Sony has unveiled two new devices that will join the Xperia family of smartphones as it launches a new Sony Mobile Communications business unit.
The company revealed the Xperia P and Xperia U at an event at Mobile World Congress 2012 on Sunday. The handsets are set to go on sale in the middle of the second quarter of 2012, Sony said. Pricing details were not given.
"For the first time, we're hosting a press conference as Sony Mobile Communications. The acquisition of Sony Ericsson was completed just 10 days ago, and here we are on stage 100-percent Sony," Bert Nordberg, president of Sony, told the MWC audience in Barcelona.
Both smartphones will come under the banner of the Xperia NXT range, alongside the Xperia S, indicating its high expectations for the newly formed mobile unit. On 15 February, Sony Communications completed its €1bn (£850m) purchase of Ericsson's half of the former joint venture.
The company hopes to stand apart from other manufacturers of Android handsets though tie-ins with its content creation units, such as the Sony PlayStation Network (PSN) and its film studio Sony Pictures.
"The Xperia smartphone is a fundamental part of the Sony strategy to deliver a connected entertainment experience," Nordberg said. "Sony is a real content powerhouse... So I think it's clear that the content will be a differentiator... Many of our competitors also have Android products, what makes Sony different is a unique user experience."
The higher specced of the two devices, the Xperia P, will come with an 8-megapixel camera, 1GHz dual-core processor and will arrive running a tweaked version of Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread. The company said it will be due an upgrade to Android 4.0 — Ice Cream Sandwich — during the second quarter of 2012.
Sony has also drawn on its display heritage for the screen, providing a 4-inch 'reality display' with WhiteMagic technology for high visibility in very bright conditions.
The Xperia P comes with 16GB of internal storage and an optional dock for connecting the device to a larger screen for video or photo playback. The dock also supports USB connections, which means you can plug in a wireless keyboard or mouse for big screen web browsing, email composition or YouTube sessions.
The Xperia P comes with dedicated hardware buttons on the right-hand side: namely, a volume rocker, dedicated camera shutter button and a screen lock.
The Xperia U comes with the same 1GHz dual-core processor, a slightly smaller 3.5-inch display and a 5-megapixel camera capable of capturing HD images. Like the Xperia P, it will arrive running Android Gingerbread, but it will be possible to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich sometime in the second quarter, Sony said.
Alongside the Music Unlimited and movie rental and download services common to the Xperia NXT family, the U and the P will both come with near-field communication (NFC) technology. In addition to allowing users to make mobile payments or use the device as a smartcard for building entry, NFC technology means the new Xperias can be used to programme and quickly activate what Sony is calling 'Xperia SmartTags'.
Essentially, SmartTags perform the same functions as Motorola's Smart Actions, except that they are manually activated by touching the device against an NFC 'token'. For example, programming a 'run' SmartTag could be used to switch on music playback, mute the ringtone and activate a running app that tracks your route.
All members of the Xperia NXT range have a translucent strip at the bottom of the handset that changes colour, depending on the state of the handset. For example, it can match the background colour of any picture being displayed on the handsets. The bottom panel of the Xperia U is interchangeable and comes in two base colour options.
In order to support its aspirations for the newly formed business unit, Sony also plans to launch a massive marketing effort in order to win back customers from better established smartphone brands such as Samsung and Motorola.
However, Ernest Doku, technology expert at price comparison site uSwitch.com, said the company may struggle to re-establish itself in a highly competitive market.
"It remains to be seen how Sony's smartphone division will integrate with their portable gaming plans, with the recently released Vita, and it will be interesting to see what the impact on the mobile brand will be now it's only Sony's name above the door," Doku said.
Although the prices of the new devices were not announced, Sony said the Xperia U will be competitively priced against rivals at the same level. Other manufacturers, such as Nokia and Samsung, are also providing a variety of handsets at different price points, particularly those running Android.
"The launch of the Xperia P and U are the first Sony handsets in the post-Ericsson era, and they highlight a strategy to target multiple price points with a selection of distinct devices," Doku said.
Also at MWC, Sony announced that its Xperia S is now shipping to customers worldwide and that conference attendees can buy one exclusively at the show.
T-Mobile plans to start offering the Xperia U in the second quarter, it said in a post to Twitter.
Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.