Sunday Debate: Which Factors Caused Sony’s Woes?
Join us in a fun Sunday Debate on Sony’s situation. Come with your opinions and feel free to read some of our thoughts, then pick your side or play devil’s advocate to get your voice heard and engage in friendly discussion. You can read our food-for-thought or jump straight into the fray below!
Last Sunday’s debate was focused on HTC’s financial situation, and what you thought were the causes for their slip. This past week we asked you which OEM you would like to help in a discussion post, and an overwhelming amount of responses mentioned Sony. Shortly after, we published a feature on Sony’s situation and the company’s attempts at correcting its course, as well as its upcoming future developments. Now that we know all of this, we think it’s important to discuss in detail which were the possible factors that held back our favorite Japanese giant.
Contrary to HTC’s situation, something that is very apparent to all of us is that Sony’s phones are very well balanced and don’t have much in the way of shortcomings. In fact, Sony seems to have heard the outcries of consumers for better longevity, as last year’s Z3 and Z3 Compact offered some of the longest battery lives of any Android phone yet. Most of Sony’s best phones are good-lookers, have a good feel to them, sport great silicon and high-resolution cameras, big batteries, tasteful designs and rather good Android ROMs and features. Many Xperia phones (from flagships to midrangers) see plenty of development in our forums as well, and Sony itself helps with various developments as well.
So why do many fear that Sony might be going under? Why does everyone gossip about how they “must” sell their mobile division to stay afloat, to the point where its mobile CEO has to come out and flat out deny that they would ever sell or exit out? Why are people in fear over them issuing new shares? There are many factors that could put Sony in this situation in our eyes — which is not of utter demise, but rather of prevalent fear of it. This company has certainly not seen the steady decline of HTC, but the recent volatile period for its smartphone division is far from Sony’s best. With all of this in mind, we ask you: what are the main reasons behind Sony’s financial situation? How are they connected? How much of the blame lays on Sony, and how much on external factors or partners? How can Sony address these issues, and how can they redeem their company?
Some points to consider:
- Flagships – The Xperia Line: The Xperia line has had its ups and downs, but it has remained relatively consistent throughout the years nonetheless. The iterative design and upgrades are sometimes enough to sate those who want both frequent and infrequent updates. However, their phones’ “omnibalance” design seems to trickle down to every aspect, making for phones with no “shock and awe” as those of other flagships that much more weight on single design focuses or innovations. A main criticism the line gets is that its phones always look and feel too similar, which was one of the main things consumers had against the M9 as well. Their latest phones once again continue the trend with the same dimensions and design language, but with the controversial 810 which makes it underperform in speed, and is one of the reasons why it underperformed in sales as well.
- Context – The competition & Sony Hack: Not only did Sony have strong competition these past couple of years, but the recent Sony Pictures hack cost the company at large reputation and capital, and the mobile division was no stranger to the leaks as we saw alleged renders of the Z4 among other details. Ironically enough, we didn’t see the much in the leaked designs make it to the physical world. Coupled with the strong performance of some competitors this year and the rise of budget phones and eastern OEMs, Sony’s market share might have suffered from the fierce global context which CEO Hiroki Totoki was appointed to combat.
- Market Penetration: Sony’s home turf is one of the main battlezones for the company, where it’s been known to battle it out head to head with Apple, earning victories through discounts and brand loyalty. The rest of the world is a different story, however, especially the West and, in this region, the United States in particular. Sony phones see high prices and limited availability as well as reduced exposure, and given that North America alone is such a big smartphone market, Sony is left out of a good portion of the pie. And sadly, emerging markets like India are also not Sony’s key grounds either.
- Marketing – Lack of Exposure: Despite Sony’s excellent flagship repertoire, they lack the exposure that a big portion of its competition has, particularly in the key markets where they do not do well in. This is apparent when you walk into carrier stores, but it goes past physical locations and into the internet as well. Sony does not have big media campaigns for their phone releases — in fact, the very awaited Xperia Z4 was released very quietly in Japan and took Western media outlets by surprise. Whereas some companies have poor marketing, Sony seems to have too little of it — or at least, rather ineffective strategies.
- Line-ups – Release Cycles & Other Phones: Sony’s release cycle might make sense in Eastern markets like Sony’s own turf, but not so much outside of those regions. Their incremental improvements do not make their phones as appealing to the upgrade-centric culture of many power-users (for example, both the Z2 and Z3 have a SD801 SoC), but due to little exposure, probably not very effective for casual consumers either. The rest of Sony’s phones can be really good performers, and they see plenty of development on XDA, but they often come with important compromises. While Sony makes extremely balanced phones at a consistent rate, they haven’t put out the shock & awe needed to lure consumers into upgrades, and fans are often left wishing that they’d concentrate their efforts into yearly and spectacular flagships instead.
There are many other factors that we did not touch on, such as Sony’s initial divorce with Ericsson and the hit it took for it, the various quality defects in some of their popular devices, customer support, the company’s culture in the face of globalization and more. In general terms, a company’s flagship, the rest of their line-up, the competition, context and marketing serve as the go-to factors to consider. We also want you to take into account a possible long-term strategy Sony might undergo or be undergoing to turn things around. Finally, keep in mind that Sony is an experienced giant in this business and it has the resources and expertise to address all of this. With all of this in mind, we ask you:
- Which are the main reasons behind Sony’s situation?
- How are they connected?
- How much of the blame lays on Sony, and how much on external factors or partners?
- How can Sony address these issues, and how can it redeem itself?
This debate was requested by XDA Recognized Contributor galaxyfreak. Do you have any discussion ideas that you want to see next in the next Sunday’s debate? Leave us a tip or send a message to TachyonGun!