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Power/spec of mid-sized Sony device is subject of debate, but all agree it's coming

September and its big IFA 2014 (Sept. 5-10th) mobile electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany are still over a month away, but the pace of leaks is already intensifying.  Last week we covered leaks of Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) upcoming Xperia Z3 smartphone design.  Now active Chinese leaks hub Digi-Wo has leaked fresh details on another Xperia device, dubbed the Xperia Z3 Compact or Z3 Mini.

I. Z3 Compact (or Mini?) is Seen in the Wild, Spec is Described

The leakers write on Weibo [translated w/ Bing and Google Translators]:

Digi-Wo received an anonymous message/post from the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact spy group -- a group of [Chinese] gamers.  The device will be released in September, according to rumors, along side the Z3.  The device will have a 4.6 inch 1080p screen, a Qualcomm 801 processor, 3GB RAM, a 20.70 megapixel rear camera, a higher screen purportion of the face area, and front upper and lower symmetrical dual speakers. [The device will have] a dual-sided glass design and a sleek/rounded border of a balanced appearance.

Looking at the phone itself, we can see a number of these features (including the FHD screen, glass front-face, and dual speakers).

Here's the original:

Xperia Z3 Sony Xperia Z3
Xperia Z3 camera

Sony Xperia Z3 mini
An alleged Sony Xperia Z3 "mini" in the wild. [Image Source: Digi-Wo]

And here's with the features noted:

Sony Xperia Z1 mini analysis (1 of 4)

Sony Xperia Z1 mini analysis (2 of 4)

Sony Xperia Z3 mini

Sony Xperia Z3 mini

From the leaked images, as you can see, we can garner much info on the upcoming device.

II. Resolution is a Topic of Debate

That said, the screen size, resolution, and the memory footprint appear to be the subject of some controversy/confusion.  Over on Twitter @DooMLoRD_XDA, a relatively prolific Android developer and leaker posts: But he cites a blog (Xperia Blog) that in turn cites Digi-Wo as a source, so at this point the case for 1080p appears to be stronger. He also later posted... Evan Blass, aka @evleaks (on Twitter) adds some new details about the Xperia Z3, writing: ...but he hasn't published any details on the Z3 Mini (or Compact?) yet.

III. Another Photo Shows Devices Side-by-Side

On the plus side, we have one other photograph from Digi-Wo showing the allegedly Z3 side by side with an alleged Z3 Mini:

Sony Xperia Z3 mini and full-size side by side
[Image Source: Digi-Wo]

Much of the confusion surrounding the new Xperia devices appears to be emanating from three sources.  The first is outright conflicting sources (e.g. the screen resolution).  The second comes from likely rounding debates (4.5-inch vs. 4.6-inch).  The final source of uncertainty is reports that misinterpret the features of this upcoming pair (?) of devices (e.g. mistaking the strap hole for a microphone.

Sony is slowly shaping its lineup into a global contender, particularly in premium markets.  In Japan it was in nearly a dead heat with Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753) for second; Sony held a 12.3 percent market share in May 2014, Sharp's share was at 13 percent.  Both substantially trailed Apple, Inc. (AAPL) (36.6 percent), according to data from Bloomberg.  According to a report in The Wall Street Journal citing data from Canalys and other sources, Sony smartphones now account for 3.8 percent of total smartphone shipments -- or roughly 1 in 25 smartphones sold globally.

That number would be substantially better if Sony's market share in China wasn't so low.  Estimates indicate it only has a 0.5 percent share of Chinese sales -- more than an order of magnitude lower than its stakes in Europe and Japan, it's top markets.  On the other hand, Sony has done very well in at least one budget market -- India -- where it sat ahead of Apple in second place, as of April 2014.

Sony -- who follows a similar premium design strategy to Apple (and who was an admitted inspiration to Apple's designers) -- is actually in fourth place (4.3 percent) in global LTE device sales (which exclude budget 3G/3.5G-only smartphones), according to Counterpoint Technology Market Research.

Counterpoint Sony market share

Only South Korea's Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) (#1, 42 percent), America's Apple (#2; 29 percent), and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. (KRX:066570)(KRX:066575) (#3, 7 percent) sell more LTE devices currently.

Sony has picked up the pace with releases; this will likely be the third generation of Xperia branded LTE smartphones to launch this year alone.  However, the market has yet to respond.

In its Q1 FY2014 earnings report (April-June 2014) [PDF], which was published today (7/31), Sony reported a mild operating loss of $27M USD (¥2.7B).  Sony also reported a seemingly positive 10.1 percent revenue growth, with sales of smartphones reaching $3.112B USD (¥314.3B), globally.

