Sony Xperia SP announced, we go hands-on (video)

While Sony's Xperia Z tablet and smartphone occupy its high-end Android selection, it's now the turn of the middleweights. Say hello to the Xperia SP, a 4.6-inch phone that ties together the some of the features (and design cues) from both the S and P models of 2012 -- yep, it's all in the name. Alongside a 720p screen with Sony's Bravia Mobile Engine 2, there's an 8-megapixel Exmor RS sensor on the back, NFC, LTE and a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon MSM8960 Pro processor. That's all built into a classy aluminum frame that's just shy of 10mm thick and weighs 5.5 ounces. The phone marks the return of Sony's see-through strip, but with a slightly more advanced (and customizable) notification light built into it. We managed to spend a bit of time with the device last month, so please hop past the break for some more impressions and our hands-on video. %Gallery-183056%

The standout feature for us was the return of the notification light, which can now do a little bit more in this new aluminum frame. When you're playing music content, not only will the lighting (roughly) match the album artwork, but it'll pulse in time to the music, like an off-screen equalizer graphic. On the Xperia, SP, you can also program different notifications for different callers, red alert for the boss, gentler hues for the family, etc, and as the notification light is now contained within that transparent bar, you'll get a good idea of that caller without the need to check the screen.

As you'll be able to tell in our video, all three colors (red, black and white) are easy on the eye and layered on an aluminum body, remind us of Sony's existing point-and-shoot cameras. While the Xperia SP is perhaps not as eye-catching as the Xperia Z, the smooth unibody has a charm that's all its own -- and this model comes with a physical camera button, if that was a deal-breaker on the 5-inch flagship.

Software-wise, the phone is running Android 4.1.2 with that familiar Xperia seasoning, including plenty of the new additions seen in the Xperia Z. The camera app includes the new auto+ setting, which will toggle HDR and other settings to improve your images, depending on the lighting environment. Oddly, the phone isn't able to capture HDR video, even though the lesser specced Xperia L can -- apparently this is due to the way Sony is marketing the two phones, but we still can't quite fathom why it isn't including the video option. However, the SP model picks up some features from even earlier models, with the same screen technology as the Xperia Sola allowing you to navigate around the phone in gloves. The device will be landing in Asia and Europe in Q2 of this year, but there's no plans yet for a release on US shores.

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Sony Mobile adds two new Xperia smartphones to its Spring line up, bringing best of Sony experiences to a broader device range

Two new models added to the Xperia™ range of premium smartphones with Xperia™ SP and Xperia™ L offering unique Sony features at new price points
Xperia SP offers a high quality HD experience, LTE 4G and easy connectivity with One-touch function in a beautiful cutting-edge design
· Xperia L provides a stylish design with best in class Sony camera experience for perfect pictures and videos every time

18th March 2013, London, United Kingdom – Sony Mobile Communications ("Sony Mobile") today announced two new Xperia smartphone models to join its 2013 line up - the Xperia SP and Xperia L. The Xperia SP delivers 4G LTE performance and an exceptional viewing experience, with a razor sharp HD screen housed in a beautiful design. The Xperia L provides class leading camera technology with HDR for both photos and videos complemented by a high quality screen.

Both the Xperia SP and Xperia L offer the best of Sony with stunning premium designs and a range of technologies including a high quality screen for the ultimate viewing experience; the latest camera features for impressive pictures and videos; NFC connectivity for One-touch function; Battery STAMINA Mode for extended battery life; and Sony's signature media apps for enjoying photos, music, movies and games on the go.

"Xperia SP and Xperia L are ideally suited for those seeking stylish class-leading smartphones that don't compromise on features", said Calum MacDougall, Director of Xperia Marketing at Sony Mobile Communications. "Both of our new models benefit from Sony's proven innovation and engineering expertise – whether you want to enjoy premium HD quality entertainment over 4G LTE on our mid-range Xperia SP or capture every moment in perfect detail with our more affordable Xperia L."

Xperia SP – High Definition brilliance in a premium design
The Xperia SP utilises expertise from Sony's BRAVIA® TV engineers to create its stunning 4.6" HD Reality Display for razor sharp pictures and superior brightness. The latest Mobile BRAVIA® Engine 2 delivers an even better viewing experience by analysing your content type and adjusting the image automatically, making it one of the most intelligent smartphone screens around. The engine will make the adjustment by adding new real-time contrast optimisation to the sharpness enhancement, high-quality colour management and noise reduction.

As well as delivering brilliant experiences, the Xperia SP looks beautiful too with a precision-crafted co-moulded aluminium frame, for a seamless look that is both sleek and solid. Adding to the unique design innovation is the colour-changing 'transparent element' with customisable illuminations which you can personalise to alert you of incoming calls and text messages. And you can even set the illuminations to pulse to the beat of your favourite music.

Key features for Xperia SP

· Precision crafted co-moulded aluminium frame

· Super-bright 4.6" 720p HD Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine 2

· One-touch functions with NFC to display content on your TV or to share music and photos between devices

· 4G LTE for superfast entertainment and browsing

· Unique 'transparent element' can be personalised to change colour when notifying you of all your incoming messages and calls. Or simply set it to pulse to the beat of your music to stand out from the crowd.

· 8MP fast-capture camera with "Exmor RS for mobile", HDR and Superior Auto for the best photos, even at night or against a strong backlight

· Battery STAMINA Mode for optimum battery life

· Available in white, red and black colour variations

Xperia L – the perfect smartphone camera experience

The stylish and functional Xperia L features an 8 megapixel camera with Sony's unique "Exmor RS for mobile" sensor technology for vivid colours and stunning clarity. HDR (High Dynamic Range) ensures that both your photos and videos are captured clearly, even at night or against a strong backlight. And with the dedicated camera key that goes from sleep to snap in just over a second even from a locked screen, this fast-capture camera will ensure that you'll never miss another moment. Get the most out of your viewing experience with the high quality 4.3" FWVGA screen that is ideally suited to enjoy all of your content.

Key features for Xperia L

· 8 megapixel fast-capture camera takes sharp pictures in any light
· Enjoy all your content on the generous 4.3" FWVGA display
· One-touch functions with NFC to display content on your TV or to share music and photos between devices

· Fast performance with dual-core processor
· Battery STAMINA Mode for optimum battery life

· Available in white, red and black colour variations

Sony entertainment on the go
Both Xperia SP and Xperia L benefit from Sony's media applications offering a consistent entertainment experience across the range. The "WALKMAN", "Album" and "Movies" apps, provide online and offline content through a single access point with new ways to enjoy and share that content. The "WALKMAN" application provides access to all your downloaded music, plus Music Unlimted* with over 18 million songs to explore from, and Facebook social integration. The "Movies" application gives consumers access to over 100,000 movies and TV series from Video Unlimited* while the "Album" application enables easy access to Facebook friends' photos as well as browsing photos by location.

One-touch functions for easy content sharing
Also featured on both models are Sony's One-touch functions, allowing you to easily and instantly enjoy music and photos across an array of devices, such as Sony's SRS-BTV5 speaker and latest range of NFC-enabled BRAVIA TVs, with just a single touch. It's sharing made easy with no wires, cables, or fiddling with settings necessary.

The new Xperia SP and Xperia L from Sony Mobile will both be available worldwide from Q2 2013.