Sony-Interview-AH-1

Speaking with Sony at IFA2015: Xperia Z5, Remote Play & More

September 4, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

In Berlin, our very own Nick Sutrich was able to get the chance to sit down with Sony – if only for a few minutes – specifically we spoke with Diana Hernandez Gonzalez and Anthony Devenish from Sony Mobile’s Product Marketing division, and talk about the new Xperia Z5 family, as well as a few other burning questions. The Xperia Play from 2011 that was available on AT&T’s network even makes an appearance.

Nick: The press conference was awesome we really enjoyed it, I think one of the surprises was the Xperia Z5 Premium has a 4K display, I don’t think we were quite expecting that. It almost felt like it got breezed over. He [Kazuo Hirai] mentioned 4K but didn’t go into the technology [that was] used in the display. It almost seemed like it wasn’t a huge selling point for it [Xperia Z5 Premium].

Diana: Making the statement of the world’s first smartphone with a 4K display is kind of strong enough. The next step is seeing it and experiencing it. The backbone of the technology is quite complex. In how you make that type of technology fit into such a small footprint. We’re pretty happy with the product, and we’re very proud to be the first one in the market [with a 4K display]. I think to that point the statement itself was strong enough and has been very well received. What we delivered here is a very good piece of technology packed in a very beautiful design and [has a] very nice feeling in the hand. The interesting part of this, we are generating 4K content with Sony, but we are also able to upscale that technology to deliver a great viewing experience. I think we are very very happy with this product.

Nick:  We got a little bit of a hands on after the press event. We got to hold the Xperia Z5 Premium, and it seemed like everything was fluid, but we didn’t get a chance to play any games or anything like that, are you at all concerned about the performance because it is 4K?

Diana: We assessed all of the challenges with such powerful technology. First thing we did was to make sure that we had the efficiency and the stamina in the power and consumption [of the Xperia Z5 Premium]. Which we’ve done before with previous models. To make the efficiency of the battery last two days. That was the first target in this product and we achieved that. The second target was the storage, we know some trends are to remove microSD, but we kept it. And have the ability to add up to 200GB [using the microSD card slot]. I think there was a lot of thinking in how to make this experience seamless and it [we did] a lot of research around that.

Nick: Speaking of the battery life, I know on previous generations, specifically on the Xperia Z3 Compact, battery life is amazing. I have 2 or 3 friends with one and they always rave about how good it is, I expect that with the Xperia Z5 Compact, but not so much with the Xperia Z5 Premium. Are you at all concerned with that being significantly less, or is it going to be similar across the whole [Xperia Z5] line?

Diana: Actually we are confident it will be similar across the entire [Xperia Z5] line. We [used] several tests to conduct this. But I think our target was achieved. So we are pretty confident with that.

Nick: Moving into the pricing structure. There’s been a lot of rumors on pricing and availability. Are you concerned that the Xperia Z5 Premium will be more expensive, and more of a niche device?

Diana: Well I think it’s definitely going to be on the premium side of the price range. The price will be a good value per money in terms of what the target audience [this product] is aimed at, and keen to invest in this type of technology. According to our research, early adopters are very keen to try this kind of mobile technology. So I think it will be fair enough for the target audience.

Nick: Since the Xperia Z3+, are you at all concerned about the sales of that [Xperia Z3+] impacting the sales of the Xperia Z5?

Diana: Well I think the Xperia Z3+ was a step and addition to the Xperia Z3 family. This is a new generation of products and each of them respond to a different need. And I think it will all depend on the market and strategy and how the operators work together [with Sony]. We’re talking closely to deliver the best way to make the full portfolio work the best for sales.

Nick: As far as marketing efforts are concerned, in the past it seemed like Sony was more conservative, where Samsung is always in your face with marketing everywhere, Sony has been much more low-key. Do you plan on keeping that or expanding it [marketing]?

Diana: Well I think, it all depends on the market, but we have a very strong message to deliver. And we use all of our channels to talk about it. Our message is very clear in terms of the product itself. And we are confident with that being the key communication. And what we want to deliver to the consumer.

