Sources within the Taiwan handset supply chain have revealed that Sony has decided to revise its current strategy of bringing out new flagship Xperia smartphones on a six month cycle, instead implementing an annual cycle. The change in strategy is a reaction to a maturing high-end smartphone segment that is more competitive than ever.
The high-end Android smartphone segment has undergone plenty of change in the last year or so with more players entering the space previously dominated by Samsung, Sony and HTC. We have seen market penetration from well established Chinese vendors like Lenovo, Huawei, Oppo and others who are improving their high-end handset offerings with each generation. At the same time we have seen the growth of disruptive companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus offering flagship grade hardware for near cost prices. This is starting to put pressure on the more established players in the market – players like Sony.
The resources needed to develop a new flagship device from the top down is pretty incredible, not just in terms of sheer R&D costs, but also in terms of the time it takes. Sony’s decision to modify their flagship road map, releasing just one flagship smartphone per year, means that they can really re-focus and better harness their resources. This is a move the company hopes will allow it to compete better in a maturing and increasingly competitive high-end segment.
In Q1 of 2013 we saw the release of the iconic and acclaimed Xperia Z. This was followed by the Z1 later that year, the Z2 earlier this year and the Z3 just a month ago. This six month development cycle was motivated largely by a need to keep ahead of the competition. Sony has clearly decided to instead follow Apple and release one new design per year, with sub-designs spun off to serve other segments.
We are huge fans of Sony’s flagship Xperia range. In fact our very own Nicole Scott is an self proclaimed ‘Sony Fan-girl’. The changes we have seen in the Xperia range over the last year and a half have been very incremental with an evolving design strategy that has produced some stunning smartphones. In general each new design has evolved from the previous design. With this new approach, Sony can spend more time to focus on creating more radically unique designs that really shine in a crowded space. The company has already abandoned its notebook business to allow it to really work on becoming a leader in the mobile device space. This strategic re-think is another clue as to their intent. I am really looking forward to seeing the next wave of smartphones and tablets from Sony.