The Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition interview
- with Fredrik Ekstrand
After seeing the HUGE reaction from last week’s launch (http://goo.gl/EmclVw
), where Sony released its first “vanilla Android” smartphone, I just had to talk to someone at Sony to get the inside scoop – and who better than Fredrik Ekstrand; Sony Mobile’s Head of Software Product Management...
Fredrik leads a team managing Sony Mobile’s software releases, together with the Project Managers and project teams.
As we meet, I can tell that Fredrik is excited, and happy about how the launch went, and the buzz it created…
"This has been coming a long time, and now it’s finally here! This is the perfect timing for us to release the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition with the all new KitKat software. We have a unique offering, unlike anything else on the market – a premium waterproof* smartphone with a huge display, a great design and stock Android 4.4.
We know that there are consumers and sections of our audience out there who want smartphones with recognizable Sony design and build quality, but a different software experience. Among them we have the developers and the tech fans, so usually these guys buy our phones, unlock the bootloader and flash modded ROMs. Now, I'm sure they will really appreciate this
product”Were you surprised by the announcement reaction at all?
“Yes and no! I had a feeling this product would excite people, but it’s been great to see so much comments, buzz and even surprise for our first Google Play edition device! And, how many are recognizing this as the next chapter in our open approach to development, and contributions to Google’s Android Open Source Project”Why are you bringing a GPE product to market, based on a released smartphone? Wouldn't the customers want to get the latest HW with GPE instead?
"From a technical point of view, this is the latest technology out there. We have the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 800 processor , the latest viewing smarts with the great TRILUMINOS™ display, so this is in fact the most current, cutting edge hardware."Fredrik, what kind of work was done to KitKat in order to get it running on the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition?
"We start off with stock Android KitKat. We need to adapt it in order for it to get the HW support. Mainly we are gluing together the HAL [Hardware Abstraction Layer] and the HW drivers. Then we work on the performance and stability, like we do with any software, which is the most time consuming. With our other products we normally do improvements on Android and we add features and functionality, which is not done on a GPE device, and we can also cut some time out from operator approvals hence a speedier development process." Can we expect to get SW upgrades to Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition?
"Yes of course. You can have the same expectations on this device as you have on any other GPE device."Can you please describe what the main differences are between the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and this new Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition? Why is the Xperia branding removed?
"The biggest differences are that with the GPE device we are selling the Sony hardware design with stock Android. We removed the “Xperia” branding to clearly differentiate this product as a variant – our Xperia smartphones are composed of hardware, software and content unique to, and connected to the wider Sony world.
“Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition” represents a very different proposition – Google’s latest Android version running natively on Sony’s mobile hardware."What have you added to the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition software other than making it work with the hardware? Is there something added differentiating it from the stock Android SW?
"We have added unique Sony tech – TRILUMINOS™, X-Reality™ and Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor – for great, immersive screen and camera experiences respectively”Will the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition buyers have access to Sony specific apps and services, such as Walkman and Album?
"No, the Sony specific apps and built-in services are only available on the Xperia devices. However, some of the services like TrackID and Music Unlimited are available through the Play Store for all devices."Will the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition SW be available for download and can Xperia Z Ultra owners use that SW to convert their existing phones into GPE phones?
“It’s something we’d look into but there are some security aspects that could make this difficult to happen.”How come you chose the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition and not the Z1 as the GPE device?
"Timing wise the ZU was a better fit and as mentioned earlier, it is a unique device with its thinness, large display and waterproofness*."Some consumers might have expected a Nexus device, but instead Sony is releasing a GPE device. Can you elaborate on that?
"We want the consumers to get the Sony experience from our hardware. By doing a GPE device we can give them this with our premium, unique design."What do you think of Nexus devices and the Nexus program?
"I like the concept. It is exciting to see how Android, as the SW OS it is, is being developed together with different hardware types / products and its versatility and its promise for the future. Just seeing how Android can be developed towards being used with phones, tablets, media players etc. is really interesting. I also like that Nexus devices are Android’s “own” HW making it possible to develop Android in combination with new HW dependent functions and not completely reliant on the products from manufacturers."Going back to the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition, what do you like the most with it?
"What I like the most is the big display together with its thinness. And I really like the material used, the finish of the body."You keep mentioning the size of the display over and over again, you really seem to like it.
"Yes, you get spoiled by it. At first glance it might even seem oversized, but you get hooked to it really fast. Over the years the display sizes have constantly gone up and I have switched to phones with larger displays again and again. After each switch I have looked back at my old devices and thought "how on earth did I manage with such a small display". The large display of the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition is really fantastic for reading mails, books, watching video and surfing web sites etc." One final question Fredrik, what is the selling price of the Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition?
"The price is USD649 (+ taxes/shipping, if applicable) and it is available through the Google Play Store only (http://goo.gl/a2viCi
I'm really glad that Fredrik had time to meet up with me and answer my questions and I hope that I can do some follow up interviews in the future.
Please comment below if you have any suggestions on whom within Sony Mobile I should interview next time and please also post questions you'd like me to ask!
Finally, check out this video of the Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition: http://goo.gl/xwUZdc
*(IP55 & IP58)#sonymobile #SonyZUltra