Sony launches phone with world's first 4K HDR screen and superfast download speeds

Sony launches phone with world's first 4K HDR screen and superfast download speeds
The Xperia XZ Premium was unveiled on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
PHOTO: Reuters

Sony launched a smartphone with the world's first 4K high dynamic range (HDR) screen, improved camera, and the ability to download large files at super-fast speeds, as it looks to stabilise profits in its once-struggling mobile division.

The Xperia XZ Premium was unveiled on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and marks Sony's continued bid to play in the premium end of the market against the likes of Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Key features include:

  • The world's first 4K resolution high dynamic range (HDR) screen. This means the resolution is four times better than high definition displays. HDR is a way of making the blacks blacker and whites whiter on screens to create an image with more depth
  • Capable of downloading at 1 gigabit per second. This means films can be downloaded in a matter of seconds
  • Broadcast-quality camera allowing for super slow motion video at 960 frames per second
  • 5.5 inch display
  • 19 megapixel rear camera and 13 megapixel front-facing selfie camera
  • Mirror finish in a range of colors

Read also: Nokia returns with 3 Android smartphones to challenge Apple, Samsung

The Xperia XZ focuses on Sony's strengths including display technology and camera in a bid to boost profits. Sony has been on a path to stabilize the loss-making smartphone division which finally saw profits in the last two quarters.

Under CEO Kazuo Hirai, Sony has slimmed down its smartphone portfolio and focused on key markets to return to profitability. But this has come at the expense of sales and market share.

Analysts hailed this as another solid device from Sony but said the key features it is marketing are limited. For example, super slow motion video capture requires the user to press the button at the exact moment the action is taking place making it difficult to capture the correct part of a motion. CNBC tested the XZ Premium ahead of MWC. In the demo, a skateboard topped with glitter was used by the skateboarder to perform a jump. CNBC captured the video and it was impressive, but required the capture button to be hit at the right moment.

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There is also a very small amount of content that can be viewed on a 4K HDR screen. So far, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the e-commerce giant's streaming service, have a handful of shows in 4K HDR. Sony said it is working with Amazon to optimize some of its 4K HDR shows for mobile to work on the Xperia XZ Premium.

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Daniel Gleeson, an analyst at Ovum, told CNBC by phone ahead of the launch event that the Sony Xperia XZ Premium's key features are limited because people have to buy a subscription service to watch 4K content and the slow motion camera can only capture a tiny snippet of action.

"Those key features leave me wanting more than what they are promising. That's one thing that could lead to a lot of customer disappointment for those who purchase this phones on the basis of those feature," Gleeson said.

Read also: ZTE launches world's first 5G-ready smartphone

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium ships in late Spring with pricing to be announced in local markets.

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