Tag Archives: sony

Sony’s crowdfunded FES e-paper watch hits retail this month

The FES Watch, an e-paper timepiece developed by a Sony subsidiary, first broke cover a year ago on Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake. Since then it’s expanded to Sony’s own crowdfunding portal First Flight, and this month it’ll finally see a release — albeit a limited one — in Japanese stores.

The MoMA Design Store on Omotesando will carry the FES Watch from this Saturday, while Isetan in Shinjuku — the boutique department store that Apple used for the Apple Watch launch — will sell it from December 1st. In choosing these two locations, Fashion Entertainments, the Sony subsidiary producing the FES Watch, is clearly taking a design- and style-first approach to the release of its first product; Tokyo’s countless electronics stores are being left out for now.

sony FES watch

The FES watch — which really is just a watch, not a smartwatch — will be sold through the Japanese MoMA online store, too, and it’s also still available through First Flight with shipping set for Saturday. Sony isn’t revealing anything about a wider release except to say that it plans to bring the FES Watch to other stores in time. The watch sells for a tax-inclusive price of ¥29,700, or about $242.

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Sony is finally killing off Betamax video tapes

Four decades after launching the Betamax video format, Sony has finally announced it will stop selling video tapes

Sony has announced that it will stop selling Betamax tapes in March 2016 – over forty years after the ill-fated video format was first launched and 13 years after the company last made a player.

“Sony will end the shipment of Betamax video cassettes and micro MV cassettes in March 2016,” the company said in a Japanese-languagestatement on its website.

“As a result, the recording media of the Betamax format in our company, and shipping of the recording medium of the micro MV format, will come to an end.”

Sony launched Betamax in 1975, a year before JVC’s rival the VHS cassette. The two companies fought viciously for control of the emerging video system market in the late seventies, with JVC eventually becoming the market leader.

Although many felt Betamax was the superior format – due to its more accurate colour replication, superior resolution and smaller tapes – it was hamstrung by high prices and a shorter recording time than the two- or four-hour VHS tapes.

Betamax video tapes  Photo: Sony

Some have also suggested that Betamax lost the video tape format warsto VHS because Sony refused to mass produce pornographic films.

Both video cassette tape formats were superseded by the video CD in 1993, and the DVD in 1993, which in turn have largely been replaced by digital downloads and online streaming technology.

Sony stopped making Betamax recorders in 2002, after years of producing it in ever smaller quantities, but it continued making tapes for die-hard fans. It has also not produced a compatible video camera for the Micro MV cassette since 2005.

Sony claims that it has sold a total of 18m Betamax devices worldwide since launch.

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Sony may scoop up Toshiba’s image sensor business

Sony may further cement its dominance in the market of smartphone camera components by acquiring Toshiba’s sensor business. Amid an ongoing corporate restructuring, Toshiba is nearing a deal with Sony to sell off its sensor division, according to a report today from Reuters. Sony is far and away the leading supplier of CMOS image sensors used to power smartphone cameras and some DSLR units with a 40.2 percent share of the market in 2014. The acquisition of Toshiba’s division would put Sony in an even stronger position against competitors like Samsung.

Sony’s smartphone business hasn’t been doing well, but the company has a strong grip on the smartphone camera market. Twice this year Sony expanded its image sensor plants in Nagasaki and Yamagata, costing it more than $1.2 billion. Yet its customers, like China’s Xiaomi and Apple, have turned Sony’s sensor business into a blockbuster success with sales growing 40 percent last year.


The picture is gloomier for Toshiba. The company is undergoing a corporate accounting scandal after revelations that it overstated earnings to the tune of $1.3 billion over the last seven years. After the resignation of CEO Hisao Tanaka, interim chief executive and chairman Masashi Muromachi laid out a restructuring plan to reform the company. The image sensor sale would be one of the first moves in that process.

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Here are the phones and tablets that will get Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Ever since Google made Android 6.0 Marshmallow official, many users have wondered, “When will my phone get the latest OS update?” Well, that largely depends on the manufacturers and carriers. Thankfully, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and T-Mobile have already announced their list of devices that will be getting the OS, though most have yet to reveal a set timeline for the update to reach these devices. Here’s what we know so far.

Nexus phones and tablets

Let’s start with the obvious ones first. Android 6.0 Marshmallow was released on October 5, and following its legacy, Google’s latest Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will be first in the queue to run it. These devices will come preloaded with the latest OS. Existing Nexus devices, including the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7, and Nexus 9, have already started receiving the update. The Nexus Player is set to receive Android 6.0 in the US only. Nexus users can download the latest OS manually from Google Developer, but it’s usually best to wait for the OTA version.

