Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) will launch Sony Mobile Communications' Xperia Z3v smartphone, a variant of the smartphone maker's latest flagship Z3. The deal gives Sony a much-needed boost in a market where T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has been its only real consistent carrier partner during the past few years.
Verizon will sell the Xperia Z3v for $199.99 with a two-year contract starting Oct. 23. The Z3v has a slightly different look than the Z3, which Sony announced at the IFA electronics trade show in September. As The Verge notes, the Z3v does not have the rounded, metal sides of the Z3 and instead has a soft plastic casing that is accented by a strip of aluminum down the center.
However, the Z3v shares many of the same specifications of the regular Z3. The variant is waterproof and sports a 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS display, a quad-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 801 processor, and a 20.7-megapixel camera with a wide-angle 27mm lens. CNET notes that the camera will actually have a lower ISO than the Z3 but will still shoot 4K video. The Z3v will come with 32 GB of internal storage as well as a microSD slot that can support cards up to 128 GB. Further, the Z3v will have a 3,200 mAh battery just like the Z3 (though it's rated for a day of use and not two days as the Z3's battery), plus it will have the addition of inductive Qi wireless charging capabilities.
Like the Z3, the Z3v takes advantage of Sony's prominence in the gaming market; users can connect wirelessly to a local PlayStation 4 console and stream games to their phone. However, users will need a gaming controller to play those games--as CNET notes, Sony sells an optional Game Control Mount phone cradle that docks on top of a DualShock 4 controller for mobile gaming.
T-Mobile still expects to launch the regular Z3 sometime this fall but has not given an exact launch date or pricing.
According to a CNET live blog of a media event Sony held in New York City to make the Z3v announcement, Sony Mobile CEO Kuni Suzuki said the U.S. market is "one of the most exciting smartphone markets in the world" but also "one of the toughest." He said that the market presents challenges and opportunities for Sony.
Verizon supports Sony's $600 Xperia Z2 tablet, but has not launched an Xperia phone since it released the ill-fated Xperia Play in 2011, before Sony bought Ericsson's (NASDAQ: ERIC) share of their Sony Ericsson joint venture and made the phone business a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony. Verizon said if customers buy the Z3v and Z2 tablet together they will receive $200 off the bundle. Verizon also will sell the Android Wear-powered Sony Smartwatch 3 for $249.
Sony will need all of the help it can get in the smartphone market. Last month the company said it would take a $1.67 billion impairment charge, writing down goodwill from its buyout of Ericsson's stake in Sony Ericsson. Sony said it expects to report a company-wide $2.13 billion fiscal-year net loss, notably bigger than the $464 million loss it predicted in May.
In July, Sony said it expects to sell just 43 million smartphones this year after earlier predicting sales of 50 million. "We believe mobile is still an important business for us, along with gaming and imaging," Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said in September, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We still see plenty of room for the industry…to expand rapidly and we would like to build a basis so that we can aggressively jump in" markets beyond smartphones such as wearable devices.
- see this Verizon page
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article
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