Cape Town - Convergence of devices will drive the development of smartphones, as consumers demand more functionality from mobile devices, Sony has said.
"We both know it's all about convergence. Yesterday phones were black and white and you made phone calls with them, and in the span of 10 years probably, you've already seen them change drastically," Mansoor Ahmed, Sony Mobile product marketing manager for Middle East and Africa, told News24.
The company launched its LTE enabled Xperia Z1 in SA on Thursday. The device builds on the previous version, but Sony has shifted the focus to imaging technology.
Despite this, product evangelist Ahmed insisted that while the Z1 aimed to increase functionality of smartphones, people still preferred dedicated devices.
"In a way they do cannibalise into other industries, but they're not going anywhere yet. There are still people who carry a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, or for that matter, they still carry their PSPs," he said.
According to a survey by Mintel Technology, digital camera sales fell by around 30% between 2006 and 2011. Camcorders are facing deep contractions as smartphones become the primary means for users to upload images and video to social networks.
"Although smartphone cameras do not typically match the quality of output of dedicated devices, the technology is consistently improving, as the quality of camera image output becomes too high for consumers to reliably distinguish between competitors," said Mintel Technology analyst Samuel Gee.
The Z1 has a 21 megapixel camera and Sony has upped the capacity of its Exmor RS CMOS image sensor. This, together with the Bionz display processor, Sony believes will result in high quality images.
The company illustrated this image processing by displaying to media present a set of large format prints of images taken with the Z1. The images were crisp and sharp despite the large format.
Sony said that for the foreseeable future there would be overlap between smartphones and dedicated devices.
"I don't think the word is 'cannibalising', I think the word is 'overlapping' because there are still people who believe, 'Hey I want pure sound', who have vinyl records - they still use them. CDs do not replace; DVDs do not replace them, and MP3s do not replace them," said Ahmed.
The Z1 has a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard memory.
As with the previous Z device, it is water resistant, but does not have flaps to protect the internals. Even the headphone jack is exposed, and Sony was coy about the water resistant technology, saying only it was "magic".
Some of the Sony software on the devices includes the Info-eye app which is able to recognise labels, buildings and book titles so that a user can have information on the image delivered via the web.
Ahmed hinted that beyond the devices that Sony was launching in SA, the long-awaited digital platform would be launched.
"The one thing that makes us very unique in this industry is that we generate our own content, thanks to Sony Pictures; Sony Music, we have a huge catalogue of content and the good news is... there are plans to bring some amazing content story to this part of the world," he said.
Accessories for the Z1 include the Sony smart watch and Ahmed said that wearable technology would soon move from a niche to mainstream industry.
Samsung launched its version of a smart watch on Wednesday and Apple is also expected to launch a similar device when it releases the new iPhone.
"What I can tell you is that as time progresses, next you know, you'll have smart watches eating into luxury brand watches because they can so much more than show the time," said Ahmed.
Sony could not specify a recommended retail price for the Xperia Z1, but the aluminium-cased device will be priced to compete in the premium device category.
It is expected to go on sale in early October, Sony said.
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