Sony's latest smartphone uses gestures to browse

What users can control on their phone will be limited at first, but more features are on the way

Sony Mobile Communications has announced the Android-based Xperia sola, which allows users to interact with the phone without touching the screen.

The phone's capacitive touchscreen lets the device register a user's finger up to 20 millimeters above the screen, opening up new ways of interaction, according to Sony.

At first, the technology will be integrated with the phone's built-in Web browser. Users can move their fingers over browser links to highlight them. But to open them, users still have to click on the screen.

"Floating touch," which is what Sony calls the technology, will evolve to include new user functionality and applications through software updates. Sony is also hoping developers will start using the technology in their applications and will have more details on how that will work in the future, according to a blog post.

With the success of gesture recognition on gaming consoles it isn't a surprise that the technology is being added to smartphones, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC. Just like 3D screens, it may not add that much to the user experience, but vendors like Sony need something to differentiate their phones from the competition, he said.

A 1GHz dual-core processor from ST-Ericsson powers the Xperia sola, which has a 3.7-inch screen with 854-by-480 pixel resolution. It also has NFC, a 5-megapixel camera, 8GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for adding more storage capacity.

The Xperia sola will ship in the second quarter with Android 2.3, but users will be able to upgrade to version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The upgrade is also expected to arrive in the second quarter, according to Sony. Pricing for the smartphone was not provided.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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