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Is releasing a single Xperia Z flagship a year the right move for Sony?

With rumors that Sony might focus on just one Xperia Z flagship a year, we have to wonder -- is this the best aproach? What else should Sony focus on to improve sales in 2015?

Published onJanuary 26, 2015

sony xperia z3 aa (2 of 17)

For those that don’t know, we recently started a new podcast surrounding the topic of the Friday Debate. During last week’s episode we focused on the design rumors regarding the HTCOne M9, while also touching on the Sony Xperia series. Interestingly enough, the response was that most of us have somewhat given up on Sony when it comes to design and probably various other areas — at least as far as the western market is concerned.

Now earlier today we heard a report that, in addition to shrinking its lineup, Sony may end up cutting back on its two-flagship a year model in favor of a more traditional once a year approach. While the report was focused on Sony in Taiwan, it makes sense that Sony would apply a similar move to other markets. Personally I like Sony’s premium (admittedly somewhat Apple-like) styling and their minimalistically skinned Android builds, but I’m not so keen on their twice a year release schedule. And so this got me thinking, what benefits would Sony see from reducing down its twice a year model to just one major flagship a year?

The benefits of going to a once a year model

The most obvious benefit is a reduction of cost. One less model would potentially mean that Sony could cut down on marketing, R&D and everything in between. Considering Sony’s mobile division isn’t exactly swimming in money, such a move could really make sense for the company.

For consumers, the benefit is that new flagships would actually be worth the upgrade.

For consumers, the benefit is that new flagships would actually be worth the upgrade. The Xperia Z2 and Z3 are almost identical from a spec sheet point of view, and while this doesn’t matter to new Sony fans or those upgrading from much older models (like the original Z or the Z1), some folks like to be on the bleeding edge of tech and don’t like to see that their “new phone” isn’t the latest just a few months after buying.

Okay, so how “new” your model is shouldn’t really matter to folks, but some people do care and therefore they might pass on Sony devices altogether because the two-flagship-a-year model turns them off. I genuinely think that Sony’s current release schedule is a turn off for hardcore buyers and considering Sony phones are mostly sold unlocked in the western markets, that could be a very real problem for Sony’s bottom-line.

xperia z1 vs z2 display - 2

Are there any negatives to leaving the two-a-year model behind?

With Sony switching to a once a year release schedule, they’d be more attractive to consumers that like having the bleeding edge and don’t want to have a new model released only months after they invest in a new phone. Sony would also save (theoretically at least) save money on R&D, marketing and other associated costs that come with a two year a model. But what would they lose?

Currently, Sony fans know that whenever they are ready to upgrade from an older model, the phone they buy should have the most advanced specs around.

Probably the biggest advantage of the two-a-year model is that Sony fans know that whenever they are ready to upgrade from an older model, the phone they buy should have the most advanced specs around, since it won’t be any older than six months by the time they make the purchase. Then again, this doesn’t always hold true, considering when the Z3 was released the Note 4 rolled out with a Snapdragon 805 but the Z3 stuck with an 801.

Beyond this, I personally don’t see any advantages to the two year release schedule, especially since the jumps in mobile technology seem to be lessening with each year.

Reducing the number of phones and the number of releases won’t magically fix Sony

Of course, reducing the number of phones and number of releases is a start, but won’t automatically mean that Sony will start to see its sales numbers pick up. Sony also needs to work on improving marketing around the globe, expanding to new markets (more carrier partnership in the US, perhaps?) and finding new ways to compete with bigger players like Samsung and up-and-coming players like Xiaomi and other Chinese companies. Of course, talk is easy and I admit I am just a writer, not someone with deep inside knowledge as to how things go on at Sony or what it would take for Sony to rise to the top.

With that said, what would you like to see Sony do differently in 2015? What would it take to convince you to jump onboard and get yourself an Xperia Z4 or really any Sony device?