This article, Yes, Sony makes phones. And they’re coming back to the US, originally appeared on CNET.com.
Don’t call it a comeback — because Sony was never really on top in the first place.
The Sony brand is a household name when it comes to televisions and its Playstation video game console, yet few people in the U.S. know the Japanese conglomerate also makes phones, too.
Sony wants to change that, and has vowed to return to the U.S. in a bigger way with its newly unveiled family of phones.
“We’re committed to coming to the U.S. with these Xperia X phones,” said Don Mesa, head of North American marketing for Sony Mobile, in an interview on Monday. “This year represents a new chapter.”
Sony is just the latest company to use the Mobile World Congress trade show as a springboard to re-enter the mobile business as it vies for a place as a legitimate premium alternative to Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy S line. HP on Sunday unveiled a Windows 10 phone that can turn into a laptop, its first handset in two years, while Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri hinted at a return to the phone business.
The Xperia X is one of three new phones that will hit the US in the summer.
One of the key reasons for Sony’s struggles has been a mixed relationship with the carriers, which is where most people buy phones. The company saw moderate success at T-Mobile, but struggled when it switched its focus to larger partner Verizon. In June, the company showed off the Xperia Z4v, which it customized specifically for the U.S.’s largest carrier, but delayed the phone for so long that Sony released the next-generation Xperia Z5 internationally before it came out. Verizon scrapped the then generation-old Xperia Z4v before it was even released.
In February, Sony quietly released the Xperia Z5 in the U.S. through Amazon, several months after its debut elsewhere.
For the mid-tier Xperia X, low-end Xperia XA, premium Xperia X Performance , as well as the Xperia Ear Bluetooth headset accessory, Sony will forgo the traditional route of selling through the carrier and offer the phones on its own site or through retailers such as Amazon. Mesa said he was still working through the deals with other retailers, including physical stores.
The advantage of going directly to the customer is a phonemaker’s ability to present the company’s whole product lineup in the best light, and being able to “tell the story behind it,” Mesa said. In addition, Sony bypassing the carriers means it can bring buyers the latest and greatest phones when they become available around the world. “We’ve always held back.”
But the direct-to-consumer strategy is risky, and already full of competitors. Chinese vendors such as Huawei, ZTE and Alcatel have all set up their own online shops — some through Amazon — to sell their phones. The devices tend to be cheaper, although they usually pack in quality components.
“We have to show our clear technical advantage,” Sony Mobile U.S. President Kunihiko Shiomi said in an interview. “This is not easy, but we have to try.”
“A lot of it will depend on things like marketing spend (which I don’t anticipate much),” Llamas said. “The new smartphones don’t do too much to stand out against the competition.”
Mesa said that Sony hadn’t figured out how much it would commit to marketing and building the brand in the U.S. “We won’t spend willy nilly,” he said.