Sony is still a great technology company that makes great products just look to its VAIO line of mobile computers if you don't think so. A company with such a storied history when it comes to mobile products and technology in general should not be facing the problems Sony is having with their Android smartphone lineup. The issue brings the question where did Sony go wrong was their a key fatal flaw in their mobile strategy or was it the accumulation of many smalls problems that got them into their current slump?
When Sony started making Android devices it was not under the Sony Mobile name that they now use but Sony Ericsson. The partnership between Sony and Ericsson lasted around a decade but more recently has produced lackluster products with lackluster sales to match. Sony has placed much of the blame for their smartphone woes on their lack of complete control in the partnership.
In order to right the sinking ship Sony paid $1.4 billion to buyout Ericsson and gain complete control over their mobile destiny. Now we have Sony Mobile and only Sony to blame if things don't pan out as expected.
Sony announced a couple of high-end phones at CES this year including the Xperia S and the Xperia ION. When announced in January the Xperia Ion was at the high-end of the spec chart with a 1.5 GHz dual core processor, 4.6" 720p reality display, an LTE connection, NFC, and a very nice 12 megapixel camera with Exmor R sensor. It appeared that Sony was headed on the right track with high quality phones and top notch optics to set them apart.
Then the problems arose first off instead of being announced with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich the phone sported the dated Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Sony's own UX on top, with an update to ICS promised in the future. That might have been passable had the AT&T Ion shipped anytime close to its January announcement instead the device was not released until June still rocking Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread. During that time the more powerful HTC One X had been announced and shipped not to mention the class leading Galaxy S III.
It was clear that Sony botched the launch of their flagship U.S. smartphone by releasing it no less than six months after its initial launch. By the time it reached store shelves no one cared and we had all moved on to bigger and better things, ones that weren't shipping with a year old Gingerbread OS. The only positive of the launch being a $99 on contract price from AT&T.
Sony has ambitious plans for 2013 with a goal of selling 50 million smartphones. If they plan on succeeding in their lofty goals there needs to be a few major changes in how they operate the Sony Mobile division. First of all they need to focus on delivering products in a timely fashion. No matter how great a device may be at launch even if it has the latest and greatest Android version, if it is released 6 months later it will be outdated and outclassed.
Their next focus needs to be on creating an iconic flagship device like Samsung with the Galaxy S line. If they can focus on a clear flagship with class leading specs that will be "The Sony Phone" for the next year it will allow people to get behind the product and give them a brand with the all important Mindshare.
Lastly Sony makes great optics and if they can choose one area to be their stand out feature like HTC has done with display technology, the camera should be it. They got off to a great start this year with their 12 megapixel camera with Exmor R sensor and need to continue to innovate in this area.
I can see Sony Mobile making a strong stand releasing timely devices with up to date OS versions and a best in class camera. It would be like with the Xperia brand you know you have a clear point and shoot replacement with class leading optics that also happens to be a class leading smartphone.
Do you feel Sony is ready to make the concerted effort they need to make a come back in the smartphone arena? LG seems to be on the right path and it would be a shame if Sony ends up being left out of the party.