T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will get exclusive U.S. rights to launch Sony Mobile Communications' flagship Xperia Z smartphone, giving Sony a boost in a crucial market, albeit via the smallest Tier 1 carrier.
Xperia Z for T-Mobile
T-Mobile said it will launch the Xperia Z in the coming weeks, but it did not give exact availability or pricing. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai had hinted in late May that a U.S. carrier would soon sell the phone.
The Xperia Z has received largely positive reviews and Sony is banking on sales of the phone and its variants to lead a revival in its smartphone business. The U.S. Xperia Z variant will run on T-Mobile's HSPA+ and LTE networks; T-Mobile has said it will have LTE covering 100 million POPs by mid-year and 200 million by year-end. The carrier's LTE network is still only currently available in seven metropolitan areas: Baltimore; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.
The Sony gadget runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and sports a 5-inch, 1080p display, a 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processor and a new 13-megapixel Exmor RS camera sensor, which Sony boasts is the world's first image sensor with HDR (High Dynamic Range) video for smartphones. The phone is also water resistant and can be dunked in a tank of water and still function.
According to ABI Research, Sony Mobile was the No. 8 global handset maker overall in the first quarter. However, its smartphones have not gained traction in the United States, where it mainly sells phones on an unlocked, unsubsidized basis. In May the company started selling an unlocked HSPA+ variant of the Xperia Z for $630, and the LTE-capable Xperia ZL for $630 as well.
Sony's position in the U.S. market is weak compared to the likes of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Samsung Electronics, HTC and others. "We still have a lot of stuff to do here in the market," Hirai said in a meeting with reporters following his appearance at AllThingsD's D11 conference in May. "There is no question about it."
Sony Mobile said it expects to ship 42 million units in the fiscal year to April 1, 2014, up from 33 million units in the previous fiscal year. Getting the Xperia Z launched by a U.S. carrier will likely help improve sales, but Sony will need to aim for wider carrier distribution to make a larger dent in the U.S. market.
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