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15 Jun 12 Sony Xperia Ion Android Smartphone Offers 4.6-Inch Display, $99 …

Sony is the latest beleaguered phone maker to
try and wrestle some market share away from Apple and Samsung.

ATT will begin selling the Sony Xperia
ion, an Android smartphone equipped with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, June 24 for
$99.99—a price that puts the Sony squarely on Nokia turf.

Nokia, also fighting to regain market share,
with its new commitment to Microsoft’s Windows Phone, settled with ATT on
a $99.99 price point for the Lumia 900. The price was something of a novelty
and helped the phone attract headlines and eyeballs—and likely also sales. In
April and May, the Lumia 900 was ATT’s best-selling phone behind the Apple
iPhone 4S, according to investment firm Canaccord Genuity.

If pricing doesn’t get the Xperia ion some
attention, however, Sony still has two other cards to play. One is a 4.6-inch
720p HD Reality Display with a Mobile Bravia Engine. Borrowed from Sony’s
television line, the video engine is said to offer “unbeatable HD
viewing,” according to ATT.

The other is compatibility with what Sony is
calling SmartTags—near-field communication-based tags that bring to mind the
metal circles often handed out at museums, for visitors to attach to their
buttonholes. Using a free app, users can program the tags to make the phone do
things it already does, just quicker. For example, instead of dimming the phone
and setting the alarm before going to bed each night, these tasks can be
programmed to a tag that a user simply swipes each night.

recently announced a similar offer.
Called TecTiles, Samsung’s are like
plastic stamps, sold in five-packs for $15 and are reusable. The Sony SmartTags
will be available in four-packs for $30.

The Xperia ion runs a 1.5GHz dual-core
processor and has 16GB of internal memory, plus a microSD expansion slot that
supports another 32GB. With High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and Digital
Living Network Alliance (DLNA) technology, the phone can also support multiscreen
connectivity. It’s PlayStation Certified for high-quality gaming and features a
12-megapixel camera with an Exmor R sensor and 1080p high-definition video
recording. There’s also a 720p HD front-facing camera for video calls.

Working against the phone, no doubt, is the
curious decision to have it run Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread. While Google
has since released two other versions—Honeycomb, which is optimized for
tablets, and Ice Cream Sandwich, which offers more features and an overall more
pleasant user experience—May data from Flurry
found 70 percent of Android users to still be running
Gingerbread. Only 7 percent are now using Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’s a detail that’s frustrating for Android
developers—and one Apple was quick to point out during its Worldwide Developer
Conference keynote June 11, telling attendees that 80 percent of iOS devices
are currently running iOS 5. (Apple executives proceeded to show off the
upcoming iOS 6.)

During the first quarter of 2012, Samsung
shipped more than 86.6 million mobile phones, by Gartner’s count, followed by
Nokia with 83.2 million and Apple with 33 million. Smartphone sales were
dominated by Apple and Samsung, which together raised their combined market
share to 49.3 percent, up from 29.3 percent a year earlier.

Android phones, collectively, accounted for
more than 56 percent of shipments.

Sony, clearly building out its portfolio,
introduced the Xperia miro and Xperia tipo in the United Kingdom June 13. Both
have lower-megapixel cameras, come in a variety of colors and run Ice Cream

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