Sony Mobile may quit entry-level smartphone market

Sony Mobile Communications may abandon the low-end smartphone market and focus primarily on high-end devices as it seeks to reestablish its mobile brand. The company is putting a great deal of emphasis on the "premium" experience aspect of its devices, as exemplified by the Xperia Z, the new flagship smartphone Sony unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony's new Xperia Z is water resistant.

"We're ready to be a premium smartphone provider, logically then, at the very entry level is where you lose the 'Sonyness,'" Stephen Sneeden, Sony Mobile's Xperia product marketing manager, told CNET. "And it's where you cannot implement some of these wonderful things from Sony at such a low cost, we might leave the very entry tier to some other manufacturers."

Sneeden said the company is constantly evaluating its marketing plans but that the "mid to premium tier is the more likely scenario" as features from flagship products like the Xperia Z make their way down to less expensive Android phones.

Sony was the No. 8 handset maker in the world in the third quarter of 2012, according to ABI Research, but it has struggled to gain traction since being taken over by Sony earlier in 2012. Still, the company is not giving up, and plans to boost smartphone sales 51 percent to 34 million units in the year ending March 31.

Sneeden's comments were echoed by another Sony mobile executive, Calum MacDougall, in an interview with FierceWireless at CES. MacDougall, the director of the company's Xperia marketing program, said that the Xperia Z emphasizes everything that Sony wants to associate with its mobile brand.

MacDougall said the Xperia Z reflects Sony's focus on high-end design (and noted that the phone is water resistant), display quality (a 5-inch 1080p HD screen powered by Sony's Bravia Engine), camera capabilities with a 13-megapixel shooter and connectivity (the device has NFC support that allows it to connect to other Sony devices). The Sony executive said that the company's brand still has "residual goodwill among consumers" as a premium electronics brand.

"If we can take that premium brand story and bring it into a smartphone, we think that's an offer that consumers will be interested in," he said. 

Sony plans to keep on hitting on the fact that its phones are connected to Sony's entertainment and content libraries. The Xperia line takes advantage of Sonny's Music Unlimited subscriptions service with access to 18 million songs, Video Unlimited for up to 100,000 movies and TV shows, and the PlayStation store for PlayStation-certified mobile games. "It is fair to say that it is our strategy to be able to offer a consistent experience through multiple devices through these media applications," MacDougall said.

For more:
- see this CNET article

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