Huawei and Sony strive for smartphone innovation ahead of iPhone launch

Huawei and Sony have both chosen to launch new flagship smartphones at the IFA consumer electronics show and have focused on screen innovations in a bid to differentiate them.

The Huawei Mate S (pictured) features a number of tweaks to the touchscreen technology including Force Touch, which responds to different levels of pressure applied to the screen; an improved fingerprint sensor; gesture shortcuts and unique functionality from using your knuckle rather than your finger tip.

“The speed with which Huawei is able to integrate new features is impressive,” said Ben Wood of analyst house CCS Insight. “As rumours circulate that the next iPhone might include the Force Touch, which was first introduced on the Apple Watch, Huawei appears to have already implemented a similar capability with the Mate S.”

“It’s exciting to see a manufacturer steal a march on Apple with Force Touch technology but the key to its success lies in how it applies this innovation,” said Ernest Doku of uSwitch. “Giving users access to different features and functions depending on how much pressure they apply to the display opens up a wealth of new user interactions – but it’s up to the people to decide whether Force Touch will usher in a whole new way to use our smartphones or remains simply a gimmick.”

The Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is apparently the first smartphone to feature a 4K display, which means the 5.5-inch screen has a resolution of 806 PPI. For  comparison the iPhone 6+ screen has a resolution of 401 PPI, so Sony has managed to double that. It’s debatable, however, how useful those extra pixels are as the reason Apple uses the ‘Retina’ brand for its displays is that it reckons that that the maximum resolution the human eye can discern.

“Sony’s new Xperia Z5 Premium handset certainly packs in the pixels with its stunning 4K resolution display, but it raises the question – do we really need TV-quality screens on our phones?” said Rob Kerr of uSwitch. “There isn’t really any 4K content available for mobiles yet, so this is a huge gamble for Sony, and at a time when it really needs a win following the launch of its lacklustre Z3+ handset almost a year ago. However, there is an argument for turning up early to the party. Sony’s already well-established in the 4K TV market, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t attempt to set the benchmark for next-generation smartphones too.”

“Sony will be hoping the Xperia Z5 Premium acts as a high-end flagship device to showcase the very best of its in-house technologies,” said Wood. “There is no question about the calibre of the specs, most notably the 4K display, but that guarantees it will also come with a hefty price tag. Although the video reproduction on the device is stunning users might wonder why they need such a high resolution display.”

Apple will unveil its annual smartphone refresh next week, so it makes sense for competitors to bring attention to their innovations in advance. Both Huawei and Sony will claim they have screen tech that Apple doesn’t, but specs alone are unlikely to score many competitive points against the US giant. Huawei also launched a new circular smart watch, while Sony fleshed out its Xperia Z5 range with a couple of less expensive versions too.


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