HTC phones

HTC has affirmed that the HTC One M9 and One M8 will receive the update by the end of this year. The company has announced a list comprising other devices that will get the update: HTC One M9+, HTC One E9+, HTC One M8, HTC One E9, HTC One ME, HTC One E8, HTC One M8 Eye, HTC Butterfly 3, HTC Desire 826, HTC Desire 820, and HTC Desire 816. Moreover, HTC said it will be launching an Android 6.0-powered device on October 20. Phones like the HTC One M7 won’t be updated officially, but may see unofficial support from third-party projects.


Motorola phones

Motorola has fared pretty well when it comes to rolling out updates, and this time around the company has already announced a list of smartphones that will get the Marshmallow update. These chosen few are the Moto X Pure Edition (third-gen), Moto X Style, Moto X Play, Moto G (third-gen), Moto X Pure Edition in the US (second-gen), Moto X (second-gen), Moto G and Moto G 4G LTE (second-gen), Moto Maxx, and Moto Turbo.

LG phones

When Android 5.0 Lollipop was released, LG was among the fastest manufacturers to have rolled out the OS. LG itself has not officially announced its list of devices that will get the Android 6.0 update, but T-Mobile has listed the LG G3, G4, and G Stylo. Also, LG’s Korean support page has listed the aforementioned devices with Android 6.0 Marshmallow support.

Sony phones and tablets

Following other manufacturers, Sony has outed a list that comprises devices that will get the Android 6.0 update. The company has not revealed any set timeline for the release, but it says that it is working hard to update devices as soon as possible. Sony products that have made the list are the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5 Premium, Xperia Z4 Tablet, Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia M5, Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M4 Aqua, and Xperia C4.

Samsung phones and tablets

Samsung began the Android 5.0 Lollipop roll-out 31 days after the update was made official. But as is often the case, not all of its devices received the OS, thanks to the lack of carrier support and some region-related glitches. With that in mind, Youmobile.org has a list of Samsung devices that will get the latest Android 6.0 update, but it’s not yet confirmed by Samsung. The devices listed are the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Duos, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note 4 Duos, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Alpha, and Galaxy Tab A. As with HTC, unofficial support for older devices, like the Galaxy S5, may be possible with third-party support.

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Sony hack’s invasion of privacy still grates on CEO

Nearly a year after a crippling hack, the studio’s boss says he was distressed by how some people combed leaked emails for embarrassing information.

Almost a year after a massive hack crippled Sony Entertainment, it’s still a sore subject with CEO Michael Lynton.

The breach, which was revealed in November, damaged computers, leaked financial documents, and revealed the inner workings of the studio. In addition to causing so much damage that the company essentially shut down for several weeks, hackers leaked then-unreleased movies and the personal information of more than 47,000 celebrities, freelancers, and current and former Sony employees.

But what seemed to capture the bulk of the attention was the release of a trove of embarrassing e-mails between executives at the film and TV arm of Japanese tech and media conglomerate Sony. For Lynton, the fervor with which some people combed through those emails was most troubling.

“The part that was distressing was the extent to which people decided to go through it,” Lynton said Tuesday at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. Speaking at a panel on the Sony hack and cybersecurity, Lynton said he still hasn’t reviewed the emails of his that were leaked.

“Of course, my correspondence was public, especially after Julian Assange decided to WikiLeaks it. But I haven’t even been back through it,” he said. Others have, though, and they aren’t coy about admitting it, he said.

“People come up to me at lunch and say, ‘I just read your correspondence with so-and-so, and it was interesting,'” he said. “To me, that’s an odd way to spend an afternoon.”

Lynton saved his harshest criticism for members of the media who chose to publish details of the emails, which often represented shocking invasions of privacy and caused damage to individual reputations. The contents of some emails sent by Sony Pictures’ co-chair Amy Pascal were linked to her eventual resignation.

“There was tremendous unrest among the folks at the studio…I don’t think it’s correct to be publishing those e-mails,” Lynton said. “I don’t think they were newsworthy. It sort of built on itself.”

Lynton isn’t the only tech figure to feel that way about the hack. Evan Spiegel, CEO of messaging service Snapchat, said in December that he was “angry” and “devastated” that information about his startup’s business plan was revealed in emails with Lynton that were part of the leak.

Traced by the FBI to North Korea, the hackers were apparently trying to prevent the release of the satirical movie “The Interview,” which depicts actors Seth Rogen and James Franco as TV journalists drawn into a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In response to threats against theaters, Sony initially canceled the movie’s release but relented in the face of mounting public pressure and criticism.

