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i1/Z1 Rumors: Sony’s 20MP camera phone spotted in new leaked photos (Updated)

The Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, and the new Xperia Z Ultra have made Sony a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone arena, finally proving it has got what it takes to produce desirable smartphones without former partner Ericsson. Even with these three devices on its books for 2013, it’s not done for the year. Invitations are circulating for an event in September, where we may see another new Sony device.

So what has it got in store for us? If the rumors are correct, it could be a swish new camera phone named the Sony i1. Camera phones are familiar territory for Sony, as proven as far back as the early 2000s with the Sony Ericsson K800i, but this one has the potential to be really special. The device hasn’t been confirmed by Sony, so everything you read about it is rumor or speculation, but with that in mind, here’s what we think we know about the Sony i1.

Updated on 08/21/2013 by Andy: Added a new leaked picture showing three alternative colors, and a rumor that the phone could be known as the Sony Z1.

Updated on 08/23/2013 by Andy: Sony has started teasing its next smartphone release by publishing a few pictures on its Facebook page. We’ve added them in here. One seems to indicate the Z1 will be waterproof, while the other shows the trademark Sony power button.

Updated on 08/30/2013 by Andy: We’ve added a teaser video from Sony, more information on the camera, plus a selection of leaked pictures giving us our best look at the Xperia Z1 yet.

September 4 event

The only thing we know for certain is that Sony will be holding an event on Wednesday, September 4 at 4:15 in the afternoon, in its official booth at the IFA show in Berlin. The invitation tells us nothing more than that, but Sony did use this European consumer electronics show to reveal the Xperia T, Xperia V, and Xperia J smartphones last year, along with the Xperia S tablet.

Sony Z1 Teaser WaterCodename Honami

The Honami codename first started to appear online in April, when it was mentioned in an extensive leak alongside a device known as the Togari, which eventually became the Xperia Z Ultra. The early report claimed the phone would offer the very best Sony technology inside a single device, and that the Honami would rival the iPhone 5 and Xperia Z in design.

Sony i1, Z1, or maybe Xperia?

In mid-June, Svartling.net revealed plenty about the Honami, including that it would be known as the i1, but it’s not clear whether Sony will drop the Xperia name. It’s being linked with Sony’s “One Sony” business strategy announced in 2012, where the company identified digital imaging, gaming, and mobile as the three core aspects of its business. One Sony is primarily about internal alterations, but it could also be used to bring about branding changes, so a new, spin-off mobile brand is at least a possibility.

Two new leaks have suggested the Honami won’t be known as the Sony i1 after all, and that instead it’ll be the Sony Z1. This comes from a forum post on the XDA-developers website, and from a tweet by the editor of a French tech website. Again, there’s no news on whether the phone will be the Xperia Z1, or if the well-known brand name will be dropped.

Leaked Image Shows Multiple Colors

Chinese website ePrice has published an official-looking press-style picture of the Sony phone, referred to here are the i1. It’s as sleek as Sony’s other high-end smartphone and tablet releases this year, and could come in black, white, and a fetching purple. This all makes sense, as the Xperia Z is offered in exactly the same line-up of colors.

Sony Z1 Tease Power ButtonSnapdragon 800 processor

Qualcomm’s top-of-the-range mobile chip is fast becoming the one to have in your 2013 flagship device, and Sony has already fitted it into the Xperia Z Ultra. The earliest reports featuring the Honami have almost all included references to the quad-core Snapdragon 800, and speculated it will run at 2.3GHz and be supported by 2GB of RAM.

20-megapixel camera

Most sources agree the Sony i1 will be marketed as a high-end camera phone, but the megapixel count is still in question. A 20-megapixel sensor has been mentioned, but there’s a chance pictures at this resolution will be enhanced by a “Super Resolution” software process, meaning the camera may have a far lower pixel count. If this sounds familiar, it’s the same thinking behind HTC’s UltraPixel camera on the HTC One.

Other possible camera features include the ability to shoot 4K video (something made possible by the Snapdragon 800 processor), a burst mode, a visual search app similar to Nokia’s City Lens, and just like Nokia has also done with the Lumia 1020, the introduction of a camera-specific API, so developers can create software add-ons. A selection of filters and an app to add graphics to your pictures has also been seen.

Another rumor report says the camera will be 20-megapixels and will use Sony’s backside illuminated Exmor R sensor, along with image stabilization, plus an ISO range of between 50 and 12,800, and a F2.0 aperture, with manual control. Other possible features include a Xenon flash, a separate shutter release button, and a 2.2-megapixel front camera.

The source of the Sony i1 name also talks about the phone having interchangeable camera lenses, along with a new Cyber-Shot branded camera app. The latter sounds possible, but the former most unlikely.

Sony has confirmed through a teaser picture the Xperia Z1’s camera will wear G Lens branding, just like some of Sony’s high-end DSLR cameras. We’ve also seen there could be add-on lenses for the camera, which could turn the phone into a mini-DSLR, just without the bulk. Another possible feature of the Z1’s camera is the ability to record 4K resolution video, something which the Snapdragon 800 processor makes possible.

Xperia Z1 Leaked Pictures

5-inch or larger Full HD display

Again, like the camera’s megapixel count, the screen size is also up for debate. Some sources claim it will measure 5 inches, while others aren’t so sure, and say it will fall somewhere in-between the Xperia Z’s 5-inch screen and the Xperia Z Ultra’s 6.4 inches. One thing they all agree on is a 1080p pixel resolution. A leaked picture supposedly shows the phone sandwiched between the Z and the Z Ultra, and suggests the screen will measure around 5.3 or 5.5 inches.

Other features

As a waterproof chassis has become a Sony mobile device staple, expect it on the Honami too, along with dust protection, 4G LTE connectivity, NFC, and an Infrared blaster for TV remote functionality. A pair of stereo speakers powered by Sony’s S-Master MX amp, previously seen on Android Walkman models, has also been rumored. An unknown version of Android will be its operating system, plus Sony could introduce a newly updated user interface. Sony published two teaser pictures on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, one of which suggests the Z1 will be waterproof, just like the Xperia Z family.

We’d say we’ve got a relatively good idea of what the Sony i1 will be like, provided the rumors are correct, and we’ll keep you updated if anything else emerges between now and its announcement; after all, Sony has given us plenty of warning.

Article originally published on 07/15/2013.

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