It looked like Sony was sending a Wifi only version of their Xperia Z Ultra smartphone through the FCC as a tablet, and as it turns out they really were. Engadget reported yesterday that Sony has shipped a new version of the Xperia Z Ultra in Japan. It has no cellular connection, making it effectively an Android tablet with a 6.4" screen.
The new tablet otherwise looks to have the same specs as the phablet, and it will reportedly have a rather princely price tag: 52,000 yen (about $500). There's no word on the US release.
According to the press release the tablet version of the Xperia Z Ultra runs Android 4.2 on a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait 400 processor with 32GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, and an unknown amount of RAM. It has a 6.4" screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (slightly higher than the 2013 Nexus 7), and comes equipped with a pair of cameras (8MP rearcam and 2MP webcam), Bluetooth, LTE, and GPS.
The screen, high resolution cameras, and powerful CPU makes this a high-end tablet. Does it justify the price? Well, when you factor out the taxes that are collected in Japan (5%), maybe. In some ways this is a better tablet than the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 - or at least it would be if there were a Galaxy Note 7 tablet and not just the slightly smaller smartphones.
But never mind that; here's a kitten standing on an Xperia Z Ultra:
I've been wondering why Sony tried this crazy stunt ever since the Xperia Z Ultra cleared the FCC back in November. My best guess was that the phablet market wasn't as big as expected, but it wasn't until a couple days ago that I had data to back that up.
The latest estimates are showing that phablets aren't nearly as popular as you might expect. A recent report from Juniper research estimated that around 20 million phablets shipped in the year 2013.
That's actually a rather small number when compared to the global smartphone market, which was estimated to exceed 250 million units in the third quarter of 2013 alone. IDC estimated that the tablet market accounted for about 46 million units in that quarter.
When you look at the numbers, it's pretty clear why Sony decided to turn this phablet into a tablet. The non-phablet smartphone market is doing great, and the tablet market is coming along nicely, and if you put the 2 points together then you might conclude that people don't want phone functions on their 6" and larger mobile gadgets.
The only question I have now is whether anyone will follow Sony's lead. Would you care to take a guess?