Sony Entertainment also came under fire from former employees, who sued the studio claiming that the personal information stolen in the hack made them vulnerable to identity theft. The lawsuit, which sought class-action certification, claimed Sony knew before the breach that its computer systems were not secure enough to protect confidential employee information, which included Social Security numbers, home addresses and health care records.

Court records showed in September that Sony had agreed to settle the lawsuit, although financial details were not revealed.

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Sony to skip PlayStation Vita 2, blames mobile gaming for handheld’s decline

Earlier today, we covered how the PlayStation TV can be hacked to play Vita titles. Today, Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, more-or-less confirmed that Sony was planning to exit the dedicated handheld business once the Vita reaches the end of its lifespan. When asked about the possibility of a follow-up to Sony’s PSV, Yoshida noted that mobile gaming has created a tough climate for handhelds and called the possibility of a successor a “tough question.”

Yoshida put blame on the general rise of smartphone gaming, the advent of free-to-play titles, and the fact that handhelds have different hardware control schemes that simply don’t translate well to modern touch-based smartphones, Eurogamer reports. Of these points, the last is definitely true — games that try to ape the functionality of a joystick or buttons by providing virtual touch-based interfaces are often difficult to control and reserving screen space for a joystick chews up valuable real estate.

There’s no doubt the advent of smartphones created a challenging environment for handheld gaming, but I’m not convinced iPhones and Android are entirely to blame. When Sony announced in June 2013 that the PlayStation Vita would have a new feature, Remote Play, that allowed it to stream games from the PS4, sales of the Vita began to spike ahead of the PS4 launch. As this chart from VGChartz illustrates, PSV sales exploded from October to December, 2013. The Vita has sold 12.26 million units since it launched — and moved nearly 15% of them in those three months.

Chart courtesy of VGChartz. Click to enlarge

Clearly, the problem wasn’t with the Vita hardware, which always held up well in comparison with the Nintendo DS. Nor was it an issue of an intrinsically limited market. If it was, Nintendo’s 3DS would never have broken the 50-million mark. While that’s just a fraction of the Nintendo DS, the DS was produced for a decade, while the 3DS is just 4.5 years old. It may never reach the DS’ sales volume, but it should have no trouble racking up another 10-20 million units over the course of its life.

There are multiple reasons why Sony’s Vita sits at 12 million units shipped as compared to 53 million for Nintendo that have nothing to do with mobile gaming. Remote Play was billed as a late-launching Vita feature, but it’s has always had asterisks attached to it. While it works, the Vita doesn’t have an identical set of inputs as the PS4, which means certain functions are emulated using the rear touch panels. Lag is also a common problem, unless you’re sitting on top of the PS4.

But the problem isn’t just Remote Play’s lackluster implementation. From the beginning, Sony has gouged users for memory cards ($100 for a 32GB Vita-compatible card, instead of $18 for a standard model), offered lackluster ports, and published just a handful of titles relative to Nintendo. Nintendo published 35 of the top 50 games for the 3DS, as measured by total sales. Sony published just 13 of the top 50 Vita titles. The bestselling title for the Vita, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, moved 1.47 million copies worldwide — which puts it at 26th place on the 3DS chart.

Even today, Sony continues to lock games behind whitelists or simply ignores them. There’s a universe of potential PS2 games that could be playable on Vita, but aren’t. Time and time again, the company has ignored its handheld division, and while it has a reputation as a great platform for indie games and JRPGs, that’s not enough to sustain it in the face of competition from mobile and Nintendo.

When the DS debuted and promptly tanked, I wondered if there was still a market for dedicated handhelds. Nintendo proved there was, provided you hit price points and committed to supporting it over the long term. Sony didn’t — and that fact explains far more of the difference between the two companies than all the smartphones in the world.

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Sony smartphone has 4K screen and new camera module

Sony has unveiled the first smartphone to feature a 4K-resolution screen.

It means the Xperia Z5 Premium can both capture video in “ultra-high definition” quality and then play it back on its 5.5in (14cm) display without downgrading the footage.

All the firm’s Z5 handsets also feature a new camera module – the first time the part has been completely overhauled since 2013’s original Z1 handset.

Sony’s mobile division loses money, but its camera components are profitable.

Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei are among rival handset-makers to have used earlier generations of the Japanese company’s photo-capture technologies.

However, Sony said the 23 megapixel sensor involved was being kept as an “exclusive” to its own devices for the time being.

The company recently forecast its handset business would rack up a 60bn yen ($500m; £326m) operating loss in its current financial year.

Sony camera module
Image captionThe camera module features a position sensor to help it compensate for small shakes

But it forecast its image sensor wing – which also makes parts for bigger cameras – would generate 580bn yen ($4.8bn; £3.1bn) of sales over the same period.

