With Z3, Sony brings phones to US faster

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Sony is launching its new Xperia Z3 waterproof smartphone through Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, and T-Mobile. The phones are hitting U.S. stores on the heels of their unveiling last month at a trade show in Berlin, as Sony ramps up efforts to expand its tiny market share by getting to the American market faster.

Its Xperia Z1 phone took months to arrive, by which time it felt old. Sony never found a U.S. wireless carrier for the Z2 this spring.

The Verizon phone comes out Oct. 23, just a month after Apple's new iPhones and a week after the Oct. 17 release of Samsung's new Galaxy Note 4. A release date for the T-Mobile version hasn't been announced.


T-Mobile is carrying the standard version. For the Verizon model, dubbed Z3v, Sony is adding the ability to charge the phone wirelessly with an optional accessory, without needing to plug in a traditional USB cable. It's a capability coming to many smartphones, but often requires buying a special back cover on top of the charging accessory. The two models have slightly different dimensions, even though both screens measure 5.2 inches diagonally.

Both versions let people play Sony PlayStation 4 games through the phone while on the porch or in another room from the TV. The phones are waterproof and have 20.7 megapixel cameras.

The Verizon version will sell for $200 with a two-year contract. Other pricing hasn't been announced yet.


Sony has had a tough time breaking through the highly competitive smartphone market. Sony's market share doesn't even rank in IDC's lists of top 5 smartphone makers. In the trend-setting U.S. market, Sony has suffered further from late releases.

It took time for Sony to figure out what customers and carriers want, says Ravi Nookala, president of Sony Mobile Communications' U.S. business.

Technical and feature requirements tend to be stricter in the U.S. Getting the endorsement of Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, should help.


Nookala says target customers in the U.S. include owners of Sony TVs, headphones, cameras and PlayStation game consoles.

"Consumers are used to getting the best experience from Sony technologies," he said in an interview. "We're bringing all the best of Sony into the smartphone now."

But gaining market share will take time, given the dominance of Apple and Samsung.

"We are here for the long play. It's not that we just launch one phone and disappear," he added.


Sony is also releasing a third-generation smartwatch. Unlike previous models, the SmartWatch 3 will have GPS capabilities for more accurate tracking of outdoor fitness activities.

The SmartWatch 3 will sell for $250 and will run Google's Android Wear system. That means the software experience will be similar to many rival watches, but it paves the way for a wider range of apps to extend the watch's functionality.