VAIO, the former PC division of Sony and now an independent supplier of PCs, this week announced plans to introduce its first smartphone in Japan this spring. The company will use Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile operating system and will target business users with its VAIO Phone Biz handsets. VAIO intends to capitalize on Microsoft’s eco-system in order to offer products that will not directly compete against smartphones running Apple iOS or Google Android.

VAIO will promote its smartphones together with Microsoft and local operators in Japan. One of the selling points of the VAIO Phone Biz will be its support for the Continuum technology, which lets users to connect their smartphones to large displays or televisions using Miracast technology, HDMI/DisplayPort outputs, USB type-C ports or special accessories in order to use their phones like PCs (e.g., create/edit Office docs, send email, browse Internet, etc.). Since the VAIO Phone Biz smartphones will run Windows 10 Mobile, they will be fully compatible with Office 365, OneDrive, Azure Active Directory, Intune mobile app manager as well as Skype for business out-of-box. Microsoft will also help VAIO to promote its smartphones, just like it helps to sell notebooks and tablets designed by the company.

With its handsets, VAIO intends to address business users, the target audience of its PCs. Such positioning will, perhaps, help VAIO to avoid direct competition with Sony, Samsung and other companies selling Google Android-based handsets to the masses. However, since Microsoft considers itself a cloud company, it wants its apps and services to work on all mobile platforms, even a close collaboration between VAIO and Microsoft will hardly create a lot of unique advantages for the hardware company.

The VAIO VPB 051 smartphone will feature a 5.5-inch display with 1920x1080 resolution. The handset will be based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 system-on-chip (eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.50 GHz, Adreno 405 graphics core) and will be equipped with 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 16 GB of NAND flash storage as well as a microSD card slot. The handset from VAIO will also feature 13 MP rear and 5 MP front cameras, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a micro USB 2.0 connector, various sensors, a 2800 mAh battery and so on. The smartphone is compatible with 3G/LTE bands 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 19 and 21 with carrier aggregation (so, this particular model is not suitable for the U.S.). The smartphone will be 8.3 mm thick and will weigh 167 grams.

The VAIO Phone Biz model 051 will use a unibody carved out of solid aluminum (VAIO does not reveal exact type of alloy), which means that it should be rigid. Keeping in mind that many premium smartphones nowadays are made of polycarbonate, aluminum body could become a tangible advantage of the VAIO smartphone.

The smartphone will be manufactured by a contract manufacturer, its quality will be checked and tested at the Nagano Technology Site (Azumino City, Nagano Prefecture), the former hub of Sony’s PC operations, where VAIO already performs final checks and assembly of its PCs.

The VAIO VPB 051 will hit the Japanese market this April at the price of ¥50,000 ($428). The smartphone will not be sold with contracts, the owners will be able to choose their operator. For this reason, the handset’s bundle will include an adapter for nanoSIM cards.

The addition of a smartphone into the VAIO lineup is a clear sign that the company is planning to expand and address new markets. Moreover, with tablets, notebooks and smartphones in the family, the VAIO product line will be one of the most comprehensive Windows product lines in the world. The example of Apple shows that a vertically-integrated product stack helps to sell more products to loyal customers.

What remains to be seen is when VAIO plans to bring its smartphones to the U.S. The first-gen model is not suitable for the U.S. because of LTE compatibility issues (in fact, a business phone that cannot really support LTE in the U.S. is a strange business phone), if VAIO wants to sell it in North America, it will have to redesign its LTE module.

Source: PC Watch

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  • BurntMyBacon - Monday, February 8, 2016 - link

    @Murloc: "you already have all that connection with windows phone 10 and windows 10.

    Having the same hardware brand doesn't change much at all if the software is the same."

    True. If Nokia can't get consumers onboard with Continuum, then I doubt VAIO can. That said, Nokia never really built a phone with Continuum did they. Lumia is now a Microsoft brand and no longer has whatever pull with customers that Nokia brought to the table. Even assuming it did, exactly how long have Win10 mobile devices been on the market? IIRC December 2015 is when the first one launched. Of those devices, how many were high-end enough to get some attention. Put another way, how many had to power to actually be useful running as a desktop(ish) device? The Lumia 950(XL) are the only devices I've heard of that might fit that description.

    Continuum may or may not take off, but a little over 2 months on the market is too early to tell. This is especially true when you consider that business customers are more likely to be interested than normal consumers. I don't see Microsoft taking the world by storm, but IMHO they could gain enough traction in the business sector to be taken seriously if they execute properly with Continuum. Frankly speaking, this is probably the last major advantage they can bring to the table before mobile devices are too feature complete to differentiate. At that point, it'll be next to impossible to convince consumers not to go with the incumbents.

    I'd like to see Microsoft grab 8% - 12% market share. Large enough to be stable and keep a third player in the competitions, but small enough that they need to stay attentive. Much as I dislike Apple's business practices and lock-in model, I think it would be best if Windows phone market share came mostly at the expense of Android. I think they need a little market pressure to start weeding out useless devices (most companies have more than a few that seem redundant and under developed) and focus on making a just few good devices (per company). Full coverage with little redundancy. I'm not very optimistic about Microsoft's chances given their apparent inability to get the message out, but they've been in worse positions before.
  • Gunbuster - Monday, February 8, 2016 - link

    Get the message out? What message would that be?

    The 950 and 950XL have been a buggy mess, priced too high and only on one US carrier. Not to mention the uninspired design and poor build quality (just buy a new $60 back for your $650 phone!). W10 Mobile is a continuous beta (did that fix it? how about now? how about now?, hard reset/wipe your phone, how about now? Sorry for that half day battery life on your flagship), and they have been consistently incompetent on even basic features like visual voicemail not working on their dual sim handsets.
  • Murloc - Monday, February 8, 2016 - link

    I was considering WP more in general, you're right that there hasn't been the time to see if continuum is a "killer app" or not.
    The point is that the more the android monopoly is entrenched, the more difficult it is to make a breakthrough for MS. I fear they're too late, that's all.
    That would be very bad because WP is nice and easy to use and is strong in the low-end, while apple is a high-end only, so only Android would be left alone on the market if WP goes tits up, and that would mean bad low-end devices forever.
  • lilmoe - Saturday, February 6, 2016 - link

  • neothe0ne - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    Japan phone without FeliCa (or NFC) :(

    Then again I would be surprised to find a no contract phone with FeliCa included based on things I've heard about how FeliCa licensing actually works
  • ajp_anton - Saturday, February 6, 2016 - link

    Not that I would complain having LTE on my phone, especially on a high-end phone, but is it really that important?

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