Sony has reportedly told its investors that its mobile business will be further ‘defocused’ in the United States, India, China and Brazil. The timing of this news is curious, as the Xperia X series has been announced for launch in the US market, though the units have not yet begun shipping. We have to agree with the interpretation elsewhere here; Sony appears to be admitting the failure of its US mobile business, before the new X series has even shipped a single unit.
From what we’ve seen, and from other reports, this move is not really all that surprising. Sony’s mobile business in the US hasn’t been strong before now, and the signs are that it isn’t really improving. Hopes that Sony’s Xperia X range might turn around the mobile business fortunes seem to be misplaced, with some fairly disinterested reviews floating around, and some outright criticism of design and construction choices.
The US phone market works a little differently to Australia’s, with a big focus on carrier deals to make or break a phone (or OEM)’s success. In the case of Sony, we understand that their handsets have, for quite some time, failed to attract much (if any) interest from US carriers and that — reports Android Police — is ‘essentially a kiss of death’ for an OEM selling premium handsets. Like Australia, though, iPhone and Samsung are the dominant brands in consumers hands, and breaking that duopoly is proving almost as difficult there as it is here.
This really isn’t a major surprise for us. Sony hasn’t sold well in the US for some time, and it only makes sense to shift their focus elsewhere to more profitable markets for them. The Xperia X series was never going to turn around Sony’s US fortunes, and that much was clear as soon as they were announced back in February — losing the Xperia Z brand was tantamount to an admission that Sony’s premium credibility had wavered, and the Xperia X series just isn’t at that same level.
The handsets may well prove popular in other markets; brands often find success in Europe, Asia and elsewhere even if they can’t find that same success in the US. Huawei is proof of that; the Chinese brand, enormous at home, not especially well known in the US, is hugely popular in Europe, and Sony might be hoping to find (or continue) that same kind of development.
Time will tell, but our opinion is that the Xperia X series isn’t going to do much for Sony’s fortunes locally, either.