Sony Ericsson eyes fresh Android start in 2011

After stumbling with its first Android offerings, Sony Ericsson hopes to shake things up in 2011 with striking hardware, current software, and even a PlayStation phone.

The fresh start begins for Sony Ericsson with the Xperia Arc Kent German/CNET

Like many of you, I've watched the rumors of a PlayStation Phone spread across the Internet over the last few weeks. After a so-so 2010 for Sony Ericsson, this is exactly the type of device that could cement Sony Ericsson as a top Android contender. That is, if they get it right. Ask any Android enthusiast about last year's Xperia X10 and you'll likely hear gripes about how badly the company missed the boat.

Once expected to be one of the premier Android phones on the market, the Xperia X10 arrived with muted fanfare. Though eventually it was successful at a couple of carriers around the world, it never took off in the United States, even though it landed at AT&T.

What was the primary reason for this missed opportunity? Outdated software, of course. Even with its 1GHz processor, 4-inch screen, and 8.1-megapixel camera, the phone was hampered by Android 1.6. That inability to run many of today's better applications turned many potential consumers away. And even now, as some Android handsets are getting 2.2 or even 2.3, Sony Ericsson is just pushing Android 2.1 out to various regions. Thankfully, however, the future looks much brighter.

As of right now, the PlayStation should come branded under the Xperia umbrella, possibly carrying the Xperia Play moniker. Although branding it specifically as the PlayStation Phone could be a better move, it will be easier for the company to fold it into the Sony Ericsson portfolio. What's more, listing it with the Xperia name ties it to its other efforts, notably the new Xperia Arc .

Ironically, the Xperia Arc was the only Android 2.3 phone I could find on the floor of CES. Not only does it offer sexy hardware, but also it's running the absolute latest version of Android. Speaking with various members of the Sony Ericsson team, I found them to be very optimistic about it and other unannounced devices. I got the sense that they knew 2011 would be a mulligan of sorts, allowing for a fresh start.

Pocket-Lint recently spent time talking with Sony Ericsson and found that company reps were brutally honest about their early efforts. As it turns out, they underestimated the value users would place on Android, and not necessarily the hardware. After starting with the X10 all the way back in 2008, they realized over the next two years that the industry would move much more quickly than anticipated. As Steve Walker, current global head of marketing, advises, the company learned "a huge amount last year" and plan to apply these lessons moving forward.

What's more, Sony Ericsson can continue to focus on beautiful and powerful hardware. Even with its antiquated software, you'd be hard-pressed to deny the sexiness of the X10. And as we see with the Xperia Arc, the company plans to continue with the sleek, sophisticated-looking devices.

Recently uncovered information suggests the company has also filed for trademarks and Web domains under Xperia Neo and Xperia Duo. Not counting the rumored PlayStation Phone, we may soon be treated to a few announcements at next month's Mobile World Congress. As Sony Ericsson tells it, there will be "many" devices be unveiled over the course of the next year. I'm willing to forgive Sony Ericsson for the false start, are you?

 

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