IT has been a long time since Sony made mobile phones to aspire to, but with the Xperia Z there’s a device that proves the company can still design remarkable products. The companion tablet, unveiled today at Mobile World Congress, not only makes perfect sense, but it’s also even lovelier.
That’s not just because the Tablet Z is waterproof – you really can drop it in the bath and then use it with wet fingers – or because it can take full advantage of the Android operating system. It’s rather because Sony is making a real attempt to produce products that combine form and function, so the Xperia tablet is thin and light, but solid enough to feel that it won’t flex in your hands. With 4G and at 6.9mm thin, it weighs just 495g.
And in the world of Android, design is currently the only real way to differentiate: with the Tablet Z Sony, however, proves that it can make a real difference.
So yes, the software is just what you’d expect – it’s Android with some of Sony’s entertainment apps, augmented with a remote control and an easy ability to put media onto a TV, of any brand. Sony says that in large part it expects the tablet to be used within the home, either as a companion device or as an additional screen. That’s why it’s concentrated on excellent graphics, thanks to a quadcore Snapdragon S4 processor, and that waterproof and dustproof function. The 8MP camera is decent, but it’s as much about being used for Skype as it is about taking pictures. Implicitly, too, Sony is acknowledging that there still aren’t enough Google tablet apps.
Aiming at the sofa rather than the workplace makes it all the more important that the device is a joy to hold and to use: Sony doesn’t envisage this being a productivity device, so although it can be used for email and Office-type applications, the hope is that it simply disappears into the background while you’re watching something, and looks great when it’s not in use. With that in mind, the metal standby button and the slim form factor is particularly sensible.
What’s a challenge for Sony, however, is to get the as yet undisclosed price right: because ultimately the Xperia Z is a beautifully designed Android tablet, but for those who are less bothered by design it will be easy to say that it’s simply a more expensive Android tablet and why not buy a cheaper one. So Sony’s challenge is to make it a premium price, but not too premium. With no unique, killer features, design is all its got. Thankfully, however, there’s more of it here than there is for any other large tablet.
By Matt Warman Telegraph.co.uk