Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Sony has just launched its first 4G LTE smartphone, the Xperia Ion which is coming to Rogers for $49.99 on a three-year contract, $449.99 for two years and $499.99 for a one-year plan. The first pure Sony device developed sans Ericsson, the Xperia Ion boasts a Bravia 4.6" HD display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM. The Ion ties into a system of accessories including a Smart Watch, a wireless headset and NFC SmartTags.
The Xperia Ion runs Android Gingerbread (version 2,3). This is an older version of the Google mobile OS which is expected to see an update to Ice Cream Sandwich (OS 4.0) later this year. This might put off some users who want the latest and greatest OS.
In terms of design, the Xperia Ion continues on the sleek, black and rectangular look that is shared with Sony's NXT devices. The Ion is made of a unibody aluminum frame with rubber and glass so while lightweight, it feels a bit more solid than similar smartphones
There's also 16GB of onboard storage easily expandable with a microSD card, a superb 12mp camera on the back plus a 1.3mp front-facing one as well. During the demo and launch event earlier today, Sony's reps showed how the Xperia Ion integrates into a wider ecosystem of services and devices.
Used with a HDTV dock, the Ion can play back HD video, games, apps and also acts as a gateway to Sony's various content offerings such as Sony's Music Unlimited service.
When paired with any HDMI-CEC HDTV, the Xperia Ion can be controlled by a remote control that can access various apps and features, connectivity was demonstrated to be seamless. This makes any HDTV a monitor for your smartphone. While an odd concept, it works with the Xperia Ion because the device is designed to render all video in high definition. So graphics don't look blown up and jaggy, they just look like you're using a giant smartphone.
Sony's big play with the Xperia Ion and many of its NXT smartphones is the ecosystem and this extends beyond the vast content offerings. In the cas of the Xperia Ion, we were shown a Smart Watch and a Wireless Headset as well as SmartTags.
The Smart Watch, a $150 add on will link via Bluetooth and these will be available from Sony Stores. They are an added screen for your smartphone and will send discreet updates and serve as a terminal for various Android apps and services for those times when using a smartphone is not convenient.
One cool feature of this watch is that you can use it to trigger the camera remotely and Sony says that a variety of apps are coming to the Google Play store.
A smart Wireless Headset acts in a similar way as it not only pings updates on its display but can also accept microSD cards to work as a standalon MP3 player and it bundles an FM radio.
Here we see Sony's expertise as a consumer electronics leader forging exciting new products from various existing technologes. The result is that the Xperia line of smartphones seems to have the biggest array of accessories that can extend functionality beyond the basic smartphone fare.
Finally, Sony showed off the Smart Tags which are small NFC (Near Field Communication) buttons that can be programmed to trigger specific applications and settings. Use one at home and it can mute the sound, disable LTE data and turn on weather and news widgets.
Use one for the car and it can turn on GPS, your media player and silence calls and texts. It is a good way to bring NFC to consumers and get them used to the idea of using the technology while we wait for mobile payments and other practical uses to become mainstream.
The Xperia Ion shows that Sony is willing to try something different and provide a solid smartphone with various content and accessory options. Stay tuned for my review of the Sony Xperia Ion and the SmartWatch in the coming weeks.