Nick: Specifically moving into the US market, that has been sort of a weak point for Sony. You can’t get it [Xperia smartphones] on every carrier, and sometimes there are specific [Xperia] models for different carriers. Are there any moves to change that in the US, in particular when it comes to sales or even offering the same device when it comes to multiple carriers?

Anthony: The US is a tough market, but its one we are committed too. We have the Xperia Z4v for Verizon, so that remains our focus.

Nick: So no particular plans for the Xperia Z5 [in the US] at this point?

Anthony: We can’t really comment on whether the Xperia Z5 will be in the US market at this moment.

Nick: Talking about the design of the Xperia Z5, we liked the design of Sony’s phones a lot, Sony was a pioneer in waterproofing phones and remaining premium. You’ve continued that [Waterproofing and being premium] for a long time. We’ve gone through quite a few devices in the last 4-5 years. A lot of them look pretty similar. They definitely have a very Sony look and feel. We think a lot consumers might be confused especially if they are just looking at the device, as which generation it is. Has there been any consideration in moving to a new design language for the flagships? Or are you happy with the current one?

Diana: We are pretty happy with the evolution, especially with the Xperia Z5 family. We are changing key things. Such as the back panel [having] a different finish. Keeping the minimal, but elegant design is key for us. We’re keen on keeping that but evolving and also bringing in whats out there with the color palette and finish. We’re very comfortable with the design language that we have. And we’re evolving accordingly. We’ve heard a lot of good comments with this new palette of colors [with the Xperia Z5 family], and I think everyone can pick one and savor it. That’s why we offer so many colors and finishes.

Nick: The Xperia Z5 Premium is the only one that’s reflective at this point. Would you be considering offering different materials as the line evolves, maybe a few months down the road?

Diana: At this point, we’re pretty happy with what we have. Of course, we’ll answer any trend or big demand that we have. For the time being this will remain our portfolio.

Nick: Do you have any particular favorite features of the Xperia Z5 Family?

Diana: I think my favorite feature is the camera that goes across the whole portfolio. We have a brand new camera module, so everything is brand new here. The sensor, the lens and the software, and the processing and the algorithms are revamped. I think the experience with the camera was very good, but now its even better. I think one of the main additions was [the] performance. The auto-focus performance, currently we are the fastest auto-focus in a smartphone. Which is really useful when you want to capture a moment. I particularly like the touch capture function. This is where you can focus and take a picture at the same time. So you just need to do one movement. Very convenient when you are trying to capture that scene at a specific moment. I think the camera has very good performance in this new portfolio and also all the new software enhancements. We also have better performance in low-light. I think we are very happy we can provide that in the Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5, and Xperia Z5 Premium.

Nick: With the camera software, one of my favorite features was that the view finder is usually a super smooth view finder, and there’s a lot of algorithms that are specific to Sony’s software. In some previous models, when users root the device, or unlock the bootloader or try to install custom firmware on it, that has generally been permanently been removed for those users. Is Sony keeping that, or are you considering on changing that?

Anthony: It’s something we’re aware of. And we know its possible. I can’t tell you at the moment if we plan to keep it or not.

Nick: With Tidal and other higher-quality audio services taking off, do you see the high-res audio feature [in the Xperia Z5 family] being a huge strength? Or more of a niche thing?

Diana: As every new technology, it’s an early stage of the technology so it will evolve and it’s a big bet in terms of audio quality for Sony. That’s kind of the scope for it. As with everything we’re in the early adoption part of the life cycle. But our scope will be that this will be evolving and growing. As time goes by.

Nick: Let’s talk about PlayStation and how it relates to the Xperia Line of phones. Considering how popular the PlayStation brand is, in particularly at home where console gaming is constantly under attack from mobile gaming, has there been any more consideration in making another PlayStation phone. About 5 or 6 years ago there was one, the Xperia Play.

Diana: The remote play [feature] has been a very successful way of integrating PlayStation into our devices, so I think at this point we have a good situation with integrating PlayStation into our phones.

Anthony: A few weeks ago we also announced streaming to Twitch for Android games. So that will be on these devices from launch as well.