First came the Samsung Galaxy S4 “Google Edition.” Then last week brought news of the HTC One “with Nexus user experience.” In the past couple of days, rumors have been circulating that Sony will join the “Google Edition” club and release a vanilla Android phone of its own, with Romanian site AndroidGeeks breaking the story. Today we can confirm through our own sources that the Japanese manufacturer is indeed preparing a “Google Edition” of its flagship Xperia Z handset.
The “Google Edition” Sony Xperia Z should be sold in the U.S. through the Google Play Store later in the year, just like the two other Google Edition handsets. Being a “Nexus user experience” phone it’s very likely this new Xperia Z will benefit from speedier system updates, though we weren’t able to specifically confirm this point. (Nor could we nail down any details on possible international availability — though we’re not holding our breath.)
The Xperia Z is Sony’s leading international handset, and it comes with an impressive spec sheet. There’s a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, microSD expandability, a 13-megapixel Sony Exmor RS rear camera and IP57-rated water and dust-resistance credentials. Like all modern Sony phones the Xperia Z features on-screen keys, which makes it an ideal candidate for Googlification. (By comparison, the Galaxy S4 and HTC One have their own unique physical/capacitive button setups that stray a little further from the Android design guidelines.)
It’s unclear which software capabilities from the Sony Xperia Z will be making their way over to Google version. For instance, Sony’s own firmware includes features such as the mobile Bravia Engine, which reduces noise and boosts contrast in photos and video. And the manufacturer’s camera software incorporates an impressive “Superior Auto” shooting mode that’ll probably be absent from the barebones Android camera app in the Google variant.
Historically, Sony has been a strong supporter of the Android Open Source Project, sharing code back to the open-source repository and even releasing AOSP-based software for certain devices, including the Xperia Z. The release of a “Google Edition” Xperia Z seems a natural next step for the Japanese manufacturer, considering rivals Samsung and HTC are already getting in on the vanilla Android action.
So we’re now looking at at least three “Nexus user experience” versions of popular Android phones this summer. On the consumer side, a Xperia Z “Google Edition” means more choice for those wanting to pick up a vanilla Android phone direct from Google. For Sony, it’s another opportunity to actually sell some phones in the United States. Neither the Xperia Z nor its smaller cousin the Xperia ZL are sold on U.S. carriers at present — though the ZL is available to buy outright through the Sony online store, and the Z is rumored to be headed to T-Mobile. Working on a shared device would also strengthen the partnership between Google and Sony.