Sony hopes its mobile phones will become profitable again in 2016, but its chief executive told the BBC in March that there was “no guarantee” it would still be making handsets in five years time if a turnaround failed to happen.

Big battery

Sony unveiled its new Android-powered handsets at Berlin’s Ifa tech show.

The company acknowledged that there was still a limited amount of professional content available in 4K – which provides about four times the number of pixels as 1080p high definition video.

But it said the Z5 Premium would upscale videos streamed from YouTube and Netflix to take advantage of the display.

Samsung Z5 PremiumImage copyrightSony
Image captionUsers can turn off the video upscaling feature if they want to maximise battery life

One of the big concerns about high-definition screens is that they run down batteries more quickly.

Sony says its use of a “high capacity” 3,430 mAh battery and memory-on-display tech – which allows a static image to remain on show without requiring extra processing power – should mean the handset lasts for “up to two days” between charges.

But one expert still had concerns.

“I really doubt it will last two days if you watch a 4K movie on the device,” said Francisco Jeronimo from the tech research company IDC.

“There’s not really a need for a 4K display from a consumers point-of-view.

“But this is really about offering something outstanding that its competitors can’t provide today and raising brand awareness.”

Low light

Sony photoImage copyrightSony
Image captionThis photograph of the Japanese city of Yokohama was taken with a Z5 phone by Sony

Sony’s new camera module benefits from the introduction of a “closed-loop actuator” stabilisation system.

This adds a position sensor to the part, which is used to detect small disturbances and then compensate for them by making the lens move up and down in its housing in a related fashion.

As a result, it should be able to film less jerky video clips.

The addition of a sixth camera element causes more light to fall on to the sensor, which should aid low-light photography.

Sony Z5 sensorImage copyrightSony
Image captionThe Z5 sensor – represented on the right – adds more phase detection pixels to aid autofocus

Sony has also added more “phase-detection” pixels to the sensor. These are used to speed up autofocus and now cover the complete frame rather than just its central area.

The result is that the sensor can react more quickly to action occurring on the edge of shot.

The company says this and other improvements mean the camera is capable of refocusing in 0.03 seconds, making it “the fastest autofocus in a smartphone”.

However, Mr Jeronimo doubts whether most users will appreciate the innovations.

Sony smartphoneImage copyrightSony
Image captionSony says its smartphone camera can refocus more quickly than rival’s parts

“The big question is whether consumers will perceive the added quality when they take a picture,” he said.

“I took a few pictures with an iPhone 6 and the new Sony Z5 Premium in low light, and to be honest the quality was very similar.

“Once you get to a certain level, it becomes very difficult to notice the difference unless you print the picture in a large size, and that’s true for most of the top-end handsets.”

Nonetheless, he added, the sensor had a good chance of being adopted by other smartphone companies if it proved superior in independent tests to alternatives.

Samsung photo sensorImage copyrightSamsung
Image captionSamsung says its new smartphone camera sensor contains the industry’s “smallest” pixels of their kind

Its competition will include Samsung’s recently announced S5K3P3 sensor, which has a lower resolution of 16 megapixels but has been designed to be very thin to offer “minimal camera protrusion” from slimline handsets.

Fruit phone

Huawei Mate SImage copyrightHuawei
Image captionHuawei’s new phone can be used to weigh objects

Other companies that launched new smartphones at Ifa on Wednesday included:

  • Huawei – its Mate S features a “force touch” screen that can determine different levels of pressure, in a similar fashion to the Apple Watch. The Chinese firm showed off the feature by using it to weigh an orange
  • Acer – its Predator 6 is targeted at hardcore gamers. The handset has four gigabytes of RAM memory, four speakers and a ten-core processor, which gives the phone more scope to ramp up its computational power when necessary
  • Asus – its Zenfone Zoom features a 3x optical zoom camera, meaning that owners will be able to get close-up shots without sacrificing image resolution
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Watch Sony’s New Aerosense Drone Take Off and Take Flight

Sony announced in July that it was partnering with Robotics firm ZMP to create an all-purpose drone for business customers to do things like inspecting facilities, surveying and measuring land and properties, and so on. And over the weekend, the joint venture, known as Aerosense, posted the first video of a prototype drone taking off and flying around.

Despite having wings and flying like a small jet, the Aerosense drone uses its rotating turbines to effect vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), similar to a Harrier fighter jet. This eliminates the need for any kind of landing strip, enabling the craft to be used in areas like cities and forests where large open spaces aren’t always close at hand.

Aerosense hopes to sell the drone in 2016, once testing and manufacturing have been figured out.