While being cash neutral isn't bad for Sony versus the substantial losses in 2012, etc., what makes the earnings report more troubling is that Sony writes:

This increase was primarily due to the favorable impact of foreign currency exchange rates.  Smartphones sales increased year-on-year primarily due to the favorable impact of foreign currency exchange rates, partially offset by a decrease in unit sales.

In other words, Sony would have faced a far bigger loss had it not been for the favorable (read: lucky) turn in exchange rates.

IV. Sony's Role in "Trolling" Apple, HTC, and BlackBerry w/ Patent Lawsuits

Sony adds a bit more insight, commenting:

Operating loss of 2.7 billion yen (27 million U.S. dollars) was recorded, compared to operating income of 12.6 billion yen in the same quarter of the previous fiscal year. This deterioration was primarily due to the recording of a benefit of 7.0 billion yen from the reversal of a patent royalty accrual in the same quarter of the previous fiscal year as well as a year-on-year increase in marketing expenses and research and development expenses in order to expand sales channels and broaden the product portfolio.

That comment alludes to the fact that on a year-to-year basis sales operating loss/profit saw a $148M USD (¥15.3B) swing due largely to the expenses of trying to push market expansion to boost sagging unit sales.  That "one-time patent accrual reversal", basically means that someone paid Sony $67.9M USD in unpaid royalties, to "catch up" on their licensing payments.

That payment was likely made by one of the targets of MobileMedia Ideas LLC (MMI), a shell company of Sony and Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) which holds over 300 patents, including patents on screen orientation switching and non-standards mobile video tricks.  About a quarter [PDF] of MobileMedia (24.9 percent) is owned by Sony.

MMI is majority owned by, but not directly affiliated with MPEG-LA, a patent pool that is backed (ironically) by many of the parties MMI is suing.  MPEG-LA, who licenses the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video standards (among others) is co-owned by Sony, but is forced to offer on a FRAND (lower royalty) basis.  However, MMI is not bound by obligatory FRAND licensing as its patents ostensibly don't cover industry standards.

In 2013 it scored licensing settlements over HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and BlackBerry, Ltd. (TSE:BB), announced in Sept. 2013 and Dec. 2013, respectively.  Thus it appears most likely that the reversal came from HTC, a popular target due to its weak patent portfolio.

Sony's shell company (MobileMedia) won its U.S. federal court case against Apple in a Dec. 2012 jury trial.  However, more recently in a damages session in another federal district court jurisdiction, Apple shot down some of MMI's claims.  That case remains ongoing, so Sony might see a nice boost in the future, but that won't really help its struggling smartphone device sales, not directly at least.

V. What We Know So Far

Returning to the Xperia Z3/Z3 Mini/Compact, we now have a growing pile of information.  Based on the various leaks in the last two weeks, we can start to form a picture of the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Mini.

If the leaks prove accurate (and there appears to be a fair likelihood of this given the relative agreement of various sources), Sony will for the first time launch a large and a small Xperia handset with similar branding.  It sort of did this at CES 2014 in January when it unveiled the Xperia Z1S and Z1 Compact; however, the Z1S was technically a refreshed second-generation Xperia Z1.  The original Xperia Z1 launched in Oct. 2013.

The Z2 has been on the market for mere months, having landed in March.

The expected device spec on the new smartphones should look something like:
  • Sony Xperia Z3 (D6653)
    • Body
      • Aluminum backface
      • Curved edges with black stripe accent
      • Tempered glass front face
      • Colors
        • Black/White/??
    • Display
      • 5.15 inches
      • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (1080p)
      • 424 dpi
      • TRILUMONOS: LED-backlit / IPS LCD
    • SoC
      • Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) Snapdragon
      • MSM8974-AC
      • CPU: 4 x Krait 400 cores @ 2.45 GHz
      • GPU: Adreno 330 @ 578 MHz
      • Baseband: Class-4 LTE
      • Wireless: 802.11 n/ac ; Bluetooth 4.0 / Gen8B GPS
    • Memory
      • LPDDR3
      • 3072 MB (3 GB)
      • 933 MHz (14.9 GB/s)
    • Storage
      • 16 GB NAND
      • up to 64 GB w/ MicroSD or 128 GB w/ MicroSDXC
    • Camera
      • Rear
        • 20.7 megapixel EXMOR G Series sensor

