Sony reveals first touchless smartphone, the Xperia sola

March 13, 2012
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Sony Xperia Sola

Remember our The Future is Now: Touch-free Touchscreens Coming Soon post, which described the touch-free touchscreen technology developed by French company Noalia? Well, you can now say that the future described in the post is already old news, because the first touch-free smartphone is not only real, but is also just weeks away from being available in stores. Who’s the culprit? Sony!

At an event in London today, Sony announced the newest member of its Xperia lineup, the Sony Xperia sola (yes, not capitalized), a 3.7-inch Android 2.3 device that resembles the Xperia S, with dumbed-down specs and sans the translucent bottom insertion.

However, the sola (codenamed Pepper in Sony’s leaked 2012 roadmap) comes with a twist, a touch of magic, as Sony would put it – the floating touch™ (yes, not capitalized) technology.

Sony Xperia sola comes with touch-free control

So, what’s all the fuss about this touchless touch devilry? Floating touch is a technology that lets you control your smartphone’s screen without actually having to touch it. How would that be useful? Well, the applications can be numerous. For one, touchless control would solve one of the biggest issues with smartphone UIs – the fact that you can’t hover over an element. With Sony’s floating touch that might change, although we’re not sure how deep is the technology integrated with Android. At least in theory, you can use the floating touch to highlight elements, to get information (think tooltips) on various elements, and in a variety of other ways.

For now, we don’t have any clues about how the sola works its magic. Previous efforts in touchless interfaces involved cameras, but this doesn’t seem to be happening with the sola, as the distance between the user’s finger and the display is too small for a camera to discern. Another possibility would be the sola uses an electrostatic sensor, just like Noalia’s technology works. If that’s the case, the sola is probably fitted with sensors beneath the display, which detect the static electricity that floats around your body. Apple is also said to be working on something similar, but it seems that Sony has beaten Cupertino to the punch.

Magic aside, what will the new Sony Xperia sola give you?

Without doubt, the floating touch thingy is the only aspect that makes the Sony Xperia sola stands out, unless, of course, you’re a Sony-maniac or a sucker for the Xperia S industrial design.

Under the red, black, or white case, the sola hides specs that are, at best, unimpressive:

  • 3.7-inch Reality Display, 854 x 480 pixels, with the Bravia engine
  • ST-Ericsson NovaThor dual-core processor, clocked at 1GHz
  • 8GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • 5MP rear-camera, with autofocus, 720p
  • 1320 mAh battery, enough for 5h of talk time
  • Android 2.3 (to be upgraded to ICS soon, promises Sony)

So, nothing to write home about, except the floating touch. We wonder why Sony choose the sola to showcase this new tech, instead the higher-end (and more visible) Xperia S, U, or P? Anyway, we’re very curious about touchless controls and we can’t wait for a sola hands-on, to see whether Sony managed to implement it in a compelling way or it’s just another short-lived gimmick.

The Sony Xperia sola will be available globally in the second quarter of 2012, and will be known as the Sony Xperia sole in Italy and Sony Xperia MT27i in China. No word on the pricing yet, but from the looks of it, we would bet on a relatively affordable price tag.

We’ll let you know more about the Sony Xperia sola as soon as we learn more. Meanwhile, tell us: would you like to have touch-free technology on your device?

Show Press Release

13 March 2012

 

  • Introducing “floating touch” navigation for magic web browsing without touching the screen
  • Easily open apps and launch actions in an instant with NFC and Xperia SmartTags
  • Reality Display with Mobile Bravia engine and fast capture camera boosted by a powerful dual-core processor

13 March, London, United Kingdom – Sony Mobile Communications today announced Xperia™ sola* as the latest addition to its portfolio of Android powered Xperia smartphones.  Complete with Sony technology, premium entertainment and innovative floating touchTM navigation, the NFC enabled Xperia sola comes equipped with Xperia SmartTags, allowing consumers to change their smartphone’s settings and applications to fit their lifestyle in an instant. Xperia sola will be available to consumers globally in black, white and red in the second quarter.

A floating touch of magic
Making its smartphone debut exclusively on Xperia sola, Sony’s unique floating touch lets consumers navigate the web by hovering their finger above the screen so it acts like a moving curser, without actually having to touch the screen.  Once the desired link is found it can be highlighted and a simple tap will load the page.  Floating touch will evolve with new user functionality and applications through software updates and engagement with developers.

Calum MacDougall, Head of Xperia Marketing for Sony Mobile Communications, commented; “Xperia sola comes with the power of Sony and a sense of magic with floating touch, giving consumers a fun new way to browse the web and latest technology to show off. With Xperia SmartTags out of the box and access to the latest content through Sony Entertainment Network, Xperia sola is perfect for consumers looking for ease of use and the best in entertainment in a smart and innovative smartphone.”

Simplify the everyday with SmartTags
Xperia sola is NFC enabled and comes with two NFC Xperia SmartTags in the box as standard to simplify consumers’ everyday smartphone experiences. By touching an NFC Android smartphone on a SmartTag, a pre-configured profile in the smartphone will launch. The two SmartTags included with Xperia sola can be personalized with up to 10 commands. Out of the box one is ready for the living room to turn on Wi-Fi™ and launch Google™ news and weather apps, and the other one for the bedroom, which turns on the alarm and switches to silent mode. Xperia sola supports NFC pairing, allowing consumers to enjoy great connectivity with other NFC smartphones, applications and services by tapping their smartphones together.

