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Sony Mobile likely to jettison low end business

Executives indicate the unit will focus entirely on Xperia, which is being pushed higher up the smartphone brand ladder

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 14 January, 2013

READ MORE: Sony Corp | Handset

Sony Ericsson went through a long and often painful process of reorienting its business towards premium devices, but it was often criticized for lingering too long in the lower end, and now it is fully controlled by Sony, there are plans to abandon the entry level smartphone sector altogether - even though much of the world's volume growth will lie there from 2013, and rivals like RIM and Nokia are redoubling their efforts for that segment.

However, unveiling its new flagship, the Xperia Z, at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, the talk was all about strengthening the brand for the high end. Stephen Sneeden, product marketing manager for Xperia, told CNet at the show: "We're ready to be a premium smartphone provider, logically then, at the very entry level is where you lose the 'Sonyness'." He added: "You cannot implement some of these wonderful things from Sony at such a low cost, we might leave the very entry tier to some other manufacturers", to focus on the "mid to premium tier" only.


Sony has moved up the global smartphone rankings, and is likely to be in the number three position in the Q412 ratings, though largely because of the problems of key rivals like Nokia and RIM. The gulf between Sony and the big two, Apple and Samsung, is widening, and in the overall handset space, it is now in eighth position, according to ABI Research.

Both those rankings will be under threat this year from Chinese suppliers and the possible rejuvenation of Nokia and RIM. It seems likely the Japanese firm will respond by defending its number three smartphone position, by enhancing Xperia's brand profile and offering increased integration with other Sony content products. However, it may be less focused on overall cellphone market share, leaving that for low cost vendors.

Sony is focusing heavily on pushing the Xperia brand upmarket and associating it with other Sony technologies and logos - from hi-tech capabilities in displays and 13-megapixel cameras, to nostalgia for venerable products like Walkman in music. Calum MacDougall, director of Xperia marketing programs, told FierceWireless that Sony is still a premium electronics brand and "if we can take that premium brand story and bring it into a smartphone, we think that's an offer that consumers will be interested in."

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