* Xperia Z1 will be available as of September
* Smartphones key for Sony’s turnaround
* Smartphone segment is rapidly saturating
BERLIN, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Sony Corp. unveiled a new smartphone on Wednesday in its push to become the world’s third-biggest maker of smartphones after Samsung and Apple.
Sony’s Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai told a news conference in Berlin, where Europe’s largest consumer electronics trade show will open its doors this week, the Sony Xperia Z1 will be available in September.
“The Xperia Z1 embodies everything Sony has to offer,” said Hirai, who is under pressure from U.S. hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb to split up the company to revive its electronics business.
The new waterproof smartphone will come with a 5-inch display and have a 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera.
The company did not give a retail price nor say which carriers would offer the phone.
Hirai in 2012 identified mobile products, gaming and digital imaging as the core of a rebound in consumer electronics after more than a decade of decline for the pioneer of personal music players and compact discs. It had a record loss of $5.74 billion in the 2011/12 fiscal year.
Of those three priorities, mobile has since emerged as the best near-term hope for Sony although it has a long way to go.
According to research firm Gartner Sony didn’t place among the top five smartphones makers in the second quarter of this year. Overall Sony was the ninth-biggest mobile handset maker with a 2.2 percent market share, up from 1.7 percent in the previous year.
Sony’s problems are similar to those of Nokia which is still the world’s second-largest in overall phones, but it struggles to sell the high-margin smartphones.
Two years after hitching its fate to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, the Finnish phone maker that once dominated the global market collapsed into the arms of the U.S. software giant, its mobile business ravaged by nimbler rivals Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.
Sony’s goal is to fend off challenges from China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp and Korea’s LG Electronics to secure the No. 3 slot in the global smartphone market, behind Samsung and Apple which between them account for about half of all smartphones sold, according to Gartner data.
Samsung on Wednesday unveiled a smartwatch and the latest version of the Galaxy Note phone-cum-tab, while Apple has sent official invitations to a Sept. 10 event at which it is expected to unveil the latest version of the iPhone, possibly in colors other than its trademark black and white.
Sony has forecast smartphone sales to rise more than 20 percent to 42 million in the year to next March.
Research firm IDC expects industry-wide smartphone shipments to grow 32.7% in 2013, reaching 958.8 million units, up from 722.5 million units last year and marking the first year that smartphone shipments surpass those of feature phones.
Sony also took the wraps off two smartphone lenses which can also be used on most other smartphones via an adapter.
The lenses will have a 18.2 megapixel and 20.2 megapixel sensor respectively.