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Japanese corporate giant Sony makes everything from cameras to TVs to games consoles to smartphones — not to mention its considerable music and movie portfolio. In the Android world, though, Sony is best known in the context of its Xperia phones and tablets, and mobile is one of the three pillars of the company's "One Sony" initiative, announced by CEO Kazuo Hirai in 2012. (The other two being gaming and digital imaging.) Sony Mobile, as it's now called, was formed out of Sony's buyout of the old Sony Ericsson, which was a joint venture between Sony and the Swedish company.
Sony's smartphone lineup is led by its Xperia Z series, with which it pursues an unusually aggressive upgrade cycle, shipping a new Z series model every six months. In recent years Sony has moved towards a singular design language across much of its mobile devices, dubbed "Omnibalance." Omnibalance phones are typically angular, squared-off slabs with curved or metallic edges, and often feature glass-backed chassis. While recent entrants like the Xperia Z2 have earned Sony praise for its build quality, they've also been criticized for being boxy and uncomfortable to hold.
An early pioneer in waterproof smartphone designs, many of Sony's high-end devices also boast water and dust resistance, which it has achieved by sealing most of its port sand connectors behind waterproof plastic doors. Recently Sony has started to extend water resistance to its mid-range offerings as well.
As a company with a strong history in digital imaging, Sony includes homegrown Exmor sensors and G lenses in its smartphone cameras, the most common being its 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS unit. This is packaged together with software that emulates the features of some standalone Sony cameras, such as Superior Auto for automatic scene detection, and Sweep Panorama for panoramic images. Sony also attempted to leverage its valuable PlayStation brand in the world of mobile gaming, however PlayStation Mobile was discontinued in mid-2014.
Sony is one of the major smartphone players in Europe and parts of Asia, however it's yet to crack the U.S. market in any meaningful way. It sells some devices unlocked through its U.S.-based online store, but so far its carrier-approved handsets have been few and far between. And while its mobile products continue to receive generally positive reviews, the company itself faces a tumultuous financial future.
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