          EXMOR G Series
           
        • Backside illuminated
        • Optical image stabilization (OIS)
        • Pulsed dual-LED flash
        • 4K video recording @ 30 fps
        • 1080p video recording @ 60 fps
      • Front
        • 2.2 megapixels
        • 1080p video recording @ 30 fps
    • Accoustics
      • Dual speaker (top/bottom) stereo sound
      • Dual microphone
      • Ambient noise mic for improve call quality
      • Front mic for voice input
    • Other
      • NFC
      • Strap hole
      • Pin docking port (same as Xperia Z2)
      • Swappable SIM
      • microUSB
      • Full 3.5 mm headphone jack
         
  • Sony Xperia Z3 (D580X)
    • Body
      • Tempered glass dual-side (front/back face) design
      • Curved edges with black stripe accent
      • Colors
        • Black/White/??
    • Display
      • 4.5 or 4.6 inches
      • 1,280 x 720 pixels (720p) or 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (1080p)
      • 323 dpi or 424 dpi
      • TRILUMONOS: LED-backlit / IPS LCD
    • SoC
      • Qualcomm Inc. Snapdragon
      • MSM8974-AC
      • CPU: 4 x Krait 400 cores @ 2.45 GHz
      • GPU: Adreno 330 @ 578 MHz
      • Baseband: Class-4 LTE
      • Wireless: 802.11 n/ac ; Bluetooth 4.0 / Gen8B GPS
    • Memory
      • LPDDR3
      • 2048 MB (2 GB) or 3072 MB (3 GB)
      • 933 MHz (14.9 GB/s)
    • Storage
      • ?? GB internal NAND
      • up to 64 GB w/ MicroSD or 128 GB w/ MicroSDXC
    • Camera
      • Rear
        • 20.7 megapixel EXMOR G Series sensor
        • Backside illuminated
        • Optical image stabilization (OIS)
        • Pulsed dual-LED flash
        • 4K video recording @ 30 fps
        • 1080p video recording @ 60 fps
      • Front
        • 2.1 megapixels
        • 1080p video recording @ 30 fps
    • Accoustics
      • Dual speaker (top/bottom) stereo sound
      • Dual microphone
      • Ambient noise mic for improve call quality
      • Front mic for voice input
    • Other
      • NFC
      • Strap hole
      • Pin docking port (same as Xperia Z2)
      • Swappable SIM
      • microUSB
      • Full 3.5 mm headphone jack
Of course we'll have to see how much of this leaked spec holds up, but assuming it's close to correct, Sony could have a couple of impressive entrants particularly at the 4.5-inch (roundabouts) category -- even if that Sony glass backface is an incredible fingerprint magnet.

Sources: Digi-Wo on Weibo, Xperia Blog, @DooMLoRD (on Twitter) [1], [2]





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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

4.6 inches is not a mini !
By jmunjr on 7/31/2014 2:44:24 PM , Rating: 2
A "mini" phone must fit the requirement that it can be used with one hand and fit in a front jean pocket. This phone won't do that.




RE: 4.6 inches is not a mini !
By retrospooty on 7/31/2014 3:11:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it is "mini".

And if Note2 and 3 owners can fit thier phones in thier front pockets, I am sure you can figure out how to fit a 4.6 inch phone. Either that or your pants are 3 sizes too tight.


RE: 4.6 inches is not a mini !
By jmunjr on 8/2/2014 6:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
Those two requirements were not mutually exclusive. Unless you're Andre the Giant you can't use a Note with one hand.

I have the old Galaxy S Blaze which is 4 inches and it fits comfortably in my front pocket and is easy to use with one hand. I have very big hands so I seriously doubt anyone can use this Z3 with one hand easily. I guess it depends on the shape of the phone as well. Thicker phones work better for my big hands.

I know a lot of people who want smaller yet full featured and full powered phones. There's a reason why the Galaxy S$ mini was heavily bashed and that's because it wasn't close to the regular S4 in performance.

It seems the term mini is now becoming what normal phones were 3 years ago. I'm sure they'll come up with a newer name soon for the tinier phones which liekly will be crippled.

This Sony Z mini doubtfully won't have a replaceable battery either which is a shame too. Business users need portability, performance and the convenience of an effective full battery charge in under a minute(swapping batteries).

That's my take anyway


RE: 4.6 inches is not a mini !
By ritualm on 7/31/2014 7:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
If you really want small, you shoulda continued using that Nokia 6190 (seriously, my mother still has that, original battery and all).


RE: 4.6 inches is not a mini !
By flyingpants1 on 8/1/2014 11:17:51 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A "mini" phone must fit the requirement that it can be used with one hand and fit in a front jean pocket. This phone won't do that.


Uh what?


By retrospooty on 8/1/2014 12:29:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah... I think dood better get an iPhone 5s while its still available and stick with it. The world isnt looking for whatever he is.


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