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Sony makes a Premium bet

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With every new flagship phone, Sony Mobile reminds the market that it is still a technology force. The XZ Premium is the latest example, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Sony is the brand that just won’t go away. Every time Apple, Samsung or Huawei releases a new phone that threatens to sweep away all the minnows of the smartphone market, Sony Mobile pops up with a device that says, “We’re still here.”

So it was that the annual showcase of the latest in gadgetry, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, saw the brand muscle in amid the big unveils, like the new Nokia 3310 and Huawei P10.

To rise above the noise at an event like that – close to 100 000 people attend, and more than 2 000 exhibitors push the hype to a frenzy – a product has to have something special.

Sony came up with a new flagship phone called the Xperia XZ Premium, but if it had been merely “its most ground-breaking smartphone to date”, as a press release bizarrely crowed at the time, it would have vanished along with every other brand’s most ground-breaking hype.

Rather, it had one of the best differentiators of the show. To quote Sony Mobile: “a camera so advanced it captures motion that the human eye can’t see”.

The Sony camera heritage has been a hallmark of the Xperia range for some time, always positioning the top-of-the-range models among the best camera phones in the world. Gradually, the phone is catching up to the capabilities of dedicated compact cameras, like the Sony ‘α’ and Cyber-shot models, by embedding the technology used in those devices.

The result is the new Motion Eye camera system, which features the Exmor RS sensor built into premium compact cameras. The more conventional benefits are that it provides five times faster image scanning and data transfer, but that alone would not be enough to differentiate it.

The highlight of the device is that it records video in 960 frames per second, and combines this with an ultra-slow motion video playback function that it claims to be four times slower than other smartphones. This means that, in ideal conditions, the phone can capture high-speed action, and then freeze individual frames of movement that would not have been visible with the naked eye.

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Not many phones cam make a virtue of being both the fastest and the slowest.

“It’s a first of its kind,” says Sony Mobile country manager for South Africa, Christian Haghofer. “It shows Sony’s technology leadership, its innovation leadership, and its ability to be first in the market. Being able to perform that on a mobile phone, and see things never seen before on a phone, means it is getting very close to professional cameras.”

The still camera is almost as impressive, with a feature called Plus Predictive Capture that automatically starts buffering images when it detects motion before the user presses the button. That means that if one, for example, missed the baby’s smile by a micro-second, one could find that moment from a selection of four shots taken a second before the button was clicked.

The camera has a 19 megapixel high-resolution sensor and, claims Sony, 19% larger pixels, “to capture more light and provides exceptional detail and sharp images even in low-light and backlit conditions”. If that’s not enough, the

Xperia XZ Premium is the first smartphone with a 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range, 2160 x 3840) 5.5” display.

It draws on technologies developed for Sony’s Bravia TVs – sadly no longer available in South African appliance stores.  Aside from 4K HDR, it also uses Sony’s Triluminos Display technology, X-Reality for mobile, and Dynamic Contrast Enhancer. While these may sound like marketing padding, each represents an enhancement over traditional imaging technology.

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The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, so that it is potentially able to support virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, as well as LTE mobile broadband of up to 1Gbps – if that ever arrives in South Africa.

The device is also water resistant and dust-proof, and uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back to reduce scratching and extend its physical life.

It doesn’t come cheap, at a recommended retail price of R15 000. However, that puts it on a par with the flagship devices from Samsung and Apple, and sends the message that it intends to compete directly with them.

It doesn’t mean Sony has abandoned the mid-market or even entry-level smartphone users, says Haghofer:

“For those who can’t afford the Premium, we have launched the XA1 Ultra, which has the same camera as the previous flagship, the Xperia Z5: a 23Mp rear and 16Mp front camera, positioned as a high-quality selfie camera. We’re targeting the urban mass market at a price of R6999 for a phone that is equivalent to the premium handset of two years ago and is now mid-market.

