We already commented on our first impressions of the new Sony Xperia XZ2 Y XZ2 Compact that came with good changes, necessary to remain relevant in the smartphone industry.
They have released a design, Ambient Flow, they have improved in battery, audio or in their commitment to super slow motion, but they have also missed the jack, or the much-rumored double camera or OLED screen.
To discuss this and Sony’s strategy, we sat down at MWC 2018 with Hirotsugu Kitamori, Senior Product Planner at Sony Mobile.
Why did it take so long to have a design without frames
Engadget: One of the things that people asked Sony the most in recent years was about a frameless design. Now you finally have it. Why did it take you so long?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Oh, it’s a difficult question to answer. Of course the industry is moving towards frameless smartphones, but to be honest, we preferred to have an ergonomic design first and, furthermore, as Sony is an entertainment company, we also focused on design and quality of picture.
Engadget: In other words, the frameless design was not a priority for Sony …
Hirotsugu Kitamori: That’s right, first we wanted to have the entertainment part assured, then the ergonomics and comfort part and, of course, then the frameless design. And now that we have it all, we can continue to refine our design.
“In design we first wanted to have the entertainment part assured, then the ergonomics and comfort part”
Engadget: With Sony Dynamic Vibration technology we have seen a glimpse of what could be a symbiosis between Sony Mobile and Sony PlayStation. Are there plans to continue working together?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Of course, and not only from Sony PlayStation, also from Bravia in the image section or in the audio section with High Resolution Audio. It is precisely this ecosystem that we believe is one of Sony’s strengths.
Engadget: Maybe we should wait then for a game made for mobile phones like Nintendo is taking advantage of?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Yes, of course, why not, although today there is nothing that can confirm anything about it, we already have a project in Japan for PlayStation with mobile games.
What about the double camera?
Engadget: You have launched two new high-end smartphones and none of them have a double camera, but you have already announced that you are working on one. Don’t you think communicating that right now can make people decide not to buy this XZ2 and wait for the new dual camera Xperia?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Well, the first thing is that this XZ2 with a single camera can offer a lot, such as 4K HDR recording, 3D creator or photos with great quality, but the double camera we think can be a more focused proposal for professional use.
Engadget: That is, you distinguish between different types of audience with each smartphone
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Yes, perhaps the double camera is more aimed at more technological users and at Sony we want there to be a smartphone for everyone, that’s why we have to offer different proposals.
“The double camera can be for more professional uses and we want there to be an Xperia for every type of audience”
Engadget: Many criticize why manufacturers that use Sony sensors achieve better photos than Sony smartphones …
Hirotsugu Kitamori: We are reviewing all the comments and criticisms on that, and I know there are bad comments, but there are also good ones that are not always considered when talking about camera quality, such as predictive focus with moving objects. And, in addition, this time I think that a better image quality will be appreciated thanks to the work we have done together with Qualcomm to optimize the processing with the Snapdragon 845.
Engadget: Do you think this double sensor will be ready this year?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: It depends on how we see the market and if the public demands it.
Engadget: Well, but we already know that the public does demand it … If you already have the technology, then, will we see a Sony with a double camera this year?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: We will try.
On the craze for artificial intelligence
Engadget: One of the buzzwords and trends in this MWC is artificial intelligence, what is your position on it?
Hirotsugu KitamoriWell, the term artificial intelligence is very broad and almost anything can be sold as artificial intelligence. For example, our predictive approach could be communicated as artificial intelligence, but we prefer to say that it is a smart feature. We associate more artificial intelligence with deep learning, and if a feature doesn’t meet that requirement, we don’t call it artificial intelligence to be more honest.
On the other hand, we have products that do explore artificial intelligence more, such as the Sony Eye Bot.
Engadget: Do you think artificial intelligence can be a selling point like the processor or the camera?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Not now, so we just said that not everything is artificial intelligence, but in the future, when everything is better implemented, surely it will.
Sony Mobile next steps
Engadget: What is the most important feature that you see that premium smartphone users demand?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: We do not see that there is only one feature, although we do notice that the processor and the design are two very strong selling points, unlike the camera. With our changes, such as super slow motion, let’s hope that the camera will once again be a strong selling point.
On the other hand, the battery and after-sales service are very important too. And just because there are several points we did not want to focus only on design.
Engadget: How do you see competitors like Xiaomi who are launching good products with cheaper prices?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Clearly they are competitors for us. When it comes to reaching the markets they have their own success story in China, but I think we follow different strategies. Of course we have to take them into account, but we will continue to focus on what we can offer as Sony and as an entertainment company.
“We clearly see Xiaomi as competitors, but we will continue to focus on what we can do as Sony”
Engadget: When will we see a Sony smartphone with eSim?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: This is something in which we have to work together with an operator, but as soon as we reach an agreement we will begin to implement that technology in our smartphones, of course.
Engadget: And when do you think that moment can come?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Well, the demos have already started so I guess it won’t be long, but we also have to make sure it delivers a good consumer experience.
Engadget: What about the market for tablets? What plans do you have at Sony in this regard?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: The market has contracted but we believe that there are still options, especially now with 5G and all that it offers. There is nothing on the table yet, although strategically it is interesting for us. I used to be in charge of planning the launch of tablets, like Compact tablets, so I would be the first delighted that we had new tablets again (laughs).
Engadget: But now it seems that all your efforts are focused on smartphones, right?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Well, we have the Xperia Touch, which I also helped launch. We believe that it is a different type of interaction than what we have with a smartphone.
Engadget: And where are the tablets if the phones have increasingly larger screens?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: Of course, there is still demand for tablets, perhaps more on the professional side and more specific cases.
Engadget: What can we expect from Sony in September at IFA?
Hirotsugu Kitamori: One more step (laughs). Nice try.
In Engadget | Sony Xperia XZ2: this is the camera with which this new “flagship” aspires to the throne of the best photographic smartphone of 2018