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Sony Ericsson stretches out

Japanese/Swedish handset vendor, Sony Ericsson, today unveiled a new handset range that saw it expand further into the entry level sector while adding to the mid- and top-tiers in which it has so far achieved its greatest successes.

New models included two Cybershot camera phones, two Walkman music phones, two lower end ‘snapshot’ camera phones and two entry level models targeted at the many users who still require only voice and text.

Sony Ericsson traditionally beefs up its handset portfolio ahead of the 3GSM World Congress in a bid to steal a march on the storm of announcements that deluge the event.

This year’s new additions represented the largest number of new handsets the vendor has ever released at this time of year, according to Steve Walker, head of product marketing.

The manufacturer’s strategy of late has been to embed parent Sony’s electronics brands – Cybershot cameras, Walkman music players and Bravia televisions – into its phone range.

The K550 Cybershot is the first move down the portfolio for the camera brand since it was introduced in the K790/K800 in 2006. Since then, the company has sold more than 4.5 million Cybershot products.

This latest, equipped with a 2 megapixel camera, offers picture blogging through a partnership with Google and comes in an i-mode variant – the second phone from Sony Ericsson designed to be compatible with NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode service.

At the top end, the K810 is a WCDMA unit with a 3.2 megapixel camera that sports onboard picture editing software, picture blogging and the ability to take nine photos of high speed action with one click. The user can then select the best image.

There is a sister product, the K818c, that will ship without 3G for the Chinese market.

The W880 Walkman phone sits opposite the K810 at the top of the music range. The first of the Walkman range to be ‘dual fronted’, resembling a phone from one side and camera (2 megapixel) from the other, the WCDMA enabled W880 also offers picture blogging.

Described by Walker as “the second most hotly anticipated music phone of all time” in a nod to the Apple iPhone, the W880 ships with a 1GB memory stick that can hold 900 songs and is slimmer than a standard CD library case.

It was down the range that Sony Ericsson left familiar territory behind, with the J110 and J120 entry level handsets. The J110 resembles the firm’s first product, the T610, with a 65k colour screen and not a lot else. The J120 boasts the addition of an FM radio.

The K200 and K220 are entry level VGA camera phones with a maximum storage of 40 images. The K220, also has FM radio functionality.

Sony Ericsson has thus far traded in a very specific segment of the handset market, basing its appeal on high end design, established consumer electronics branding and quality of user interface.

Clearly Sony Ericsson is now recognising that it needs to shift units in larger numbers if it is to make serious headway at the top of the handset league tables. It is betting that its brand – one of the most aspirational in the handset market – will appeal in the low end, even where the technical sophistication is not in evidence.

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