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By 8 March 2017 | Categories: interviews

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As has been the case on the opening day of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in previous years, Sony unveiled a number of their Xperia branded devices to consumers around the globe at the start of the event. Perhaps a manufacturer with a fairly low-key profile heading into MWC 17, they came out firing, debuting one of the best devices in the form of the Xperia XZ Premium. Along with the high specced phablet a number of wearables and IoT-focused products were showcased.

In order to gain a better idea of the devices on display, as well as the company's plan to tackle the local mobile market, we chatted with their South African country manager, Christian Haghofer. 

TechSmart: Sony unveiled a number of phones on the first day of MWC, with an Autumn 2017 release window being detailed. Which of the devices will arrive in South Africa, and when can we expect them?

Christian Haghofer: We announced three phone ranges here at Mobile World Congress. The flagship, the XZ Premium, which.we're looking to launch in early-July in South Africa. The next phone is the XA1 Ultra, which should be mid-May. The final range that we unveiled was the XA1, which we are not bringing into South Africa. 

TS: The XZ Premium is the clear standout device for Sony at MWC 17. What type of statement is Sony aiming to make with it?

CH: I believe the big statements are the camera and display, both of which are elements we've never done for a phone before. Another significant aspect is the stacked memory we're putting to use in the camera for faster data processing. The speed too, which is driven by the new Qualcomm processor is something consumers are going to be impressed by.  

TS: Talking about  the Qualcomm 835 chip. How was Sony able to produce the 960 fps slo-mo video when Qualcomm has not been able to? Is there additional tech at work?

CH: The stacked memory is the key element. Qualcomm has already been able to reach a very high level of slo-mo video recording, but the advanced data processing we've introduced has pushed that level even further. It therefore gives us something completely unique to Sony and the XZ Premium. 

On top of the camera, having the Qualcomm 835 processor will allow our users to consume 4K content more easily, as it it capable of download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit on a Cat.16 LTE network.   

TS: Speaking of 4K content, what value do you think local consumers will get out of that experience?

CH: I think South African mobile consumers are becoming more conscious about picture quality and resolution of their devices. You're starting to see more people that are keen to use streaming applications, like Amazon Prime Video, and I believe those are the consumers that will get the most out of the XZ Premium. 

TS: You've mentioned the XZ Premium's new 19 MP camera. Do you think more Xperia devices will go for fewer megapixels and better sensor technologies?

CH: It's a well-known fact that the megapixel race is no longer a factor in the mobile space. To achieve a great level of photography, it's not simply the size of the megapixels that determines that anymore. Now, the processor, the memory and the ability to read and capture data are as important, if not more so when trying to develop a superb camera experience on mobile.       

TS: Sony normally uses the first day of MWC for unveilings. What is the thinking behind that, especially with many manufacturers using Day Zero [the Sunday before MWC starts] to make their debuts?

CH: It has been a tradition for Sony for many years to have our press conference on the first morning of Mobile World Congress. Hosting our event first thing in the morning gives us the advantage of having media in attendance, and not being caught up with all the exhibitors, who begin a bit later in the day. 

Furthermore, with many of the launches happening the day before, or elsewhere away from the venue, it's a little disappointing for the organisers of MWC, in my opinion, especially as they've made a sizeable investment for this event. I think embracing the entire experience of MWC, using the facilities made available to us, and reaffirming our commitment to the sponsors, is very important to Sony.

TS: Lastly, looking at South Africa, how will Sony approach the mobile market in 2017?

CH: We've got a couple of approaches in mind. First is marketing, where we'll be reinvesting in the brand. That means Sony is going to be more visible from a campaign perspective, as well as platforms being setup that will focus heavily on the devices and having interactive experiences. Added to this will be an increased level of consistency, and really try to ensure that Xperia is seen by consumers more regularly. 

The second aspect will be to be more visible in the entry-level device space, particularly in the prepaid market, which is huge in South Africa. We haven't really addressed it as well as we should have in the past two years, so we're going back to it.

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