It has been a tough year for Sony Mobile with smartphone sales dwindling and a lot of shuffling at the executive level. We really liked its last smartphone, the Xperia XZ3, but it failed to reel in the general public. We sat down with Don Mesa, Sony Mobile’s vice president of Marketing, at CES 2019 to find out what the company has in store for us in the coming year, and how it plans to turn things around.
Change is in the air
“We’ve been undergoing a lot of change,” Mesa told Digital Trends. “Every component of our business has been touched.”
The reshuffle heralds a fresh strategy for Sony Mobile. Shigeki Ishizuka is the new head of development and comes in from Sony’s very successful camera division. He was instrumental in establishing Sony as a top camera maker, so it will be interesting to see if he can work his magic for the mobile division. This move seems smart, especially since the camera is such an important element of modern smartphones.
“We are going to be announcing products at MWC,” Mesa confirmed. “What we present there will be a first step showing the direction we are going.”
It will take something special for Sony to stand out, and it’s not the only smartphone maker to see a slump in sales recently. There’s also the question of whether to jump onboard with 5G technology.
“5G is a challenge,” Mesa said. “Some people may be holding off buying a new device because they’re waiting for it. But we don’t want to rush and put the cart before the horse — the experience has to be good.”
We’ve already seen a number of Xperia XZ4 rumors and we can safely assume it’s the phone that will make an appearance in Barcelona next month. Perhaps the most interesting rumor is that the new phone will feature a tall OLED screen with 21:9 aspect ratio, which would be ideal for watching movies on.
Sony has also dabbled with a dual-lens camera in the XZ2 Premium, but returned to a single lens in the XZ3, so it will be interesting to see what kind of camera setup the XZ4 has.
“We’re hoping to deliver a much better camera experience,” Mesa said.
As for the prospect of a Compact version of the XZ4, it would probably be best not to hold your breath.
“Hopefully we can surprise a few people.”
“We stuck with Compact for a very long time, because of the ease of use,” Mesa explained. “There’s always room for different sizes, but people want a lot more surface area for their content now.”
There was a new wave of gaming phones last year, but it doesn’t look as though a new PlayStation phone is likely to happen any time soon, either.
Although Sony Mobile is starting out in a new direction, Mesa warned we shouldn’t expect drastic changes. The Xperia XZ4 will serve as a foundation, and the firm is likely to update the line again at IFA, six months after MWC, rather than pushing multiple phones in a year.
“What consumers can expect from us is a more true Sony, with greater convergence of content and device,” Mesa said. “And hopefully we can surprise a few people.”