9 Feb 2013

CES 2013, Text in the shower? The Sony Xperia Z

CES 2013, The annual technology show, held in Las Vegas has once again unveiled a host of wacky and cool innovations. One of the standout items is Sony’s waterproof smartphone.

Some real innovations and some (slightly) crazy inventions are being exhibited this year, with such highlights as ‘intelligent’ cutlery, bluetooth enabled luggage tracking devices and an Android powered and controlled oven!

One of the new products that has been causing the biggest ‘splash’ thus far has been a new smartphone, designed by Sony. It has a number of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd, the most interesting being is that it is completely water resistant.

But more of that later. First, let’s take a look at the specifications. It’s thin, at only 7.9mm thick (0.3in). And, it’s big. It features a five inch (12.7cm), 1080p screen that manages to squeeze in a 443 ppi (pixels per inch) touchscreen display. The iPhone 5 and its retina display can only offer 326 ppi which has been industry standard since the launch of the iPhone 4 and has been seen as more than generous until now. The Xperia Z takes this to a new level, and while lacking the eye watering brightness of the colour palette of the iPhone 5 it adds an extra degree of realism and clarity hitherto unseen in a pocket sized smartphone.

Well, I say pocket sized. The handset can be classed as such, but only just. Bar the two Samsung models (the Note and recently released Note 2) this is by far the largest handset that has been touted as a phone as opposed to a tablet. And around CES 2013 this has borne out a new nickname and possibly a whole new category of personal tech. And so, the ‘Phablet’ is born. It no doubt feels large in the hand but its slim, lightweight design draws attention away from that. It is made from high end materials and components and features a very tactile, mirrored shatterproof glass back.

And it’s certainly fast. It features a 1.5GHz asynchronous quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor utilising 2GB of RAM. The handset is 4G ready and features ‘near field communication’ or NFC built in. NFC is a contactless data transfer system that allows information to be passed between the handset and a receptive unit with a simple scan.

Sony have been forerunners in NFC development, already having a number of different products on the market utilising the technology. Headphones, speakers and TV remotes are all available and all work seamlessly, which can only bode well for the feature on the Xperia Z.

Other features include a 13 megapixel main camera with the ability to both shoot and record using HDR technology. It runs the Android OS, its memory is expandable using microSD cards and, as mentioned earlier, is completely dust and water proofed.

The handset is rated to IP55 for dust and IP57 for water, making this phone the first that can be safely used in the bath or shower and will survive being dropped down a toilet (1 in 10 insurance claims for smartphones give this as the reason for claiming). Sony states that the handset can withstand being submerged for thirty minutes at a depth of up to one metre, and, when it becomes dirty can be simply washed under the tap.

The downside of all this proofing does mean that every port comes complete with a protective plastic cap that must remain unclipped in order for the port to be used. Although a popular feature in Japan it remains to be seen whether full waterproofing will be a sufficient lure for the western market.

Its size and the initial novelty factor will no doubt be a big draw when Sony launch the Xperia Z (a UK release date of March is pencilled in, price TBC) but whether it does enough to convert Apple and Samsung fans to its cause remains to be seen.

About the Author

Reese Jones is a tech and gadget lover, a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture recently and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news to tech-related DIY.

Find more about her and her work at Reese+ and tweet her @r_am_jones.

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