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Sony and Huawei raise the bar with new smartphones

The Huawei Nova Plus sports a 5.5-inch screen and a bigger battery, and comes with a Snapdragon 625 processor, 32GB onboard storage. The Sony Xperia XZ combines both of Sony's Xperia X and Z lines into one new phone. One upgrade over the Xperia X is
The Sony Xperia XZ combines both of Sony's Xperia X and Z lines into one new phone. One upgrade over the Xperia X is its camera, which now comes with three different sensors. Test shots revealed a smoother, faster autofocus reaction time with pictures turning out clear and sharp.PHOTO: REUTERS
The Huawei Nova Plus sports a 5.5-inch screen and a bigger battery, and comes with a Snapdragon 625 processor, 32GB onboard storage. The Sony Xperia XZ combines both of Sony's Xperia X and Z lines into one new phone. One upgrade over the Xperia X is
The Huawei Nova Plus sports a 5.5-inch screen and a bigger battery, and comes with a Snapdragon 625 processor, 32GB onboard storage.PHOTO: HUAWEI

The new iPhone 7 is expected to be announced today, but that did not stop other phone manufacturers from revealing their wares during IFA last week.

Sony announced a surprise flagship during the show - the Xperia XZ, despite having released its previous flagship series, the Xperia X, only six months ago.

As its name suggests, it combines both of Sony's Xperia X and Z lines into one new phone. It retains the Xperia's now-iconic candybar design, but has a more pronounced curved feel to it so that the entire phone surface feels like one whole seamless piece.

Functionally, its insides are identical to the Xperia X, with both phones sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip and 3GB RAM.

One upgrade the Xperia XZ has is its camera, which now comes with three different sensors. Its 23-megapixel sensor is complemented with a laser autofocus sensor for speedier autofocus, and a red, green, blue, clear and infrared (RGBC-IR) sensor that provides more accurate white balance.

Quick test shots at Sony's booth confirm that the Xperia XZ has a smoother, faster autofocus reaction time compared with the Xperia X, with pictures turning out clear and sharp.

The Xperia X series also saw the addition of the Xperia X Compact, a smaller, 4.6-inch version of the regular Xperia X. It is the same phone, just smaller, which has its fans even in today's age of larger phones for increased media consumption.

The Nova Plus feels more polished and premium, with a brushed aluminium body that is expected of higher-end phones today. Its 16 megapixel camera comes with anti-shake image optimisation, which makes for decent shots, while walking, for instance.

Sony has yet to release details on local pricing or a launch date for both phones, but projects a launch next month.

Chinese manufacturer Huawei also launched two new phones under the new Nova line, which is aimed at bridging its mid-range Honor line and its premium Mate and P9 phone lines.

The Nova is the base model in the series, with a 5-inch full-HD screen. The Nova Plus is the bigger brother, sporting a 5.5-inch screen and a bigger battery.

The form factor differs slightly between the two, but both phones have the same internals - a Snapdragon 625 processor, 32GB onboard storage and 3GB RAM.

The Nova has a 12-megapixel camera reminiscent of the Nexus 6P phone, which was also manufactured by Huawei, but the Nova's is flush with the back of the phone rather than protruding.

It feels very much like an old-school iPod Touch - thin, slim and light.

The Nova Plus feels more polished and premium, with a brushed aluminium body that is expected of higher-end phones today.

Its 16-megapixel camera comes with anti-shake image optimisation, which makes for decent shots, while walking, for instance. It's useful for the times you want to grab a shot of something while walking down the street but don't want to stop in the middle and obstruct the way for people behind you.

Local availability and pricing are not out yet but the Nova is priced at €399 (S$600) and the Plus at €499.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Sony and Huawei raise the bar with new smartphones'. Print Edition | Subscribe