Sony has had a chequered recent history with smartphones. Its Xperia Z range has been one of the better premium devices on the market for each year since its launch, however it has struggled to deliver quality in the mid and lower segments of the market.
The net result has been that the Mobile Division has swung between wild losses and small profits ever since buying Ericsson out of the joint venture.
Last year the company refocused its efforts. Fewer phones and a focus on profits.
With the Xperia Z5 we saw that Sony could build a decent phone and sell it for a profit. Given that the Z5 had arrived just four months after its predecessor, which itself followed the Z3 within seven months it was clear that a change was needed. The Z5 needed to be Sony’s last premium phone for a while and it needed to fill in its range with a couple of decent mid-level phones.
So you’ll probably be surprised to find out that, within the ten months since the Z5 arrived Sony managed to pump out eight new devices, more than half of which could have been considered Z5 replacements.
Most recently Sony gave us the Xperia XZ. A lovely looking phone with lots of new features. But one which followed the X Performance as the third range topping smartphone in less than a year.
There’s no need for it but it appears that Sony can’t help itself. The Xperia line is a confusing mismatch of all too similar phones competing in the same small niches. It serves the company poorly to be producing this level of confusion amongst retailers, bloggers and ultimately customers; who can never be confident when pulling the trigger on an Xperia purchase what craziness is coming next.
Right now I can walk into a mobile retailer and see the Xperia Z5, X, X Performance and, shortly, XZ on offer. With these devices retailing at (NZ) $600, $700 and $800 how is Sony going to persuade buyers to invest in the XZ at potentially $1200? Do the updates to the XZ really make it worth double the Z5’s current asking price.
Sony needs to learn restraint. Right now the Android premium market has been blown wide open by Samsung’s troubles. A cohesive, consistent range and above all, a range with a visible and sensible shelf life would have allowed it to grab some of those sales that would otherwise have gone to Samsung.
Instead Apple and Huawei will make hay, picking up sales whilst Sony ponders its next dozen phones for the rest of this year.
The Xperia Z5 was a pretty good phone that only now requires replacement. If Sony can’t control its need to keep replacing phones that are just a few months old its going to find that even its new, more modest, ambitions are unachievable.