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9/5/2013
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Sony Challenges Apple, Samsung With Xperia Z1 Smartphone

Sony guns for the market leaders with the Xperia Z1 and other new hardware unveiled at the IFA trade show.

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Sony has a clear message for Apple and Samsung: Watch Out. The electronics giant introduced a wide range of new products at the IFA trade show in Berlin this week, including a flagship smartphone, televisions and cameras.

The Xperia Z1 smartphone is an impressive update to the Xperia Z, which Sony launched earlier this year. The Z1 improves upon the design, while also adding functionality. The camera is the Z1's hallmark feature. Sony carried over a larger 1/2.3 imaging sensor from its compact camera range as well as its G Lens technology to give the Z1 the best possible camera. The sensor rates 20.1-megapixels and has all the low-light capabilities of its smaller predecessor. The G Lens offers a wider field of view (27 mm versus 34 mm for the Z), and should also produce sharper images. Sony also improved the camera's software with new shooting modes that make it easier to be creative with how the camera is used.

The Android 4.2.2-backed Z1 has a 5-inch full HD display with TriLuminos and X-Reality processing engines. Sony says these help produce the sharpest video possible. The Z1 is powered by a 2.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2 GB of RAM, and comes with 16 GB of internal storage. Like the Xperia Z before it, the Z1 is water resistant. It can stand in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It also includes Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS and Bluetooth 4.0LE.

The phone is made from tempered glass that is glued to an anodized aluminum frame. It has a very high-quality feel. The metal and glass combination feels superior to the plastics favored by Samsung. The Sony Xperia Z1 is a flagship smartphone in every sense, and clearly challenges the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone.

[ Wind up the countdown clock: Apple iPhone Anticipation Grows. ]

In addition to the Z1, Sony revealed two lens accessories that can hook onto smartphones and be used instead of the built-in camera. The Cyber-Shot QX10 and QX100 resemble the lenses used by SLR cameras, but are instead fully functional cameras unto themselves. They pair with smartphones and tablets (Android or iOS) via Wi-Fi and are used with a phone or tablet to take pictures. The QX10 has an 18-megapixel sensor and offers 10x optical zoom, while the QX100 has a 20-megapixel sensor and offers 3.6x optical zoom. The lenses cost $249 and $499, respectively.

The Z1 and the lenses are capable of using Sony's online photo storage service. Sony is offering unlimited storage through its branded portal, and the company hopes people will sit up and take notice. Sony's online presence continues to build with services such as Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited, which are available to Sony's phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

Sony also talked up the SmartWatch 2, its Android-based smartwatch. The SmartWatch 2 goes on sale later this month for about half the price of Samsung's Galaxy Gear. It has a lower-resolution screen than the Gear, but has a better user interface and many of the same features. According to Sony, developers have created more than 300 apps that will run on the SmartWatch 2.

These and other products reveal a new focus from Sony to retake the consumer electronics crown. Sony clearly thinks its range of integrated products will do the trick.

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