Sony is one of those companies that is often forgotten in this industry. List of a number of phone OEMs and if you live outside of eastern Asia, Sony might find its way into your mind share somewhere around Mitsubishi and Tylenol because you will have started guessing by that point. “Oh, Sony?! That’s right!” Sony is present in many smartphones on the planet, since its camera sensors are used in Apple and Samsung smartphones (among a host of others). When it comes to building a phone for itself, Sony does a pretty decent job. When it comes to selling them, eh, not so much.
Which is really a shame because Sony’s phones are interesting and high quality. Sony likes to buck the trends of the modern smartphone by accelerating its release cycle. While most OEMs run on a yearly(ish) schedule, Sony’s in the past has been much more quick – in the neighborhood of six months or so. This is a good thing because in theory, Sony is always using the latest and greatest, but on the other hand, that means your investment only has about a 4-6 month shelf life before something newer and shinier comes out.
Keeping it small
Sony has also kept the small screen flagship model intact with its Compact line of smartphones. These small powerhouses have typically kept up with flagships in every respect except screen size, a philosophy with which some editors here at Pocketnow agree. So with Sony leading the pack in camera sensors, and updated specs, and small-screened flagships, why did you guess H&R Block and BWM before you thought of Sony?
Sony’s problem is that its phones just do not sell. There can be a number of factors working against it, not the least of which is sparse availability in the United States. In eastern Asia, Sony is decently represented with its home-court advantage, but once you leave that limited area, it’s a dessert with only the occasional oaZix (get it? It’s like “oasis” but with a “Z” and “X” for Xperia…nevermind). Maybe it’s because Sony’s sales are already low, the thought of shipping them worldwide doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I do know if you don’t try, you definitely fail.
How fast is too fast?
Others have criticized Sony’s rapid release cycle for devices. It seems we just finish up our review period for one Sony flagship when the next one is already sending out invitations. This release cycle, as I mentioned before, is a double-edged sword. People are hesitant (and they should be) to fork over hard-earned money for a phone that’s going to have a successor before the next “Shades of Grey” novel. If Samsung were to release the Galaxy S7 tomorrow, I would imagine there might be some miffed S6 owners out there. Not that you’d hear from them because their batteries would be dead.
Still others point to the Sony Compact line of phones as Sony making a Blackberry-esque decision based on romanticism and old trends rather than what the market is dictating. The market wants big phones. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact has only a slightly bigger screen than the Lumia 920.
Think about it
But whatever the reason for Sony’s shortcomings in the sales department, there is one more critical element to a successful sales strategy – mind share. If you can’t think of “Sony” as an OEM without immediately saying “Oh yeah” then Sony has a big problem. Sony could reestablish itself as a force in the smartphone manufacturing world, but it needs to start with mind share. Because without it, any other marketing strategy will be dead in the water.
Sony needs to pull out all the stops and ship phones anywhere people will buy them – US, Canada, Europe, Mars, you name it. Sony needs to dramatically ramp up its advertising budget in those areas and remind people not only that its still there, but it still makes a fine phone. There has been talk recently of Sony cutting back its smartphone department and sending it to the same “farm” to which it sent its laptop business. You know, the same one my parents sent my 14 year old dog to when I was a kid. That would be a tragedy to the smartphone landscape. Anything that reduces competition and choice in any market is never a good sign.
Sony needs to be here, just as much as HTC, LG, and every other Android OEM needs to be here. Seeing Sony fade away would not only be sad, but it would be bad for the platform overall. Sony makes great hardware. But like every great sports team, it needs to learn to win the away games too.