According to Stephen Sneeden, Sony’s Product Marketing Communications for Xperia, Sony is interested in moving away from the low end of thesmartphone market. Unfortunately for Sony, this also means moving away from what is very much their product base. The premiere of the Xperia Z was meant to be the beginning of this transition, and it shows in its estimated $650 price tag – a whole $100 higher than the average flagship. But for what feature? Waterproofing? The hardware is beautiful yes, but this sort of sentiment expressed by quotes such as “we might leave the very entry tier to other manufacturers” represents a mentality that Sony still exists in the sort of environment 20 years ago. It’s an indicator of a much larger and more fatalistic problem within Sony’s higher ups – the idea that ‘premium’ means ‘we can charge what we want’.
Sony’s lineup in 2012 was full of interesting midrange phones that made use of experimental, risky and interesting technology no other manufacturer offered. For instance, the Xperia sola had a ‘floating touch’ display that allowed for hovering fingers above the screen. The Xperia go was entirely waterproofed, and yet was still a capable device with a dual core processor and a Mali-400 GPU. The Xperia P was not only cast almost entirely in aluminum, but had transparent Android (back/home/menu) keys and a display with white subpixels – allowing for one of the brightest displays on the market. All of these devices sold in excellent amounts, and not one was taxing on the wallet. Did these phones ‘dilute the brand’? Were they any less ‘Sony’ than the Xperia Z which is now being launched? Online customers wouldn’t say so, if import numbers are anything to go by. Its Xperia S, its flagship, still sells in massive numbers even now, bolstered by a $350 price point. So why is Sony so eager to backpedal from what seems like its greatest strength?
Perhaps the answer lies in its response to poor sales of the Vita – absolute silence. Despite the fact that the base price lies at, bare minimum, $250 with a paltry 4GB of storage, the price remains stubbornly in place, and the system – if the numbers released recently indicate – has suffered greatly for it. The vicious cycle of no-one-is-buying-so-don’t-develop-for-it and no-one-is-developing-so-don’t-buy-it will continue until something gives – and the obvious candidate is the price point. Sony, however, will not concede, trying to pretend it can still have its profit margins and its customer base too. The arrogance represented by this is perhaps eloquently summarized by its launching of the Xperia Z at $650. It’s $100 more than its competition, it offers little tangible benefit aside from design (which is in and of itself subjective) and waterproofing. These are expected perks to owning a flagship, and cannot possibly merit another $100 over what companies like Samsung and HTC are prepared to offer. Someone needs to tell Sony – premium isn’t offering a higher price, it’s offering a superior experience. Its low end to midrange phones and devices do that within their circles and its flagship experience, funnily enough, can’t compete.