Despite a strong start to the year with the launch of the Xperia S and Xperia Ion at CES 2012, the newly formed Sony Mobile didn’t make such a splash at Mobile World Congress, as it only announced the solid but not all that exciting Xperia U and Xperia P.

Quite why Sony didn’t make it a trio of new Xperia phones is a mystery, as now, just a few weeks after MWC, the company has made the Xperia Sola official, a device previously spotted under the codename Pepper.

The phone continues the angular, monolithic design seen on all its new Xperia phones, but replaces the light-strip with a subtler version just below the screen. It measures a slim 9.9mm thick and weighs-in at a mere 107 grams.

A 3.7-inch Reality Display Bravia touchscreen with an 854 x 480 pixel resolution dominates the front panel, while around the rear sits a 5-megapixel camera complete with auto-focus and video light.

Like the Xperia U and Xperia P, the Xperia Sola uses ST-Ericsson’s 1Ghz NovaThor processor, a change which sees the company shunning Qualcomm’s chips on its mid-range devices. Rumors have linked Sony with Qualcomm’s more powerful processors on upper-range smartphones coming in the future though.

Floating touch and NFC

There are two features which make the Sola standout. The first is something called “floating touch,” which like the mobile equivalent of “hover hand,” only requires a finger to hover over the screen to navigate around, then a light tap at the last minute to make a selection. It sounds like an interesting way to cut down on fingerprints, provided it doesn’t result in endless accidental menu or option selections.

The second is the addition of NFC connectivity, plus a couple of Sony’s Xperia NFC SmartTags inside the box. These tags can be placed almost anywhere, and quickly change features or profiles on your phone when it is tapped against one. Sony’s promo video for the Sola shows them being used to prompt Wi-Fi activation, wireless sharing or to turn on the GPS in the car.

Other features include GPS, DLNA, Bluetooth, a 1320mAh battery and 8GB of internal memory. Sadly, the Xperia Sola has Android 2.3 Gingerbread installed from the factory, but Sony do say an Ice Cream Sandwich update will be coming during the summer months.

The Xperia Sola will be launching around the world sometime between the end of this month and the end of June, when it’ll be available in black, white or red. Pricing has yet to be confirmed.