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Sony Ericsson to launch its first Android phone

Handset maker will release the Xperia X10 smartphone in Japan in April. It will sport a 4-inch touchscreen, 8.1-megapixel camera, and social networking features.

Sony Ericsson is finally stepping into the Android smartphone market.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 Sony Ericsson

The company announced Thursday that it will launch its first Android smartphone in April in Japan. Sold through the large Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, the Xperia X10--or SO-O1B as it will be known in Japan--will sport a 4-inch WVGA touchscreen and 8.1-megapixel camera. It will include both entertainment and social networking features.

The X10 is set for release in other regions, including the U.S., later this year.

Despite any hopes that the X10 might take advantage of the latest 2.0 version of Android, the phone will run Android 1.6.

Powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the X10 throws in the usual goodies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS, but adds a stereo headset, 1GB of internal memory, and a 16GB MicroSD card for extra storage. Its camera offers a 16X digital zoom, auto focus, and image stabilization. Its face recognition can match the faces in a photo with contacts in your phonebook.

But it's on the media and social networking front that Sony Ericsson hopes to make a splash. The phone will include Mediascape, an application designed to organize music, photos, and videos in one place. Mediascape also wirelessly plays media content from other sources, such as YouTube and PlayNow.

The X10's Timescape app is designed to manage social contacts and conversations from one spot, letting you keep tabs on your e-mail, text messages, and your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sony Ericsson could use a hot, new smartphone to light a fire under its performance. Hit by tough competition and weak consumer demand, the company has struggled the past couple of years and been forced to cut jobs and trim expenses.

Sales and earnings just announced for 2009 are evidence that Sony Ericsson went through a rough year, but some fourth-quarter results showed slight improvement, thanks to cost cuts and new products.

For 2009, sales plummeted to 6.8 billion euros ($9.5 billion) from 11.2 billion euros in 2008. The company's net loss for the year reached 836 million euros from 73 million euros the previous year.

Sales for the fourth quarter also dropped, dipping to 1.7 billion euros from 2.9 billion euros in the prior-year quarter. But quarterly losses edged down slightly to 167 million euros from 187 million euros in 2008's final quarter.

"The refreshed portfolio, coupled with the business transformation program has started to positively impact our financial results," Sony Ericsson President Bert Nordberg said in a statement. "Continued cost saving activities and resource realignment are necessary in order to build a leaner, more efficient organization capable of meeting the demands of the changing competitive landscape."

Looking ahead, Sony expects that its cost cuts won't yield a sustained improvement until the second half of 2010. The company is also counting on a slew of new products, such as the Xperia X10, to help it return to profitability.