The smartphone market is indeed a competitive one, with many manufacturers jostling to take a sizeable bite of the huge and profitable pie. The availability of different user interfaces like the iOS, Windows Phone 7, RIM BlackBerry and Android is a double-edged sword that adds that extra level of complexity when it comes to creating the phone consumers want.
Take the Android platform for example. As we all know, the open-source UI (check out our Google Android 2.3 guide here) allows different manufacturers to leverage on its platform without compromising their own individual style in terms of design, hardware and software. But that's where it gets a little tricky here - with increasing numbers of manufacturers adopting the Google Android UI, the question here is: which is the Android smartphone for you? Admittedly, the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray is not made for everyone, but it abides by a driven set of concept and design principles.
The Xperia ray starts off with targeting a niche crowd:
As such, there were three major aspects that the team had to contend with for the ray to be taken seriously as a bridging product between feature phones and smartphones, which is to balance superior electronic performance with design and miniaturization.
It is important to note that the Xperia ray sports the same reality display with the Mobile BRAVIA Engine, a black glass front and an 8.1-megapixel Exmor R camera that the high-end Xperia arc comes with. At the same time, the phone is much smaller, showcasing a thin 3.3-inch touchscreen and a body that only weighs 100g and measures 9.4mm in thickness. The concept behind the Xperia ray explains the reason why Sony Ericsson has decided to downsize its screen when everyone else is rushing to push forward smartphones with bigger screens.
Shigeaki Suzuki, Design Manager, Industrial design, elaborated further about the Xperia ray's "human-centric" design. Past Xperia phones like the arc is known for its curved body, and a similar concept is explored on the ray. There's an inclined "line" that sits on each side of the phone, divided by a top that's made out of metal and a back cover made out of plastic. The inclined lines represent a ray of light and is one of two reasons for its name. The other reason? "Kirei" in Japanese stands for beautiful or pretty, and as such, the team felt that it was a suitable name for the Xperia ray.
The Xperia ray is available in four shades: black, white, gold and pink. Linda Lissola, Color and Material Senior Designer explained that these colors catered to users with different preferences. The black is the collection's signature color, and the only one of the gang to come with a matte cover which not only emphasized on the premium metal portion of the phone but also creates a certain "softness" about it. The rest of the colors come with high gloss covers, with white being the neutral and discreet color; gold adding a touch of sophistication and pink for the young and energetic.
To keep phones small and compact isn't an easy task when you are looking to cram in top-end specifications. The ray, as seen below beside the arc, is 31% smaller in volume and has a PBA (Printed Board Assembly) that is 20% smaller in area compared to the arc, despite sharing similar high-end features. The ray's screen is also 25% higher in brightness than the arc's. All in all, the engineers had to work at optimizing the component layout in the phone based on ID sketch, with particular attention paid to its width since the phone is intended for easy one-hand usage.
As mentioned in our preview article, the Sony Ericsson Xperia ray is slated for a Q3 launch in Asia Pacific, including Singapore, in four colors: black, gold, white and pink, local pricing is yet to be available at the point of writing. The Japanese market will get it slightly earlier with official sales starting from 27th August onwards, priced at ¥37,000 (approx. S$582.657) with a 2-year contract. Pre-sale orders for the smartphone at Docomo (black is not available in Japan) has already started from the 12th of August.