AT&T to launch Sony Mobile's LTE-ready Xperia ion for $99

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) will launch the LTE-capable Xperia ion from Sony Mobile Communications on June 24 for $99.99 with a two-year contract, giving the device maker a badly needed boost in the U.S. market.

Sony Xperia ion AT&T LTE

Sony Xperia ion

The Xperia ion was first announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show and AT&T said it would be available in the second quarter, which ends June 31. For Sony Mobile, the deal is a major win considering that while it has been releasing new Android-powered Xperia devices into the industry, few have been picked up and subsidized by U.S. carriers.

An AT&T spokesman said the Xperia ion runs Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, but will be upgraded to Android 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich. The spokesman did not say when it would be updated. AT&T's LTE network currently covers more than 74 million POPs, which AT&T expects to expand to 150 million POPs by the end of the year.

The gadget is Sony's first LTE smartphone and comes with a 4.6-inch HD Reality display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, as well as the ability to view HD content on TVs via HDMI. The HDMI connection also allows users to navigate and explore content on their phone via their TV. The Xperia ion uses SmartTags, which relies on Near Field Communications to let users store device preferences for a variety of locations and situations, such as opening and controlling volume on the music player when a person goes for a run or turning on GPS automatically in a car.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said in April he plans to use Sony's strength in smartphones to rebuild his ailing company, which has suffered a string of losses. Specifically, Sony said it will grow its Xperia line of smartphones and other mobile devices, including tablets, to $22 billion in three years, triple its current size. Sony has been battered during recent quarters thanks to its unprofitable television business. The company announced in April that it would cut 10,000 jobs.

Sony recently regained control of its mobile business by purchasing Ericsson's (NASDAQ:ERIC) 50 percent stake in their decade-old Sony Ericsson joint handset venture for around $1.47 billion. The acquisition was completed in February, when Sony Ericsson was renamed Sony Mobile Communications. The company also replaced former CEO Bert Nordberg with Kunimasa Suzuki.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article

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