New LTE devices to shake up smartphone market

Device manufacturers Sony, Nokia and Huawei have each announced new handsets at CES in Las Vegas, as competition in the smartphone market hots up.

Sony dropped a bombshell, announcing that Sony-Ericsson will be renamed Sony Mobile Communications after its decision to part ways with Ericsson last year. The company also unveiled its first own-brand handset, the Xperia S, which will be launched globally in the first quarter of 2012. The handset will initially feature the Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, but will be upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS during the second quarter.

The Xperia S has a 4.3-in HD display and a 12-megapixel camera. It runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has 32GB internal flash storage. It is also near field communications (NFC) enabled.

The handset gives a glimpse into Sony’s intentions in the smartphone market as it looks to offer an ecosystem of devices to consumers. The Xperia S is PlayStation-certified, which means that the smartphone offers a PlayStation-like gaming experience, as well as access to the PlayStation online store. In addition, it benefits from access to Sony’s music catalogue, Music Unlimited, which offers 12 million songs, and Video Unlimited, which offers the latest Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows from major studios.

According to Sony, the device also enables connectivity with multiple screens for consumers looking to share content on whichever screen they choose, whether it’s TV, smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Nick Dillon, analyst at Ovum, said that with the Sony-Ericsson buyout still pending regulatory approval, the launch is a bold move by Sony but one that the company needed to make.

“The launch of the own-branded smartphones marks the start of a new era for Sony, as it positions itself to battle with other multiscreen players in the increasingly competitive and interlinked consumer electronics markets,” he said.

“As we enter 2012, Ovum believes that it will become increasingly important for top-tier consumer electronics vendors to offer a complete portfolio, not only of devices, but also the services which run on them. Despite having many of these components in place, Sony now faces the challenge of knitting them together to create a compelling integrated offering – an area in which it has yet to excel.”

The company also revealed a Bravia engine-powered smartphone, the Sony-Ericsson Xperia Ion, which is also LTE-enabled and will be available exclusively on US carrier AT&T in Spring.

Meanwhile, Nokia has launched its first Windows Phone handset to support LTE, the Lumia 900. It has a 4.3in screen with an AMOLED ClearBlack Display, which is Nokia’s largest smartphone screen to date, and runs on a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

The device comes preloaded with Nokia Drive; Nokia’s GPS navigation software, as well as the ESPN sports hub, which provides sports news, videos and scores and the CNN App for Windows Phones, which provides the latest news and video from CNN and will be free to Nokia users for 90 days. The Lumia 900 will be exclusive to AT&T and will be launched in “the coming months”, according to Nokia.

Meanwhile, Chinese vendor Huawei also unveiled what it claims is the world’s slimmest smartphone. The Huawei Ascend P1 S is 6.68mm thin and runs on the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

The device has a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass.

The Chinese firm also unveiled another smartphone, the Ascend P1 which is part of the same smartphone series and boasts the same functionality, but is not quite as slim, measuring 7.69mm.

Both handsets come with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and will be available in Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America, Australia, Middle East, and China from April 2012.

With AT&T clinching exclusive deals with Nokia and Sony for new handsets, the US operator has made a clear statement that it is serious about LTE. As well as Sony and Nokia, the firm has announced new LTE devices from Samsung, HTC and Pantech. According to Jan Dawson, analyst at Ovum, as LTE continues to gain momentum, the battle between the top US carriers will make for compelling viewing.

“Impressively, AT&T has launched a wider range in terms of price points, operating systems and form factors than Verizon, which launched much earlier. Verizon will have some work to do to catch up, especially at the low end,” he said.

“However, all these devices are only able to use LTE in the few markets where AT&T has launched, and in that respect AT&T is still well behind Verizon. Although it is rolling out rapidly, it has yet to provide an update on its LTE strategy since its merger plans with T-Mobile fell apart, and the last available plans suggest it will continue to trail Verizon’s LTE coverage.”

LTE World Summit 2012 is taking place on the 23-24th May 2012, at the CCIB, Barcelona, Spain.

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