Sony Ericsson Is Shooting Themselves In The Foot – A Critical Look at Sony Ericsson
I have always been a fan of Sony products. Back in high school, Sony used to be the preferred Walkman music player. They revolutionised the world with the minidisc, which unfortunately didn’t catch on in the rest of the world. Sony jumped on the Android bandwagon and has produced a few of the most recognized Android phones, namely the Xperia Arc and Xperia Play.
Sony Is Still Trying To Please Everybody
The Playstation brand – to this day – remains very valuable. Despite Microsoft’s Kinect taking the main stage throughout 2011, I am confident in the Playstation brand. My only reservation about the Xperia Play is that it isn’t gaming-centric enough. I believe if Sony decides to focus more effort on the Xperia Play, they could achieve more than they are doing now.
Gaming brands such as Razer really do have a cult following. Just look up any Razer unboxing videos and compare it to any Xperia Play unboxing, and you’ll soon realize that Sony is missing out one key element – packaging. I own a Razer Orochi mouse currently, and primarily use to play Minecraft on my netbook now. It was the packaging that made me purchase it, and will make me want to buy future productss from Razer. The unboxing experience is phenomenal, unlike the dull and traditional looking Xperia Play unboxing.
Sony Ericsson has one of the best platforms to sell Android – not just as a mobile/tablet ecosystem, but also as a pure gaming platform. If Sony could work on the packaging of the Xperia Play to a level equal to that of Razer products, the appeal to gamers would be that much stronger. Unfortunately, the Xperia Play isn’t good enough to swoon the heart of hardcore gamers.
There are also many missed opportunities that Sony didn’t capitalize on. Sony should have started with a bang with a World Championship event with games that run on the Xperia Play. I’m surprised I haven’t seen anything of this depth of thought from Sony. It’s also a shame that very few Playstation games are ported to the Xperia Play. Neither could existing customers run their PSP games on the Xperia Play. Sony cannot wait for developers to do the portings. Sony has to get their hands dirty and start porting Playstation and PSP titles to Android.
The Xperia Play is also marketed with Kristen Schaal, which is surprising, as she gives zero credibility to gaming. Why not invite renowned gamers like Swifty (World Of Warcraft), or even Simon and Lewis (Yogscast) to do something for the Xperia Play? Those candidates would fare better than Kristen Schaal in my opinion. The Xperia Play is also marketed as a phone that “does spreadsheets” in the ads. They do have a “build for kristen” Minecraft project, but are you kidding me?
No serious gamer will take the Xperia Play seriously.
Xperia Arc Is A Solid Shooter
I am aware that the Xperia Arc has one of the best Android cameras in the industry – all thanks to Sony’s previous involvement with Cybershot. The problem begins when relative newcomers like the SGS2 packs a solid camera that can competitively rival Sony’s technology.
The illogical thing is handing over your tech to Apple. We all know what happened to Samsung after they helped Apple rise to prominence. I foresee Sony going through the same cycle of legal harassment in the near future – after Apple has successfully emulated Sony’s camera technology into their portfolio. Why help a major competitor rise to dominance when it’s just going to make things harder for your climb to the top? It makes a lot of short-sighted financial sense, but it won’t help Sony in their aspirations to achieving long term growth in the Android category.
The Xperia Arc also showcased a new edgy and slim design that we have all come to love. But the affection they had earned was quickly replaced with the slimmer (and better) SGS2. If the Xperia Arc shipped with 1GB ram and a dual core 1.2GHz processor, the SGS2 might have been dead on arrival. This however, was not the case, and any hype that was meant for the Arc was quickly passed onto the SGS2.
They are also not making maximum use of their expertise in the camera department. Sony should have adopted the N8 Summer Session direction. If they had created some social media noise or sponsored a music video project that could have showcased the power of your Xperia camera, they could have done significantly better. Maybe throw in a photography contest to story-tell the best of Xperia Arc photography. Instead, they let this precious opportunity pass them by.
A Stronger Walkman Line
I love the solid bass and crisp sounds from Sony Walkmans. I’ve used Sony Walkmans and even the SE K800i in the past, and still remain to this day very impressed with the sound quality produced by these products. I have no doubt that audiophiles will rejoice with the arrival of Android Walkman phone.
That said, Sony is taking their sweet time on this. If they had employed a more aggressive direction like the way HTC is taking with Beats, they could have terminated HTC’s idea in the first place. Imagine your Sony Android Walkman phone packaged with a noise cancellation Sony headphone. It is time for Sony to be a bit bolder with their phones.
Sony’s Android Walkman phones have gotten positive reviews, but they let this irreplaceable opportunity to cross-sell their headphones slide past them.
XDA Android Development
Sony made the intelligent choice to enable their customers to unlock their Android bootloaders easily via their bootloader unlocking website. This makes their phones developer friendly and very usable. However, a quick glance at XDA shows that the Xperia Arc isn’t Clockworkmod friendly. As a person coming from a CWM background, it’s hard to work without CWM. As a result, most users have to learn to use Flashtool to get things running on their phones. There might be other methods used, which I am unaware of, but it doesn’t seem to make flashing custom ROMS easy.
