Sony Mobile gunning for Huawei's No. 3 spot in smartphones

Sony wants its Sony Mobile Communication unit to grow into the world's third largest smartphone maker behind Samsung Electronics and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), according to a senior executive. The comments indicate Sony is one of a large and growing number of manufacturers looking to grab share behind the industry's leaders.

sony Xperia Z

Xperia Z

Sony Mobile CEO Kunimasa Suzuki told a group of reporters in Tokyo that the company will tailor its smartphones to each market it is in, indicating that the company might produce cheaper models for emerging markets, according to Reuters. Those comments are notable in light ones made by other Sony executives in January that the company wants to focus more on the premium segment of the smartphone market.

Kuzkui said the company plans to sell more than 34 million smartphones in the fiscal year that starts April 1, according to Bloomberg, without citing a more specific target. The company said in February that it is targeting 34 million smartphone shipments for this fiscal year. IDC ranked Sony No. 4 globally in smartphone market share in the fourth quarter, with 4.5 percent, ahead of ZTE and behind Huawei.

"Sony needs to sell about 50 million smartphones to rank third, behind Apple and Samsung," Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Securities Co, told Bloomberg. "I think Sony has the ability to achieve it, but if it can't reach 50 million, it will fade and become irrelevant." 

Sony is banking on sales of its new flagship smartphone, the water-resistant Xperia Z, to power ahead. The company recently rolled out a global marketing campaign and has expanded the device's availability to France the United Kingdom, but has not indicated when the device might hit the U.S. market. The device features a 5-inch HD 1080p Reality Display, Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and a 13-megapixel camera.

"Smartphones are one of the rare growth areas in consumer electronics. All the other areas are just maintaining or declining," Suzuki told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. "That is why it is crucial for us to be successful."

Still, for all of Sony's ambitions, it is facing strong headwinds. Both Huawei and ZTE plan to expand their respective smartphone businesses this year as well, and Samsung is only weeks away from unleashing the Galaxy S IV, its latest flagship smartphone.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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