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Sony’s SmartBand 2 Takes the Plunge

Sony on Thursday unveiled its SmartBand 2 fitness tracker.

It has an advanced heart rate sensor and a variety of communications capabilities. It informs wearers when they get calls, messages, emails or notifications on social media sites.

It sports interchangeable silicone rubber bands in black, white, pink and indigo.

The SmartBand 2 is compatible with any device running Android 4.4 KitKat or later, as well as iOS 8.2 or later.

It can be submerged in up to three meters — nearly 10 feet — of water without damage, although it has an uncapped microUSB port.

“We were able to water seal the external part between the slot and the core casing,” explained Sony spokesperson Anthony Devenish, but “we recommend users ensure the port is completely dry … before charging the device.”

In that respect, the SmartBand 2 is ahead of the UP4 from Jawbone, noted Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.

“Jawbone wasn’t able to make their band waterproof to swim with,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Sony will offer the SmartBand 2 in 60 countries worldwide, but it won’t be available in the United States at launch.

The SmartBand 2’s Tech Specs

The SmartBand 2 has an accelerometer and heart rate sensors. It automatically tracks activities, including walking and running, and it maps the user’s heart rate.

Details are filed in Sony’s Lifelog app, which displays historical data.

The SmartBand 2 has automatic sleep detection, and a smart alarm clock function that will vibrate to wake users at the best time, based on their sleep cycle.

It notifies users with subtle vibrations and three pulsing RGB LEDs when they get calls, messages, emails or tweets.

Users can control music on their smartphone or tablet by tapping on the SmartBand 2 to play, pause or skip through tracks.

The SmartBand 2 vibrates to alert users when they’re more than 30 feet from their connected smartphones or tablets.

Its battery charges within one hour and each charge lasts up to five days.

The SmartBand 2 will receive over-the-air updates through its host application and the Lifelog app on linked smartphones, Sony’s Devenish told TechNewsWorld.

Feature Scoreboard

In addition to Bluetooth, the SmartBand 2 supports NFC.

“NFC connectivity is a key feature in our Xperia smartphones,” Devenish remarked. “It allows for easy and quick connection with a single touch.”

That NFC connectivity “could make it capable of use for payments,” Gartner’s McIntyre suggested.

However, the SmartBand 2’s bells and whistles don’t include some features offered by the competition.

For example, Jawbone’s UP4 already can be used to make payments at point-of-sale systems through an exclusive deal with American Express.

Further, the UP4 has a seven-day battery life — two days more on one charge than the SmartBand 2, while the Fitbit Charge has a battery life of seven to 10 days.

What About Smartwatches?

“The whole wristband category is extending beyond what we first thought of as a fitness band for tracking steps and heartrate,” McIntyre observed.

Competition in the fitness band market is fierce, and any new features introduced by one maker soon will be implemented by others.

Given the increasing number of features on fitness bands, including notifying the user of incoming emails and calls, could consumers purchase a fitness band instead of a smartwatch?

“I use my Fitbit as a watch — and I prefer wearing it to my smartwatch, because it’s slimmer and not so obtrusive,” said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen.

Also, “I can get credit for all the walking I do during the day,” he told TechNewsWorld.

A Thing of Beauty

The SmartBand 2’s assortment of colors may increase its appeal to consumers.

“We’re finally entering that phase of the market where we’re going beyond high school science experiments and getting devices you won’t mind wearing,” noted Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.

Still, “what’s meaningful is the applications you have on the device,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Users don’t want to be inundated with a lot of useless information — they want it streamlined and looking good.”

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Sony’s Metal Gear Solid Walkman is a truly tasteful video game tie-in

In celebration of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Sony has released a bunch of Phantom Pain-branded electronics, including a new version of its high-fidelity Walkman, the super-expensive ZX2. The customized music player is listed for ¥140,000on Sony’s site (that’s around $1,126 — the same as a normal ZX2), and has the game’s title stamped on the front. It also comes with a leather case branded with the logo of the game’s Outer Heaven mercenary group, as well as four pre-installed Phantom Painwallpapers, a handful of HD Metal Gear songs, and original packaging.

The Phantom Pain-branded NX2 and NW-A16 MP3 players. (Sony / Konami)

If luxury MP3 players aren’t your thing though, Sony is also offering similarly-branded Xperia Z4 and Z3 Compact tablets, as well as a special edition J1 Compact smartphoneand a less-pricey NW-A16 Walkman. All of these come with similar perks to the ZX2, including Outer Heaven branding (either on the rear of the device in the case of the NW-A16 and J1 Compact, or on limited edition cases for the tablets), pre-loaded wallpapers, and a handful of HD tracks.

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