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With Xperia Z3 phone, Sony finally conquers US launch lag

For the first time since Sony took full control of its mobile business, it will launch a flagship smartphone in the US through T-Mobile, at the same time as everywhere else.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
2 min read

The Xperia Z3 is Sony's latest flagship smartphone, and will make its way to the US around the same as it does elsewhere. CNET

For US fans of Sony smartphones, there will be no wait for the Xperia Z3.

Sony confirmed Wednesday at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin that its flagship smartphone will launch in the US through T-Mobile in the final months of 2014, right around the time it launches elsewhere in the world.

It marks the first time that Sony has been able to launch its flagship smartphone in a timely manner in the US since the company took full control of its mobile business, buying out Ericsson's stake in their joint venture and re-branding itself Sony Mobile in early 2012. The last few iterations of Sony flagship smartphones have either seen delays before coming to the US, or have come with little carrier support.

That the Xperia Z3 is coming to T-Mobile underscores Sony's continuing relationship with the US carrier, which began with the Xperia Z and followed up with the Xperia Z1S. While T-Mobile is the smallest US carrier in terms of subscribers, it offers a customer base that traditionally is less weighted towards iPhones, at least giving the Xperia Z3 a chance. T-Mobile, however, has been pushing the iPhone more aggressively, offering the iPhone 5S as its smartphone for a one-week trial period.

"As the successor to Xperia Z1S, Xperia Z3 is a strong follow-up, continuing the momentum of our strategic partnership with the Un-carrier," T-Mobile said in a statement.

The lack of broad US carrier support has been one of the major factors slowing down Sony's attempts to revive its mobile business. The US is one of the world's largest smartphone markets, yet is particularly brutal with Apple and Samsung having a virtual lock in the country. Even standouts such as HTC have failed to make a dent. While Sony has a strong brand in products such as televisions and audio equipment, its mobile brand is much weaker (it was known as Sony Ericsson before the joint venture dissolved).

Sony made further progress in July when Verizon Wireless agreed to sell the Xperia Z2 tablet and accessories. The carriers have been more keen to sell different tablets because they represent an opportunity to sign customers up to a new wireless plan.

But Sony's well-regarded follow-up, the Xperia Z2 smartphone, never found a US carrier partner, and ended up selling unlocked through its own website, a limited form of distribution that hasn't been successful in the US.

Sony's flagship smartphones have received praise for their strong cameras, glass construction, and waterproof bodies. Samsung's Galaxy S5 is water resistant, but Sony has stressed that its smartphone can last longer underwater.

Still, it's been a tough slog winning over US consumers. Sony appeared to have AT&T's support just two years ago, but the lack of interest caused the carrier to drop its smartphones from its lineup.

With the Z3, Sony hopes it is turning a corner.

Sony Xperia Z3 is a glass and metal powerhouse (pictures)

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