The Sony Xperia Z2 has landed, but what goes into making the sequel to one of 2013's best handsets? We pinned Sony down for a talk to find out.
With the Sony Xperia Z2 now up for pre-order at Vodafone UK (big screen bonus et al), we thought we’d catch up with Sony to ask what makes its new flagship so great, and what sets it apart from its Xperia predecessors.
To do that, we’ve been talking to Calum MacDougall, Head of the Xperia Marketing Programme at Sony Mobile. He’s the man who knows everything about what went into making the Z2 what it is, as well as what’s coming next, and what Sony sees as the future of mobile…
Xperia Z2: The best of Sony
According to Calum, the Xperia Z2 is like the phone equivalent of a Greatest Hits compilation album. How so? Because it pulls in the best of Sony, and from a multitude of different areas:
“The ambition is always to take the best of Sony, and the experiences that are created by our other consumer electronics divisions, and put them into our smartphones,” he explains. “People want to use smartphones for gaming, taking pictures, listening to music and everything else Sony does, so it’s a unique opportunity to be able to put all of that technology inside one device.
“You can see a step up in every area with the Sony Xperia Z2.”
“You can see a step up in each of those areas with the Xperia Z2,” he says. “We have great digital imaging camera capability with the 20.7 megapixel camera and the new processing engine – all this compact camera technology that we bring into the smartphone.
“On top of that we’re now bringing in our camcorder technology as well, so you can capture videos in brilliant 4K quality.
“Then there’s audio,” Calum adds. “The Xperia Z2 is the first smartphone where we have digital noise cancelling technology actually built in. Whether you’re travelling by plane or train, or simply walking down the street listening to music, it’s normally quite noisy in the background, meaning that if you really want to enjoy it you usually have to buy some bulky noise cancelling headphones. But with the Z2, that tech is built in. It works with the headset that comes in the box, which is a much smaller, normal in-ear style headset. That tech blocks out 98% of ambient noise, so you can really enjoy pure, clear music or movies.”
“Design is of course, very strong too. It’s a Sony smartphone, so as you’d expect it’s made of premium materials – it’s got an aluminium frame around the outside, tempered glass front and back and it’s waterproof as well. You can drop it in a metre and a half of water and leave it there for 30 minutes if you so wish. It’s also lighter, slimmer, not as wide as the Xperia Z1, and you get a bigger screen. That display is one of the key technical steps forward.”
We asked what the most important step forward is with the Z2 – screen, camera, audio or design – but Calum found it tricky to pick just one:
“The overall technical achievement is the sum of its parts,” he says. “It’s the ability to get more and more Sony tech into such a small footprint. The Z2 is a mixture of learnings from the Xperia Z, Z1 and Z1 compact, but also from the wider consumer electronics industry – understanding how people like to take photos, capture and share videos, and how they like to listen to music.
Innovation in the age of iteration
The Z2 is packed with new tech, but is smartphone innovation starting to slow down? There’s a theory among the tech press that new flagship phones – from every major manufacturer – are beginning to be more iterative than game-changing, and that we’re at a stage of evolution, rather than revolution. It’s a hot topic, and we wanted to know if Calum – and Sony – thinks that’s true…
“Yes,” he reveals, “but I definitely think you can still innovate within smartphones – we can still continue to bring Sony’s very latest range of consumer electronics technology into our smartphones. But there’s also room for innovation beyond pure hardware.”
“The short answer is that we’re going to continue to innovate within the smartphone, and continue to bring our expertise in, but the story for the consumer isn’t just about what’s in the smartphone: it’s what it connects to.”
And the longer answer? Like many manufacturers, Sony is looking at wearable tech and extra connectivity to help keep innovation in mobile steaming ahead:
“Innovation will be about what’s beyond or outside the smartphone itself, with companion products and accessories,” Calum explains. “At the same time as the Xperia Z2 we’re also launching the Sony SmartBand, which is an innovative, flexible tracking band that connects to your Xperia smartphone. With that, the Lifelog application records your activity – it records steps, calories and fitness, but also music you listen to, movies you’ve seen and the pictures you’ve taken. It creates a brand new experience around your smartphone.
“Innovation will be about what’s beyond or outside the smartphone itself.”
“The SmartBand itself is a new, interesting life tool – it vibrates if you’ve got an incoming call or a notification – and you can use it to control your music on your phone. We use NFC, which lets you connect your phone to your TV and music systems withone-touch connectivity.
“We have 154 NFC-enabled one-touch products now, so that’s innovation that goes well beyond the handset.
“So the scope for innovation is now beyond the smartphone itself,” Calum says in closing. “It’s how you can bring content and connectivity of the phone to different devices. That’s what gives people a different kind of experience.”
Are you ready to dive into Sony’s forward-thinking ecosystem? Let us know what you think of the Xperia Z2 and Sony’s plans in the comments section below. You can pre-order your Sony Xperia Z2 here.