Powerful entertainment anytime, anywhere
Xperia sola boasts razor sharp clarity with Reality Display powered by Mobile BRAVIA® Engine, xLOUD™ and 3D surround sound audio technology delivering crisp and loud sound, and a 1GHz dual-core processor for super fast performance.  Xperia sola also comes with fast capture to take the camera from sleep to snap in a little over a second with a single key press.

Consumers can also access premium entertainment experiences with Sony Entertainment Network**, where they can watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on Video Unlimited or listen to millions of songs*** through Music Unlimited.

Key features for Xperia sola

  • Floating touch navigation for an easy web browsing experience
  • NFC enabled and Xperia SmartTags in the box to enable quick app loading and easy content sharing
  • 3.7” Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine gives razor sharp clarity
  • Powered by a 1GHz Dual Core Processor for super fast browsing
  • xLOUD and 3D surround sound audio technology for crisp and loud listening
  • Direct access to Sony Entertainment Network* with pre-installed Video and Music Unlimited** apps
  • Launches on Android platform 2.3, upgrade to Android 4.0 during summer 2012

* Xperia sola will be bought into the Italian market under the name “Sony Xperia™ sole” and in China P.R. under the name “Sony Xperia™ MT27i”
**Sony Entertainment Network services are subject to availability by region, please seewww.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com for more details.
*** The number of available songs varies by region.

Xperia sola specifications
All services mentioned in this leaflet may not be available in every market.

Colours

  • Black
  • White
  • Red

Facts

  • Size: 116 x 59 x 9.9 mm
  • Weight: 107 grams
  • 1 GHz STE U8500 dual-core processor
  • Google Android™ 2.3 (Gingerbread), upgradeable to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Camera

  • 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama™
  • 5 megapixel camera
  • 16x digital zoom
  • Auto focus
  • Face detection
  • Flash/Photo flash
  • Geotagging
  • HD video recording (720p)
  • Red-eye reduction
  • Self-timer
  • Send to web
  • Smile detection
  • Video light
  • Video recording

Music

  • 3D surround sound
  • Album art
  • Bluetooth™ stereo (A2DP)
  • Clear bass
  • Clear stereo
  • Music Player
  • PlayNow™ service
  • SensMe™
  • TrackID™ music recognition
  • xLoud™ Experience

Internet

  • Google play™
  • Bookmarks
  • floating touch™
  • Google™ search
  • Google Voice™ Search
  • Google Maps™ for Mobile with
  • Street view and Latitude™
  • NeoReader™ barcode scanner
  • Pan & zoom
  • Web browser (WebKit™)

Communication

  • 2 speakerphones
  • Call list
  • Conference calls
  • Facebook™ application
  • Facebook inside Xperia™
  • Google Talk™ application
  • Noise suppression
  • Twitter™ (with Timescape™ integration)
  • Xperia™ Timescape™

Messaging

  • Conversations
  • Email
  • Google Mail™
  • Instant messaging
  • Multimedia messaging (MMS)
  • Predictive text input
  • Sound recorder
  • Text messaging (SMS)

Design

  • Auto rotation
  • Gesture input
  • Keyboard (on-screen, QWERTY)
  • Live Wallpaper
  • Picture wallpaper
  • Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine
  • Screenshot capturing
  • Touch screen

Entertainment

  • 3D Album
  • Accelerated Adobe Flash Video
  • Media browser
  • Motion gaming
  • Radio (FM radio with RDS)
  • Sony Entertainment Network
  • Video streaming
  • YouTube™

Organiser

  • Airplane mode
  • Alarm clock
  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Document readers
  • Notes
  • Setup guide
  • Stopwatch
  • Tasks
  • Timer

Connectivity

  • 3.5 mm audio jack (CTIA)
  • aGPS
  • Bluetooth™ wireless technology
  • DLNA Certified®
  • Micro USB support
  • Media Go™
  • Media Transfer Protocol support
  • Modem
  • Native USB tethering
  • NFC
  • PC Companion
  • Synchronisation via Microsoft® Exchange ActiveSync®
  • USB High speed 2.0 support
  • USB Host
  • Wi-Fi®
  • Wi-Fi® Hotspot functionality
  • Wisepilot™ turn-by-turn navigation


All services mentioned in this leaflet may not be available in every market.

Display

  • 3.7” Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine
  • 854 x 480 pixels
  • 16,000,000 colour TFT
  • Scratch-resistant glass

Memory

  • 8 GB internal storage (up to 5 GB user-accessible memory)
  • microSD™ memory card slot (supporting up to 32GB)

Networks

  • Quad EDGE/GSM/GPRS 850, 900, 1800
  • W-CDMA Band I, II, V and VIII

Battery life

  • Talk time GSM: Up to 6 hrs*
  • Standby time GSM: Up to 470 hrs*
  • Talk time UMTS: Up to 5 hrs*
  • Standby time UMTS: Up to 475 hrs*
  • Music listening time: Up to 40 hrs
  • Video playback time: Up to 6 hrs
  • Battery: 1320 mAh (built-in) typical, 1265 mAh minimum

*Values are according to GSM Association Battery Life Measurement Technique. Battery performance may vary depending on network conditions and configurations, and phone usage.

In the kit

  • Xperia™ sola, embedded battery, 2 SmartTags, stereo headset, charger, micro USB cable for charging, synchronisation and file transfer, and user documentation.

“Sony” and “Sony Entertainment Network” are registered trademarks or trademarks of Sony Corporation. All other trademarks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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