I get nostalgic every time I remember Sony Ericsson’s first Xperia, the X1. Can any of you remember that insanely great machine? In short, that device made Windows Mobile look good. At times when Windows Mobile was on decline and smartphone manufacturers were still stuck on just doing the typical and dead “Today screen”, Sony Ericsson was different. When it came to hardware, I still share Brandon’s first word when he unboxed it in 2008: “Wow”. When it came to software, the animated panels that made it unique are still one of the most intuitive user interfaces I’ve ever used. There’s no denying that Sony Ericsson’s first smartphone, was a great smartphone.
Push the calendar to just four years later, and tell me what we have? Sony dropping a name to just Sony, with headquarters moving back to Japan after killing the once glorious Ericsson brand I bet you had never even seen alone on an analogue phone of 1998, and sadly, struggling. Aside from the numerous layoffs, and the ever-changing leadership, you’d wonder if these guys still remember what made them such a popular brand in the world of mobile.
After reviewing the Xperia S just recently, I’ll admit that my final thoughts were of having used a good phone that had all the potential of being great, but just wasn’t. The hardware was amazing, the screen is still one of the best I’ve used, but it just seemed like if the Sony engineering team worked in separate committees that had never met each other before the phone was shipped. The camera team and the LCD team were far ahead of their time, but then the team in-charge of processor and software were a full year behind. As I introduced the phone in my review, the device was just a mixed bag of old and new.
As we were covering yesterday’s news about Sony’s new smartphone line-up, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed one more time. Not only have they run out of letters on the alphabet to name their devices, but also they are still releasing products that just catch-up. Android has the beauty of allowing each OEM to be unique in their expression of what a user interface should be, and Sony seems to not care in settling for looking like the rest of the gang.
Sony needs to change. Whether they go back to their roots or plant new ones, but they seriously need to do some dramatic changes in their smartphone line-up if they want to leave the field of irrelevance. Here are a couple of thoughts of what I feel they should change:
Ditch the stupid Xperia letters
I’d love for somebody at Sony to start by giving me a solid explanation of what the T stands for in the Xperia T? Does it mean that I get a cup of Tea when I buy it? The only name in physics that I can think of that has to do with power or speed is Torque, and that clearly has nothing to do with this.
So how does that letter tell me that this is their new flagship smartphone? How about doing the same for the Xperia V or J? I thought that calling the Sprint Motorola Photon 4G LTE was dumb, but at least that name tells me something about the product, if not a lot. Sony needs to forget about the alphabet and go with numbers. If Sony were to tell me this is the Sony Xperia 1000, I can easily understand that it’s better than the Xperia 200. It has to be a name that’s simple and easy to relate to and remember.
Stop being such a “Me too” OEM
Here’s a clear example of why I feel that the Sony engineering departments are separate. Sony’s hardware team has done a great job in making their products unique and beautiful. They’re not after making this device thinner or lighter than anybody. They are after making Sony look like Sony, which in a way is modern and sexy.
The software team is sadly full of copycats. The icons look as if they were pulled from Motorola and so do the smart actions, the keyboard is an exact duplicate of the iOS keyboard, the clock was an HTC invention, and I could keep going even to the despise of Sony fans. The few and unique Sony inventions are sadly unusable, and for those of you that want to chop my head off right now, please be honest with us for a second and tell me how often you do use TimeScape.
What happened to the team that built the original Xperia X1? Surely I know that HTC manufactured it, but the whole blend of device and UI was just so fresh and unique that it was ahead of its time and even operating system. I don’t see that same spirit in Sony products anymore when it comes to blending the beautiful hardware with the UI.
The same goes for Sony marketing and exposure. Using trade shows to release your smartphones is nice and will save you a buck or two, but the big shots use their own press events, and if there’s one thing Sony is not, is a small company, so stop behaving like it.
Sony Is a world leader everywhere else so use it!
This is another perfect example of why becoming a corporate giant can kill you. Apple didn’t invent the Walkman, nor do they own a Motion Picture studio, they don’t have a Music studio, nor build the Bravia line-up, nor some of the best music players in the world, nor cameras, nor camcorders. Still, Apple is better at integrating movies and music with their products, has fantastic screens on their mobile products, came out of now-where with the iPod and has the best smartphone camera in the business. See where I’m going Sony?
How is it that the company that was founded by one of Steve Jobs’ most admired mentors can’t work together? How is it that all of Sony’s assets can’t come up with the perfect smartphone?
I’ll tell you why Sony: Because even though you build the Sony NEX 5N camera I dearly love, that team has most probably never met the Xperia team. That’s why.
The Software team needs to catch-up or ship out
In all honesty, Sony’s software team is making great products look bad. I was thinking of keeping the Xperia S for a minute since even though it wasn’t released with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in February, we had confirmation from Sony that we were getting it in March. Then came April, then May, then June. These delays seriously made Sony lose credibility in the smartphone world.
The simple fact that Samsung is quick enough to push Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at IFA when Sony is barely starting with Ice Cream Sandwich should be embarrassing.
Sometimes I think that Sony executives don’t really use the smartphones they ship. If they did, they’d dog their smartphone team every day until they adopted Jelly Bean. The enhancements that Android 4.1 brings to the table are just so big, that it’s a mistake to sleep on it.
The bottom line
I miss the old Sony Ericsson. From the ringtones, to their design language, to the elegance of their products and software, I miss how they stood out front he crowd. I know this is a tough rant against Sony, but if their corporate big shots stepped out of their executive suit of arrogance for just a minute and read this with a clear thought of just how much I really care about Sony, they’d react. If they just looked at how terrible the sales figures of the Xperia Ion were in the US, they’d understand where I’m going with this. My house is filled with Sony products, and sadly only an Xperia Play that they decided to make obsolete just recently. Sony seriously needs to change.
With their current strategy, I honestly doubt that they will. Surely their recent corporate changes could mean that they have already taken steps to deal with these issues, but none of their IFA products have shown that. This will definitely be another rough year for their products, but I do hope to see something better at MWC next year.
What about you? Do you feel Sony is slipping or would you still buy an Xperia with last year’s software? Share your thoughts in the comments down bellow.