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Sony Nabs Verizon As Partner, Xperia Z2 First Exclusive

With its very light and waterproof design, the Sony Xperia Z2 is one of the best iPad Air alternatives, but most people don't know it exists. Verizon hopes to change that by offering an exclusive version of the tablet with 4G LTE for $599 off-contract ($499 for a limited time with a two-year agreement). The slick slate is available for preorder beginning July 10, but that's not the really big news here.

Verizon will also start selling the Sony SmartWatch 2, Bluetooth speakers and a wide range of other Sony accessories. This new strategic partnership should help bolster Sony's mobile brand, which has never taken off in the U.S., and possibly provide Verizon some leverage against the Apple-Samsung duopoly.

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Although, when asked, Verizon reps didn't make any promises, this alliance could lead to Sony smartphones penetrating Big Red's lineup again. The ill-fated Sony Ericsson Xperia Play was Verizon's last handset of note, way back in 2011. (T-Mobile seemed cozy with Sony for a while, but it hasn't picked up anything since the Xperia Z1s phone in January.)

The Xperia Z2 tablet stood out in our review because of its superslim body, long battery life and vibrant 10-inch Triluminos display. We're not fans of the annoying port covers, but they're required for waterproofing.

To help you get the most out of the Z2's sweet screen, Verizon will bundle six movies and an early-access pass to "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" when it becomes available for download. Those who purchase the tablet will also get 90 days of free music streaming via Sony Music Unlimited. Plus, Verizon will throw in the $50 MDR-NC31EM noise-cancelling headset free for preorder customers.

Verizon is rolling out seven Sony accessories to start, with more on the way. The first wave includes a cover stand and magnetic charging dock for the Xperia Z2, as well as a portable Bluetooth speaker and another Bluetooth speaker with a magnetic charging pad built in. Other options will include the SmartWatch 2, the SmartBand fitness tracker and a portable power supply. Many of these accessories use NFC for pairing with your phone or tablet.

It's clear that Sony's new relationship with Verizon is very important, but it remains to be seen whether it will resonate with fickle mobile shoppers who have moved on to other brands.