Sony Ericsson Unveils First Windows Mobile Handset

BARCELONA, Spain--Sony Ericsson, which historically has created phones around the Symbian operating system, jumped quietly onto the Windows Mobile bandwagon with the announcement here today of its Xperian X1 smartphone.

The X1--the first product in the company's new Xperian brand for high-end smartphones--was the big news at Sony Ericsson's press event on the eve of the giant Mobile World Congress wireless telecom trade show here. MWC (which in previous years was known as 3GSM) opens Monday and continues through Thursday.

Sony Ericsson also announced a slew of other phones, including new Walkman and Cyber-shot handsets, plus a couple of high-speed HSPA XpressCards.

The X1 won't appear until the second half of this year, but most of the others should begin shipping worldwide by mid year. Most of the phones support either HSDPA or its slightly slower (but still considered broadband) sibling, UMTS--although some only support the latter in Europe (and are therefore unlikely to ship in the U.S.).

Sony Ericsson officials downplayed the significance of its decision to launch a Windows Mobile-based handset, focusing more on the new Xperia brand. The X1's Windows Mobile 6 underpinnings were referenced only via some visual cues in a video about Xperia and the X1, and were mentioned only in passing later on.

Xperia X1In fact, the handset has a custom user interface--consisting of 9 square icons that Sony Ericsson calls panels--which sits on top of the usual Windows Mobile 6 interface. The company also said the Xperia brand was not tied to Windows Mobile, so that future Xperia models could support other mobile phone platforms.

However Rikko Sakaguchi, head of Portfolios and Propositions for Sony Ericsson, said using Windows Mobile would allow the company to broaden its customer base, and also said it was the best platform in terms of PC integration.

The handset itself has a resistive 3-inch VGA touchscreen atop an optical navigation pad; the display slides sideways in a gently curved arc (and changes screen orientation to landscape mode) to reveal a roomy QWERTY keyboard. It supports assisted GPS and Wi-Fi as well as HSDPA, and has a built-in 3.2-megapixel camera.

Other Sony Ericsson handsets announced Sunday evening include:

--The G900 and G700 touchscreen handsets, which feature a Post-It note style application that lets you create handwritten or drawn notes using a stylus and then manage them at the touch of a finger. G700Both of these phones have 2.4-inch displays atop conventional keypads. The G900 has a 5-megapixel autofocus camera and Wi-Fi; the G700 has a 3.2 megapixel camera and no Wi-Fi.

However because these phones operate in the 900, 1800, and 1900 GSM/GPRS frequency and only support UMTS in the 2100 band, they are unlikely to hit North America, where good GSM coverage requires the 850 band and UMTS on the 2100 band is not supported.

--The Z770, a skinny Java clamshell with HSDPA support, a 2-megapixel camera, and e-mail and messaging features. It can be used with a cable as a notebook modem.

--The C902 and C702 Cyber-shot camera phones are both skinny (under half an inch thick) handsets that support face detection and autofocus. The C702 is splash- and dust-resistant (publicity photos showed one half covered with sand on a beach), and designed for one-handed operation. Its assisted GPS technology supports geo-tagging of images captured by its 3.2-megapixel camera.

C902The C902 slides open to reveal the lens of its 5-megapixel camera; it has a built-in flash and higher-end features (such as video and image stabilization) than the C702. It also supports Wi-Fi.

--The Walkman W980 music phone, a clamshell that lets you select and play your music from controls on the external display (no need to flip open the phone). It has 8GB of built-in memory as well as an FM transmitter so you can play your music through an available frequency on your car or home stereo.

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