Bonnie Cha

Recent Posts by Bonnie Cha

Sony Xperia Z Ultra Phablet Ditches the Stylus, Works With Pen or Pencil

The Sony Xperia Z has yet to hit the U.S., but there’s already a bigger, more powerful smartphone on the way.

Today at the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai, Sony introduced the Xperia Z Ultra. Designed to be an entertainment and business device, the Android Jelly Bean 4.2-based phablet features a 6.4-inch, full HD touchscreen and is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor.


As companies are wont to do, Sony is throwing a bunch of superlatives at the smartphone. It’s the “world’s slimmest full HD smartphone,” has the “world’s largest full HD display” and the “world’s fastest smartphone processor,” boasts Sony, but I tend to ignore such claims. That said, there are a couple of things that make this smartphone interesting.

First, you can use a pencil or a ballpoint pen (with a tip more than 1mm in diameter) to take notes or draw sketches right on the screen. With other smartphones and tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note II, you have to use a capacitive stylus to achieve the same effect.

What makes the Xperia Z Ultra’s screen different?

Sony told me that the display has a special type of coating (“Super Hard Coat ASF,” if you’re curious) that allows it to work with pencils and pens, and helps protect it from scratches and other marks. I’ve asked for more details about this feature, but have yet to hear back.

One other thing to note about the Xperia Z Ultra’s 6.4-inch, 1,920 by 1,080 pixel display is that it borrows technology called Triluminos, found in Sony’s TVs. Without getting too technical, Triluminos uses a different kind of backlight technology to display truer colors and more texture compared to standard LED backlighting, so you should enjoy richer, sharper images.

Graphics performance should also get a boost, thanks to the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor. First introduced at CES 2013, the quad-core chipset brings HD voice support for better call quality, advanced voice-command activation and more.

Other features of the Xperia Z Ultra include an eight-megapixel camera on back, 16 gigabytes of internal memory with a microSD expansion slot and 4G LTE support. Like the Xperia Z smartphone and tablet, the phablet is water-resistant in up to five feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.

The Xperia Z Ultra is expected to launch globally in Q3, but no specifics were announced today, including U.S. availability — a market where Sony has struggled to make a name for itself in the phone business.

In addition to the Xperia Z Ultra, Sony also announced its next-generation Smartwatch today. You can find more details about it in Lauren Goode’s report here.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik