Don Mesa, Head of Marketing of North America for Sony Mobile US, explains – once more – why the company disables fingerprint sensors in Xperia devices launching in the US. The bottom line is that while Sony’s justification is still as vague as ever, it probably has something to do with patent issues.
After the Xperia Z3, Sony simply stopped selling its smartphones through carriers here in the US. It quickly transitioned into selling unlocked phones, and according to Mesa, fingerprint scanners were just something that the company had to leave out. In fact, if you look at devices like the Xperia Z5 or even the newly announced Xperia XZ Premium, the units that are sold in the US have their fingerprint sensors disabled via software. That’s a serious bummer considering how convenient biometrics can be when unlocking your device or authorizing a purchase.
Sony has been attributing it to a business decision that had to be made, and this year, the answer is the same. The folks over at Android Central got a chance to talk to Don Mesa, Head of Marketing of North America for Sony Mobile US, and his explanation is as vague as the one from last year:
There are a lot of external and internal factors that contribute to us making a conscious decision not to include [fingerprint sensors]… that was very much about us consciously deciding that we want to continue our business here [in the U.S.], and one of the conditions for us to be able to do business.
It sounds like everything has to do with Sony’s approach in handling the US market. If you recall, Samsung had a very different approach: it catered to each carrier’s demands, and for the first few generations of the Galaxy S series, there were distinct designs and features depending on the carrier. It wasn’t until the Galaxy S III that the Korean electronics firm had enough leverage to say, “You know what, we are going to sell one version of the Galaxy S, and that’s that.”
It sounds like everything has to do with Sony’s approach in handling the US market. If you recall, Samsung had a very different approach.
Sony, on the other hand, has had a bit of a hard time dealing with US carriers and ultimately decided to quit that arena altogether. And judging by what Mesa has said, their relationship didn’t end on good terms. My guess is that Sony wanted to have more autonomy, especially in terms of its smartphone revenue, and that’s why it decided to sell unlocked phones directly, something that doesn’t quite work well in the US given the enormous power that carriers have. And because of limited sales and profit margin issues, the company doesn’t want to pay royalties for a patent regarding its fingerprint sensors. Hence, it simply disables those for US-bound Xperia phones.
The important thing, however, is that Sony would prefer to ship them with the fingerprint scanners enabled; the trouble is, the demand for them isn’t big enough to incentivize the company to negotiate these “business” external factors.