint-sensor screen lock, so if you happen to be bathing with anyone you don't trust, your data is totally secure. Pricing will be approximately ¥60,000 for the 16-GB model, and ¥68,000 for the 32-GB model.

It will be interesting to watch both Sony and Fujitsu compete at home, as the domestic market becomes more crowded with popular foreign offerings like Apple's iPhone 4S and Samsung's Galaxy SII and Nexus. With such challenges here at home, an increased push in markets abroad certainly makes sense.

Rick Martin is a contributor to Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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