By Stephen Schenck | August 28, 2013 7:02 AM
In one week, Sony’s almost certainly going to launch the phone we’ve been following as codename Honami. Maybe it will arrive as the Xperia i1, or maybe as the Z1, but however it does, it’s going to be the most significant Sony smartphone to launch in a while. After all, we’re months removed from phones like the Xperia Z and ZL, and this summer’s Z Ultra has yet to really resonate with shoppers. Honami should find a middle ground between the regular-sized Zs and the 6.4-inch giant Z Ultra, while keeping the Snapdragon 800 that gives the Ultra its performance.
Add to that rumored features like Honami’s 20.7 megapixel camera, support for recording next-gen 4K video, and that waterproofing that’s quickly becoming Sony’s calling card, and we’re looking at an Android that sure could be worth getting excited about.
Of course, just releasing the phone will be one thing. The tricky business is going to be transitioning all this buzz that’s been building up surrounding the Honami leaks and rumors into the sort of positive post-launch press that helps drive sales. Certainly, we’ve seen more than one phone dominate our interest in the months leading up to its release, only to seemingly forget about it the moment it actually becomes available.
How can Sony keep the spotlight on Honami? How does it need to continue building upon its lineup in the months to come? And what does the Xperia brand need to do moving into 2014 in order to stay competitive?
I realize it’s a bit of a US-centric view to take, but bear with me for a moment: the number one thing Sony needs to do to make Honami a success is to get it out into the hands of carriers. Right now in the US, you’re very much out of luck if you’re a fan of Sony smartphones: AT&T isn’t currently offering a single model on-contract, neither Verizon nor Sprint even give users the option to search for Sony phones, and T-Mobile has but one, the Xperia Z.
That cannot stand if Sony is to see its market share grow. I realize that Sony may not want to play the whole subsidies game, and steering clear of all the infighting and backroom dealmaking that are parts of the US smartphone market may save it a lot of headaches, but it’s making a huge mistake in not sucking it up and dealing with these companies. When you’re big enough, you can pick and choose whom you do your deals with, but the way things are now, Sony cannot afford that luxury.
I’m positive I’ve echoed this statement before, but Sony’s also missing out on a huge opportunity with its PlayStation game consoles and its TV/stereo business. Connected devices are big – just look at all the attention Google’s getting with Chromecast – and Sony could benefit enormously by leveraging its position in these multiple sectors to develop a cohesive plan for sharing and moving content between devices. I realize that efforts have been made in this direction, and it’s got it’s own media portals, but Sony continues to fail to deliver in the way I’m hoping: what the company needs to do is put out the message that if you’ve got a bunch of Sony gear, it’s all going to work seamlessly together, without so much as a second thought from you, the user.
Speaking to Sony’s lineup in general, it’s made some great progress this year in fleshing things out with high-end devices in a number of form factors, but there’s still one it needs to tackle: the affordable tablet. The Xperia Tablet Z is astonishing, but its footprint is still a bit large for some users. The Xperia Z Ultra is practically a small tablet itself, but phone pricing makes it even less affordable than the Tablet Z.
Sony needs its own iPad Mini, its own Nexus 7. It needs a tablet that users are going to buy as an accessory for their PlayStation 4, or as something to complement their next laptop – not replace it. Sony need not aim for budget pricing beyond all else, but if it can sell the Tablet Z for $500, I don’t think a $300 seven- or even eight-incher would be crazy.
This size is one of the hottest around for tablets at the moment, and Sony’s missing out by not having this option. Affordable tablets can also be great ways to introduce users to your brand, and get them to upgrade to full-on phones in the future.
Sony’s 2013 hardware has been largely solid so far, and I don’t expect that to change with Honami. The trick for the company is going to be getting users to look at this hardware when making their purchasing decisions, and enticing them to further explore within Sony’s other offerings. The whole situation is dripping with potential, and Sony finally needs to step up and assert itself as a smartphone and tablet force to be reckoned with.