Last night saw Sony Ericsson lay on a global launch event, officially repositioning themselves as the communications entertainment brand with a range of slick new handsets.
All bases were covered as a new gaming phone, multimedia snapper and newly-monickered flagship device were unveiled by Sony Ericsson in Central London.
First up was the Yari, a true gaming handset which brings innovative gesture based fun to a compact slider device. Using a front-facing camera, the Yari allows players to duck and weave in front of the screen to play boxing, or do Wii Fit-style squat and stretch exercises.
It also has sensors to detect movement, allowing for bowling and golf games controlled by simply swinging the handset…also a lot like the Wii.
The Yari is also a decent looking handset, the simple style and lack of clutter on the front evoking a personal media player, yet still containing loads of buttons and a d-pad. Features are also impressive with a 5 megapixel autofocus camera, GPS and also the PlayNow Arena allowing easy downloads of new titles directly from the home screen.
More of an a gaming revolution than a mobile one, the Yari is due for release in Q4 of 2009, with pricing as yet unconfirmed.
Second on the bumper showcase was the Sony Ericsson Aino, a dual-purpose slider that is an unassuming 8.1 megapixel camera phone when open, and a fully touch-driven multimedia powerhouse when shut!
Seemingly more at home in landscape mode, the Aino’s 3″ display only works a touchscreen when the phone is closed, with the handset returning to normal duties when the keypad is revealed.
With the ability to stream media from a Playstation 3 pitched as a major plus point, as well as bundled wireless headphones, 8GB microSD card and dock allowing for instant syncing to a PC over Wi-Fi, the Aino is certainly shaping up to be the ultimate device for music and movies on the go.
The Aino is due for a Q4 2009 release, and check out the video below to see the bi-polar handset in action!
Running on Symbian, the Satio (still not used to calling it that…) is a full touch handset with a 12 megapixel camera, 8GB of memory from a micro SD card, and all manner of slick web-based functionality.
Seeing it in the flesh made their flagship device seem even more appealing, with the Satio feeling a lot lighter than it looks at 126g and the 3.5″ display showing amazing clarity and crispness.
Even on a early demo handset, scrolling felt smooth and the transitions between menus were at least on a par with other touch-based smartphones. The phone will apparently ship with a stylus, but we found that it was incredibly responsive to the touch, and navigating menus was a breeze.
From the home screen, swipes to the left and right move to different ‘pages’, offering easy access to the most frequently used functions such as images, the browser and music. Save for the three buttons at the base of the handset, the Satio is all about the touchscreen. It might run on Symbian, and the menu screen may look a little bit too familiar for Nokia users, but it is still very much a Sony Ericsson vibe on the handset.
A variation on the Playstation 3′s Cross Media bar is still used for navigating media (as is the case with all three devices), and the Walkman functionality is still leagues ahead of the rest, with only the iPhone’s gorgeous Touch Flow besting it.
More lovely trans-European aspirational marketing follows!
Our take on the launch? Well, the idea is bold, and Sony Ericsson are certainly carving out a new path with these incredibly functionality-focussed devices, but we just hope that these handsets are still cutting edge by their respective release dates.
Touch-based, media-centric phones are not the future, they are right now, and as such these new phones and a new naming convention are almost the minimum that Sony Ericsson could do to remain relevant.
The clamour from the audience was a desire to see an even more dramatic departure, perhaps a reveal their recently confirmed Android phone or a new Xperia device…but this event was really about bolstering the entertainment side of things.
Are they abandoning the Cybershot and Walkman brands? Apparently not, it’s just that these Aino and pals will be on for sale as higher tier aspirational devices, whilst the ‘W’ and ‘C’ ranges will exist for those not looking for such an encompassing (and expensive) mobile experience.
The Yari will definitely court the casual player, but the Aino may lack the ‘tech’ factor that would interest gadget fans and gamers looking to view media on the go…worse yet, they already have a PSP to get their Remote Play fix.
PlayNow Arena and the Application Store are necessities as opposed to stand out features, but Sony Ericsson are ahead of the curve in realising the need for a robust computer client to get the most out of a mobile phone today.
The 90 day movie rentals, already converted for use on the phone, the instant syncing of content over wi-fi, the huge selection of media on offer, it all goes toward cementing Sony Ericsson as the communication entertainment brand, and sets them ahead of the curve in the industry in this respect.
As for the Satio, it is undoubtedly a very strong handset, but with the impending influx of Android handsets proving exciting, other manufacturers readying their own 12 megapixel cameraphones, and some huge devices like the Palm Pre and Nokia N97 all out before its Q3 release, will it have enough to prove appealing later in the year?
One thing that is sure is that Sony Ericsson has changed for the better in repositioning itself, are definitely responding to the market, and coming with one of the strongest line-ups yet seen! Let’s hope it’s enough, as the competition is equally fierce…