By Matt Burns
Sony makes a lot of really nice things, but it has never taken smartphones seriously. That’s to change if Sony (NYSE:SNE) Mobile’s sales chief, Dennis van Schie, is to be believed.
Speaking to the Financial Times Deutschland, he basically acknowledged that Sony’s current phone lineup does not have a direct competitor to the iPhone or Galaxy S III.
“We will create in the near future a flagship model that can compete with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and Samsung’s (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy S III,” he said. A spokeswomen also noted that the model will be available at CES and Mobile World Congress in the first part of 2013.
Sony, and previously, Sony Ericsson, has produced stunning-looking phones. You cannot argue that they lack a strong design or build quality. But Sony’s Android update history has been nearly non-existent. Sony essentially releases a phone and then moves on to the next one, letting it fend for itself as competitors get updates and enhancements.
The Sony Xperia TL is the current Sony Mobile flagship. It has the goods to stand tall against any other smartphone on the market: dual-core 1.5GHZ S4 Plus, NFC, 4.6-inch 720p display, 13MP camera and it only costs $99 at AT&T (NYSE:T). The casing is wonderful and it feels great in the hand. But have you heard of it? Have you seen it in any ads or heard it mentioned in any Android flame wars? Yeah, that’s the problem.
Sony knows hardware and can build a fine device. No one disputes that. But it has lost the Midas touch. Making a “better” smartphone in terms of specs is not enough to sell to consumers anymore. People do not shop smartphones by specs. They shop by trends dictated by popularity and massive marketing campaigns. If Sony is to have a shot with its iPhone and GSIII competitor, the marketing message is nearly as important as the device itself.
Van Schie went on to tell Financial Times Deutschland that Sony is not currently planning any Windows Phones but adding, “We have a good relationship with Microsoft and are closely watching the development of Windows Phone.. If it succeeds, we will not be caught off guard.” A smart plan. With the explosive growth of Android, it’s probably best for an upstart like Sony Mobile to focus on the sure thing. There is plenty of lucrative goodness left in Android market share pie for Sony — as long as consumers know its upcoming flagship exists.