Guest author Prateek Joshi is a computer vision expert at a stealth startup in San Francisco.
The smartphone market is about to get very interesting - with big efforts from two giant companies.
Earlier this month, Sony's debuted its new Xperia Z to much fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Meanwhile the rumor mill has been abuzz with reports that Google will introduce the long-awaited Motorola X at its annual I/O conference in May. But both companies' latest smartphone efforts will have to exceed what's already available to succeed in a crowded market. But the strategies they need to follow are radically different.
For Sony, the Xperia Z represents something of a restart in the smartphone market. It's no secret hat Sony has struggled in the smartphone business, a distant follower to Samsung in the Android market. But the Xperia Z is everything Sony's earlier smartphones weren't: it's sleek, stylish and has all the bells and whistles consumers have come to expect. It won't come cheap, but Sony's best products never did (and its low-end products were dismal failures). The Xperia Z is a return to form for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.
Sony finally has the right product. But it will take more than a better mouse trap to grab jaded mobile customers. To play catch-up, Sony will have take full advantage of the considerable resources at its disposal:
1. Tying It All Together. Like Samsung, Sony sells a full line of electronic devices including TVs, gaming consoles and PCs. Sony needs to market these products as pieces of a digital universe offering entertainment and productivity. It should be tied together using the elegant packaging Sony is known for.
2. Content. Sony is a unique organization in that it owns content - and lots of it. Sony's studios produce popular TV shows, movies and music, all of which can be repurposed as mobile entertainment. Unique mobile applications, based on some of Sony's more popular titles, written exclusively for Xperia Z and able to run on other Sony hardware would help give consumers a compelling reason to buy.
Google's obsession with delivering its own hardware into the smartphone market is also hardly a secret. It's counting on the Motorola X Phone to dazzle. Here's are are a couple ways Google can make sure it does:
1. A High-End Camera. Smartphone cameras have largely replace point-and-shoot cameras. They offer convenience and many of the same features - like image filtering and photo sharing. But there's more to digital photography than increasing resolution and panoramic imaging. Google can distinguish itself by offering more advanced digital photography features like augmented reality, high-dynamic-range imaging, low-light denoising and image inpainting. Making them native to the camera wherever possible will boost performance and give the X a competitive advantage.
2. A Better User Experience. Android smartphone designers have sometimes been so focused on the inner workings of the hardware, that they've overlooked the importance of aesthetics. If the X Phone is to be successful, it must offer a superior user experience. Google can do that by incorporating new user-interface technologies like gesture recognition. biometrics and gyroscopes. According to some of the early rumors, the X Phone would sport a flexible display. More recent reports say that Google has backed out of that plan. If true, it's a shame. A flexible display would have given the X Phone that extra something the others don't have.
By next fall, there will be two important new entrants in an already crowded field. One will be the latest product from a revitalized Sony. The other, a long-awaited offering from Android inventor Google.
But if they really want to have a big impact, they'll need to do more than just follow the leaders.
Images from Sony.