For years, Sony's smartphones have been competent but uninspired. Maybe product placement in Spectre, the Bond flick whose script was recently leaked, can help? At the very least, these product-placement pitches, sent from Sony's electronics team to its movie studio, show that Sony could be fancying up its flagship smartphone for Hollywood and beyond.
The new design concepts were buried in the leaked inbox of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) CEO Michael Lynton as part of a broader Spectre product-placement pitch. In the email to Lynton, George Leon, Sony's executive vice president of consumer marketing, included both the preliminary designs and the hefty placement fees SPE could potentially collect. Shots of Daniel Craig using the phone alone command a $US5 million fee for the star, according to Leon's email.
Leon's email is an excellent primer on the product-placement economy ("SAM/DANIEL" presumably refers to director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig; "Barbara" is probably Bond series producer Barbara Broccoli):
Sony Electronics is now combing the production request list and will shortly tell us what they can provide. Sony MOBILE has now provided us with the needed visuals of the new Z4 Phones. These phones are the planned phones for MAY/NOVEMBER of 2015. I'm attaching the visual for you to see.
Barbara has it and will be meeting with SAM/DANIEL shortly to discuss and to come back with their design for the phone. Mobile is fine and is waiting to hear from us.
Barbara wants to get a PLACEMENT FEE for putting the phone in. She understands that Sony is willing to commit to a marketing/advertising campaign of 18MM, but she wants an additional placement fee. In the past, Sony Electronics/Mobile has not paid a fee…but has paid the following:
• $US18MM Above-the-Line Advertising commitment
• $US 5MM Production Budget/Cost including TV, Print, Digital, etc.
• $US 5MM Daniel Craig FEE
• $US 1MM Licence Fee to EON for a limited edition Bone phone (which by the way…
Sony Mobile never recouped, but paid)
Today…Sony Electronics has so far budgeted the following:
• $US18MM ATL Advertising commitment
• $US 5MM Daniel Craig FEE
• $US 5MM Production Budget
What if we take the Daniel Craig fee and convince Sony just to pay Barbara directly 4MM for a placement fee. NO Daniel this time. We walk from him. The remaining 1MM (or LESS!) of this budget can be used to hire "Q" instead? Her fee would have to include the right for Sony to use the 007 marks including the barrel, but no Daniel.
Sony phones have a history of being a little bland and boring; one running joke of the leaked emails is SPE co-chair Amy Pascal's apparent preference for her iPhone over her Sony Xperia Z2. So it's interesting, and not totally surprising, that the Z4's pitch comes with an expectation that Mendes would potentially want to gussy things up a bit.
He may not have to do much, though. Judging from the concept designs, Sony seems to be emphasising a futuristic aesthetic that, until now, we've yet to see from Sony's major consumer products.
While these do seem to be just concepts at this point, Sony's mobile division is evidently confident enough in the design to send it off for potential movie consideration. And if these designs are even close to the look of the final product, the Z4 is taking on a notably futuristic bent. It seems, though, like there are a few different designs Sony's considering at the moment.
The glassy concept you see below isn't quite the same phone as what's above; it lacks that bizarre semi-cushioned back, which looks to be the main differentiator between this phone and its predecessor.
What seems to be the phone's resting display also has a futuristic feel. It looks as though one concept for the Z4's new lock screen is that it would adjust to the colour of your (metal!) phone, with a fancy new clock format to boot:
The PDF file that rounded up the various concepts being pitched for inclusion in Spectre also showed images of some sort of wearable device. Sony's had a few genuinely awful attempts at dipping its toes in the smartwatch game before, but this time it looks as if the company has decided to start from scratch.
The band does seem more activity tracker than smart assistant at this point, but anything could happen between now and the products' actual release. Same goes for the Z4. But according to what we're seeing from these mockups, Sony's at least on the right rack.
It's about time, too. If Sony wants to claim any space of its own in the U.S. smartphone market, it needs to start catching some eyes. And shoving a brand new flagship — one unlike anything we've seen before — in the faces of millions of moviegoers worldwide could just be the statement Sony needs to save some face of its own.