Sony not planning major smartphone pushes in U.S, China

Sony swung back to a profit in the second quarter and its Sony Mobile Communications unit reported a 30 percent jump in smartphone shipments in the period, which was good news for the company. However, that momentum may not continue, as Sony has signaled it has no major plans to get more aggressive in China and the United States, the world's two largest smartphone markets.

tmobile sony xperia z

T-Mobile sells the Sony Xperia Z.

Sony, like many smartphone makers, aims to grab third place in the smartphone market behind titans Samsung Electronics and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). However, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said for now the firm will focus on the smartphone markets in Europe and Japan, which make up 60 percent of its smartphone sales.

"Those two are the most important areas for us and we'll put substantial resources there. But not yet for the U.S. and China," Hirai told a gathering of journalists, according to Reuters. "It's not realistic to try to do everything at once. In the U.S. we'll start gradually."

Sony has been riding strong sales of its flagship Xperia Z smartphone, which recently went on sale in the United States through T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). T-Mobile is selling the phone for a $0 down payment plus a $25 monthly payment for 24 months under its Simple Choice plans, or for $600 outright.

However, it took months for that phone to reach T-Mobile, and it's unclear if follow-up devices, such as the Xperia Z Ultra or Z1, will make it to the U.S. market.

Sony is not among the top five smartphone brands in the U.S. or China, according to research firm IDC, and Gartner reported that Sony only grabbed 2.2 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter of this year, trailing LG Electronics and Lenovo. Sony has said it hopes to sell 42 million smartphones in the fiscal year to April 1, 2014, up 27 percent from 33 million units in the previous fiscal year.

Hirai is also taking a cautious view of the market for wearable computing, which Sony already competes in with its SmartWatch product. "The jury is still out on what the consumer expects from a wrist device," Hirai said, according to the Wall Street Journal, noting the trade-offs between capabilities and battery life, as well as the size of the devices.

"All of these discussions are still out there," he said. "But that makes it an interesting space to be in and a lot of companies are looking at it."

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

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