Sony Finally Launches Its Android Tablets at IFA in Berlin

At this week’s IFA consumer electronics show, Sony launched single- and dual-screen Android Honeycomb tablets that will interact with TVs and other Sony products.

The Sony S tablet: "It’s not about who makes them first, but who makes them better." That’s how Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer announced his upcoming tablets. Photo: Sony

Four months ago, Sony unveiled its first two Android tablets at IFA in Berlin, a wedge-shaped slate and a dual-screen clamshell model which at the time went by the names S1 and S2, but became the Tablet S and Tablet P.  Just a week after the withdrawal of HP TouchPad from the markets, Sony’s Tablets may be a treat for the techies this year.

Japanese electronics giant claims both devices not only offer the best available features in the Android tablet market, with fast web browsing and PlayStation games, but it also claims that the devices offer features not available on the market-leader, the Apple’s iPad.

For the Sony S tablet, the two key features are set to be a built in remote-control that can be used with any infra-red devices, including TVs and Hi-Fis that are not made by Sony, and the ability to use the tablet to direct digital media, such as music or films, from anywhere on the user’s network to any TV or Hi-Fi that can play it.

The new release marks a step-change for Android tablets, which have previously sought primarily to ape the iPad slim form factor, while relying on Google for the vast majority of the software. Sony has sought to shift the innovation to hardware, where its heritage lies, a company source said.

The Sony P tablet is slightly different, but not exactly unique. Clamshell portables have been around for years, with the Kyocera Echo being the first to take a chance on the dual-screen Android design. Photo: Sony

The Sony S  tablet features a single 9.4-inch TruBlack LCD panel with 1280 x 800 pixels and it’s powered by an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. It runs Android Honeycomb (3.1) and is available in two models, one with 16GB of storage, and one with 32GB which will cost $499 and $599 respectively.

Sony describes this tablet as having an off-center of gravity design that realizes stability and ease of grip, as well as a sense of stability and lightness, offering comfortable use for hours. The S has a tapered shape that sort of resembles the Apple MacBook Air. The device will make heavy use of Sony’s Qriosity (pronounced “curiosity”) media service. It will have a customized “Quick and Smooth” touch panel user interface–hopefully nothing like its Xperia UI.

Like Vizio’s tablet, Sony’s tablets is largely targeted at the home user as a device to use in conjunction with his television. As such, it includes DLNA compatibility, compatibility with Sony’s HomeShare network speakers, and includes an infrared emitter so it can be used as a universal remote control, or a Wi-Fi remote with Sony’s Media Remote app which hooks up with Bravia-branded entertainment devices.

It also comes equipped with Sony’s entertainment experiences and is “PlayStation Certified,” meaning it will be able to download and play emulated PSOne and PSP games like the Xperia Play can.

The Sony Tablet P is unique for a tablet. It has a sideways clamshell design with two 5.4-inch displays (1024 x 480 pixels) that, when opened, make a larger display – albeit with a black bar running down the middle. It will have a customized user interface and can make use of one screen for game controllers. The P will be PlayStation certified (as will the S) and come with support for DLNA media sharing.

"Like Stringer stated at the beginning of his IFA press conference, being first isn’t necessarily a path to success," writes TechCrunch's Matt Burns. "Sony’s tablets are at least different from the competition." Photo: Sony

AT&T plans to sell a version of the P to customers with a data plan. This new version of the P will be able to access AT&T’s HSPA+ (no, not LTE) 4G network.  Pricing for the tablet’s data plans have yet to be revealed, along with the for-sale date from AT&T. The Sony Tablet P will also have unfettered access to AT&T’s 20,000 Wi-Fi access points in case its HSPA+ network isn’t available. That means free Wi-Fi in tons of airports, hotels, convention halls, and restaurants.

Weighing 598g the S model will go on sale in mid-September, while the 372g P will be available from November. Both include USB and SD card slots, as well as high speed web-browsing that the company claims is faster than any tablet currently on the market.

Both tablets will have front and rear cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity and 3G mobile internet, as well as 4G where it is available. The S will offer either 16 or 32 Gb of storage, while the smaller P will come with 4 Gb. Sony claims seven hours battery life for the P and eight for the S.

Last year Sony said its aim was to be second to Apple in the tablet market by 2012. That will mean overtaking rivals including Samsung, whose first Galaxy Tab went on sale last year, Motorola and RIM, manufacturers of the BlackBerry PlayBook. [via Mashable, Information Week and The Telegraph (UK)]

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