Sony shows off next-gen Xperia phones and a smart earpiece at MWC

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Sony announced new Xperia phones and some smart accessories in Barcelona(Credit: David Nield/Gizmag)

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Sony announced some new hardware at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today. Gizmag managed to snatch a first look at the new Xperia X smartphone range, the Xperia Earpiece and three more concept devices covering home security, wearables and projection.

The Xperia X phones (there's a high-end X Performance model, a mid-range standard X device, and a more budget-friendly XA edition) are a step down from the Xperia Z5 range, but retain the same familiar Sony stylings.

The X Performance offers a 5-inch 1080p display, a 23 MP rear camera, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 3 GB of RAM and a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage. The standard X drops the CPU down to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chip but, other than being waterproof, the main specs are the same as its faster sibling.

Both of these smartphones come with something Sony is calling Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, which is reported capable of judging where a moving object is going to be after it's selected, so that action shots come out "in perfect focus, free from blur."

Opt for the Xperia XA and you get a 5-inch edge-to-edge 720p screen, a 13 MP rear camera, a slower MediaTek MT6755 processor and 2 GB of RAM. All three phones include microSD support so you can add up to 200 GB of extra storage. There are no prices yet, with the handsets due to go on sale in the (northern) summer.

Perhaps more interesting are the Xperia accessories (something of a running theme so far at MWC). The Xperia Ear is a smart miniature Bluetooth or NFC-connected earpiece that acts as a hands-free, voice assistant in your ear – think a next-gen Moto Hint or perhaps an Amazon Echo that fits in your ear.

Thanks to an embedded microphone you can ask questions like "what is the weather?" as well as get updates on texts, upcoming calendar appointments and even turn-by-turn directions, which should prove helpful when you're cycling or out walking. It works via an app running on an Xperia phone and, again, pricing is to be confirmed.

We were impressed with the Xperia Ear during the five minutes we spent with it on the MWC show floor. Audio was clear and clean, it fitted comfortably, and voice commands brought a swift response. There are plenty of situations where you don't want to be glued to your smartphone screen and perhaps a smart earpiece will ultimately prove a better idea than a smartwatch for tackling this particular modern-day problem.

The Xperia Ear works with Android phones, not iOS, courtesy of an Xperia companion app.

We also had a quick look at the standard Xperia X. Sony's usual fine craftsmanship was on display again, with build and screen quality impressive, but in terms of premium feel, it's just a notch below the likes of the Xperia Z5 or the Samsung Galaxy S7. Nevertheless, both the software and camera performance was speedy and slick, with no noticeable lag or stutter.

Finally, Sony had three concepts to share that it hopes to bring to market in the future. Xperia Agent is a voice-controlled smart home assistant that again is reminiscent of Amazon's Echo – it can welcome you home and turn on the lights, for example. The Xperia Projector, meanwhile, can throw photos, movies and phone notifications on any flat surface, allowing you to interact with it via voice commands or touches on the surface itself.

And then there's the Xperia Eye, a wide-angle lens camera that can capture 360-degree images and respond to voice commands. Like Samsung and LG, Sony is busy developing smartphone add-ons to help us do more outside of our phones – and maybe kickstart some extra handset sales at the same time.

Gizmag will be at MWC all week bringing you news and hands-on photos from the biggest mobile event of the year.

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