It appears the vultures are circling Sony. The company’s mobile division continues to limp on following stiff competition from Apple and Samsung. Chief executive Kazuo Hirai said the company is open to selling its smartphone division following a net loss of 230 billion yen ($A2.5 billion) for the business year to March. The company has already pulled the plug on its PlayStation Mobile platform.
Sony offloading its smartphone business is bad news for every stakeholder other than its competition. It’s bad for the company, for carriers and for anybody with a smartphone. Here are the top five reasons why.
5. An exceptional range
Most products released by manufacturers are a case of hit and miss. Some make fantastic smartphones and then fail to deliver a tablet that is as good. Others get the smartphone and tablet right only to fail when it comes to the phablet.
Sony is not one of these companies. Its range of smartphones and tablets are among the highest rated, and this means its customers have a fantastic experience, no matter the Xperia device.
Good Gear Guide has reviewed the entire Z3 range, which includes the Z3, the Z3 Compact and the Z3 Tablet Compact, along with the company’s full sized Z2 Tablet. The average rating of all four devices was an astounding 4.6 stars, and that’s a feat no other manufacturer currently rivals.
4. Fracturing its ecosystem
Xperia smartphones and tablets sit at the core of Sony’s home entertainment ecosystem as they are used to manage its televisions and surround sound systems. Sony is aware that every product in an ecosystem needs to uphold a high standard — as it only takes one poor product to let the range down — and that’s why its smartphones and tablets have a moniker which derives from the word “experience”. Pulling out of the smartphone and tablet space would compromise the overall experience as even rivalling Android devices can result in incompatibility issues.
3. Bucking the phablet trend
Other company’s mistake larger screens for innovation. Making big phones powerful is easier than squeezing cutting edge hardware into a small form-factor, and this is why so few companies bother making smartphones around the 4.5-inch mark that are powerful.
Sony is the exception. The company’s Xperia Z3 Compact is a pocket-friendly 4.6-inches. Inside is hardware powerful enough to rival Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and HTC’s One (M9), and yet it delivers two days of battery life. This is a smartphone for people with ordinary sized hands, and its repertoire is so well rounded that it earned our award for Smartphone of the Year (2014).
2. Holding back the smartphone camera market
More and more smartphones are being used to take photographs. The divide separating professional compact cameras from those is smartphones in shrinking, and that is in part to Sony.
Many manufacturers rely on Sony for the technology in their smartphone cameras. The slew of up-and-coming Chinese manufacturers proudly advertise they use Sony’s imaging tech, including Xiaomi, Oppo, Huawei and OnePlus. HTC, which recently launched its dedicated Re camera, turned to Sony for a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. There are even reports claiming Apple’s iPhone 6 range makes use of Sony camera components.
Usually Sony keeps the latest camera technology for its smartphones and sells its generation old technology to its rivals. We can’t help but wonder: what will happen to the rate of camera innovation if Sony decides to exit the smartphone market?
1. A much needed third horse
Apple and Samsung grossly dominate the smartphone space. The fact it is a two horse race hurts consumers in a wide range of ways. Having a prominent third player will only benefit smartphone users.
Competition drives innovation. Samsung will have to work harder knowing another Android manufacturer is at its heels.
Outright smartphone costs could drop as a result of this competition. There was a time when Sony dominated the smartphone and television space. A determined Samsung gained market share by delivering products that were both as good and cheaper. And now Samsung leads the global smartphone market.
Sony’s continued presence in the smartphone space could contribute to cheaper phone bills. Carriers such as Telstra and Vodafone have to factor the cost of a smartphone in plan pricing. Competition between Samsung, Sony and Apple could result in carriers buying more smartphones for less. Savings then can be passed onto customers through cheaper smartphone instalments, no smartphone instalments or through plans packing more value.