January 22, 2013, 2:23 AM — NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile operator in Japan, will offer Sony's new flagship smartphone and ultrathin tablet as part of its Spring lineup, as it attempts to hold off rivals riding the success of their Apple offerings.
The operator said Tuesday that Sony's Xperia Z Android smartphone will have a tentative launch date of Feb. 9, while Sony's Xperia Tablet Z will go on sale from mid-March. Both will run on DoCoMo's high speed LTE network and have domestic features including compatibility with Japan's touch-card payment system and One-Seg TV broadcasts for mobile phones.
Japan's total mobile contracts currently outnumber its population, and a system that allows users to easily keep their phone numbers when they switch carriers has increased competition. DoCoMo is the only of the country's big three carriers that doesn't offer Apple products, and has seen its market share gradually decline in recent years - in 2012, it lost about 2 percent to rivals.
Sony has set a goal of becoming the world's number three mobile phone company after leaders Samsung and Apple. The Japanese electronics is fresh out of acquiring all of Sony Ericsson and turning it into a subsidiary, then relocating its headquarters near Sony's in central Tokyo.
Sony announced its long-rumored Tablet Z on Monday, which it is billing as the world's thinnest tablet at 6.9 millimeters and lighter than rival offerings from Apple, Google and Samsung. The tablet also has a quad-core 1.5GHz processor and a 10.1-inch screen with 1920-by-1200 resolution.
The tablet will compete with the ever-growing army of low-cost Android competitors, led by Amazon's Fire series. On Tuesday, DoCoMo announced its own lower end tablet, the "dtab," meant for browsing and shopping on wireless home networks.
The dtab is meant to be part of a new home network strategy from DoCoMo called "Smart Home," that allows households to freely share music and video content between devices. DoCoMo has also released a wireless adaptor that can plug into TVs and allow viewing of movies and Internet content downloaded through mobile phones on its network.
The Xperia Z smartphone, which Sony first showed at CES, has a 5-inch HD 1080p display, a 13-megapixel camera, and is both water and dust resistant.
DoCoMo also announced a host of smartphones from domestic manufacturers including Sharp, NEC and Fujitsu, as well as models from Huawei and LG.