“We’ve extended the lifecycle of entry products, the E5 and XA, bringing that to the market at R1999 and R2999. It’s a critical move from us. We see a decline in disposable income and people spending less money on smartphones, and we want to address that.”

His parting shot is a warning to the dominant brands: “We are going to regain relevance in terms of volume share.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Projection tech transforms retail

By TIMOTHY WILSON, visual imaging business account manager at Epson South Africa

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Display designs, such as those found in retail stores, are no longer confined to static visuals on pull-up banners, 2D print and posters. The increasingly popular use of projection technology has ushered in new and exciting ways to create immersive displays using rich media and high-quality visual content to go beyond the four walls of traditional marketing.

In the past, projectors were lamp-based and prone to failure when used in a harsh environment, such as a retail store. Today, newly introduced laser projection technology has unlocked a range of capabilities.

Transforming the way brands engage with audiences

Creative techniques such as projection mapping, which can be described as the projection of video, animation and other colourful displays onto 3D surfaces, have completely transformed the way brands engage with audiences and can live in retail spaces, concert halls and even sports stadiums.

Projection mapping offers venues wide-spread creativity in using lighting in small or large environments, as was the case with Epson’s showstopping kinetic portal, which implemented projection mapping on a 360 degree vortex at the largest AV and systems integration show in the world – Integrated Systems Europe 2019. Driven by a new, affordable generation of projectors, mapping not only covers flat walls and traditional projections screens but also irregular shapes, objects, and even entire building façades.

When projecting on a larger scale, such as at events and music concerts, the process of visually combining several projectors to display one single seamless image might sound simple enough in principle but can prove to be a challenging task in reality. To overcome this challenge, experiential marketers are adopting the use of image edge blending, which refers to the process of stacking multiple projectors to create a single overlapped projection that appears continuous and clear.

It’s due to these advancements that displays in retail and events no longer pivot just on aesthetic appeal but can now deliver immersive consumer experiences that drive engagement and increase foot traffic. This is starting to drastically change the way that retailers, events and even restaurants host, engage, entertain and communicate with their audiences.

Projection is driving growth in experiential marketing

Consumer interest in the transition towards projection has seen this technology take centre stage at leading retailers such as Mall of Africa, events by brands such as ABSA and restaurants like Saint, transforming their environments into immersive spaces through projection that displays captivating imagery and video.

Saint restaurant in Sandton has pushed the boundaries of branding and displays, transforming all surfaces into a visual delight. Patrons entering the restaurant are greeted by a visual experience within a dome, featuring a series of moving, constantly changing artworks – such as a starry night sky or a replica of the Sistine Chapel – projected onto walls and the ceiling.

In fact, EventTrack research, which showcases the current state of marketing around the globe, highlights the continuous growth of event and experiential marketing. It notes that high-quality projection technology, more specifically its ability to emit stunning visual experiences, has grown in popularity to become the go-to tool for event organisers and retailers looking to captivate and engage with consumers.

The future of projection technology

Projection technology has proven to be an outstanding, much more cost-effective and reliable form of marketing collateral – setting an entirely new standard for high-resolution projection.

Sandton City recently embraced this market-leading technology with the installation of a virtual aquarium in its Centre Court. This installation centred on creating a 3D mapping concept that enabled shoppers to select an undersea creature from a touchpad to swim across digitised hoarding.

With capabilities to meet the demands of large-scale projection and the ability to effectively transform the way brands remain visible at shopping malls, restaurants and retail spaces – the unprecedented imaging power of projection technology has set a considerably high bar when it comes to retail and event displays. 

Epson, which is not only pioneering imaging technology and innovative projection solutions, is also the market leader when it comes to high lumen laser projection, having recently announced its 30,000 lumens laser projector (EB-L30000U) which will officially launch in 2020. This high-end installation laser projector, complete with 4K enhancement, is aimed at rental and staging companies, hospitality markets and visitor attractions, which is yet another progressive step towards transforming the way marketers engage with their consumers in the 21st century. 

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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