Also, Sony appears to finally be getting involved with developers – and, most recently, gave 20 free phones away to members of the development community. This is an intelligent move, as developers are really the bread and butter of Android. Earn good favor with the veterans of the development community, and you earn favor with (potentially) millions of consumers. Let’s see where this takes them.
Sony + Android@Home
Like Samsung and LG, Sony has a strong electronics background, but the integration of Sony Android phones with Sony products is almost non-existent apart from Playstation. Sony did showcase an Android TV, but, if I’m not mistaken, this hasn’t been released to the public yet. Either that, or the Sony TV trend didn’t catch on. They made the announcement in 2010, but a quick Google search revealed nothing.
Sony manufactures mainly in the area of entertainment based electronics – from DSLR cameras to TV’s to home entertainment systems, which allows very limited integration of Android. To be frank, Android will serve Sony very little in the long run unless they expand their product line to include household appliances or automotive stereos.
- Imagine your Android device could intelligently search and stream music based on your request.
- Imagine your favourite music syncs with your car audio and plays.
- What if your Sony DSLR could capture pictures that would then be immediately available to preview on your Sony Tablet. (Truly a photographer’s dream come true)
- What if you could rent Sony Entertainment movies and play them on both your TV and phone?
All of the above are a possibility for Sony. However, none of these have been a reality so far. God only knows if Sony will let these other ideas slide out of their fingers.
Sony Ericsson Is Way Behind The Rest
It’s shocking that Sony is only releasing their first dual core Android phone now. It doesn’t matter if you call it the Xperia Ray, Xperia Arc S or Xperia Duo, it’s really a big shame that they are releasing this when quad core is just around the corner.
Sony uses Timescape as their manufacturer UI, which is an amazing idea on paper, however, it seems overly laggy and unusable for me. Earlier this year, Xperiax10.net did a poll online and 80% of those polled revealed that they do not use timescape on a daily basis. Ouch!
Granted, it is possible that not 100% of users in the poll are Sony Android users, but it might be a reflection of Sony’s hold on the market. It may suggest that Timescape is absolutely unpopular, or absolutely unusable. Take your pick.
Let’s face it: Sony isn’t heading anywhere now.
Here’s 5 ways they can break that cycle of pain:
1. Gamers, or not at all
If Sony wants to target gamers, they’ve got to go all out. At the moment, Sony’s modus operandi seems to be based on the idea of trying to continually please everyone. Target gamers and make sure the games are ported – and are good. Create hype around the gaming community. Make sure your packaging is the kind that makes gamers turn into a puddle. Elite gamers won’t go for a phone just because it has a gamepad. Give them a reason to buy.
2. Develop your camera tech
There is no point in making one of the best cameras in the market and handing it over to Apple. Keep it the way Samsung kept their Super AMOLED Display all for themselves. Apple never shares their technology with Sony (not that anyone is aware of), but it doesn’t mean you should sell your tech for short term gains. Build your tech, and use your tech. It will help your market share in the long term.
3. Milk your products
Sony’s products are unique. As a result, equally unique opportunities are accessible. Start with the Xperia Play – ask yourself, how do I make gamers take this machine seriously? How do I sell and appeal to gamers? How do I sell a premium camera to photography enthusiasts? I would personally recommend a Games Championship (that is available to the Xperia Play) and a Photography contest/digital gallery showcasing some of the best Xperia Arc photography. If consumers see what they like, they will fork the money to buy your products. Also, start selling your Walkman phones with noise cancellation headphones/earbuds. This would help cross-sell your products, as well as reinforce consumer appreciation of your Android Walkman phones.
4. Speed up releases
It is end 2011, and quadcore is looming very very closely. Releasing your flagship Xperia Arc 2 will only pitt it against other industry heavyweights that are well rooted in the marketplace. Sony should have just jumped straight to quadcore and made it harder for Samsung, HTC and LG to react. Worst still, they had to release their flagship after the iPhone 4S is released. Talk about bad timing; the head of marketing in Sony should be immediately fired. When you’re late with your tech, you can’t sell at high prices, and you also can’t appeal to early adopters. You can’t create a win-win situation for retailers and consumers. I believe it is also time for Sony to give timescape a total redesign. If you can’t, make it a Pure Google experience until you can do a proper overlay. I believe Android handles integration pretty well, so there isn’t a need to worry if people will stop purchasing. In fact, a Pure Google experience also means that updates are faster. This is important to consumers.
5. Integration wins long term
The level of integration Sony has with Android is very bad. Knowing that Google has Android@Home in mind, Sony should invest more time and resources to build perhaps the future’s best Android home entertainment system. It’s still not too late to start now.
And how about you? What do you think of Sony’s progress in the world of Android? Have you had positive or negative experiences with their devices? Do you have any suggestions or anything you would like from them in the future?
The writing here is the personal opinion of Randy Khoo, and does not represent the view of Android Authority.