Sony Mobile to exit entry-level smartphone segment? Unlikely in our view

by XB on 14th January 2013

in News

There has been some chatter over the last few days that Sony Mobile may look to leave the entry-level smartphone tier. The comments came from Stephen Sneeden, the Sony Xperia product marketing manager, who you may have seen from some videos in last week’s CES tradeshow.

He told Cnet Asia that the “very entry level is where you lose the ‘Sonyness’ and it’s where you cannot implement some of these wonderful things from Sony at such a low cost.” He went on to say that Sony “cannot compromise on the experience that the company is trying to show to the customer” and that it “might leave the very entry tier to some other manufacturers”.

Sneeden suggests that Sony may instead focus its efforts on the mid to high-end smartphone segment. Features from the top-range phones will then trickle down to mid-range phones over time. “Maybe it’s not the flagship product, but I can still aspire to this other phone that has a number of these same characteristics,” Sneeden said.

We’re not convinced that Sneeden is revealing Sony Mobile’s 2013 strategy here. Sony Mobile had a wide portfolio of low-end devices in 2012 and we don’t see any reason why this will change this year. Industry estimates suggest that the entry-level segment will continue to grow year-on-year. Research house IHS says that by 2016, 31% of the global overall handset market will be low-end smartphones.

Budget smartphones are big business, even if they don’t have the same margins of flagship devices. You just have to look at Nokia’s recent results which pointed to 14 million devices sold in the last three months, however only 4.4 million were mid to high-end Lumia devices, the rest being its entry-level Asha range.

Whilst we’d like to see a more focused portfolio from Sony Mobile, we’re not sure this will be the case in 2013. Sony will continue to deliver on its flagship products, but we find it hard to believe that it will forego such a large part of the smartphone market.

What is your view on this? Should Sony continue to cater for all in the smartphone segment or is a more focused strategy on the mid-high tier necessary to drive the company forward? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Via Cnet Asia.

Thanks maxiobor and Nico!

  • Raiden

    Sony, please leave the entry level segment, is not for the Sony reputation.

    You should focus and concentrate to win the “big fights” for the high end devices and gain the deserved respect in the market


  • goldenblls

    Mmm, I’m not sure. Has it ever done well with entry level handsets? I think the J should be as low as they go.

    There is more profit in the high end but easy market share in the low end. They should concentrate on the high end.

  • SeVeMaS

    I wold say, to keep the mid range also, and yes leave the low end ones. Quality is the mojo…

  • Sony makes the best low-end devices. Some low-end Samsung and HTC phones are just straight out unusable.
    What he said was just marketing. It depends on if they make, or lose, money in that market.

  • Herman

    Once Sony stops making entry level smartphones, we will see more attention towards high-end smartphones which in turn will result in faster updates
    We can only hope!

  • Herman

    Sony is able to become a premium brand in my eyes.
    Premium like Apple, but without restrictions to their devices!

    The iPhone became a premium device due to only existing as high-end.
    Sony could do this, but they would it their own way – the good way for us, Sony users.

  • saif
  • roeshak

    Maybe it’s just the acceptance that entry level smartphones can’t compete with lower priced feature phones. Maybe it’s best to leave Nokia to it rather than an expanding portfolio of phones that negatively impact upon the development and support of the more premium flagship devices.

    Also with the very fast pace of development especially with android devices, it might not be cost effective to keep making entry level devices as there would be continuous downward pressures on profit margins. If the rumoured specs of Sony’s 2013 mid range offerings are to be believed, then we’d be seeing a dual cored s4 pro cpu with adreno 320 and a 4inch plus display.

    That would mean that at the lower end we’d be talking the sort of specs we have on the xperia P today. It would be very difficult to sell an xperia P for the sort of money low end devices get and still turn a profit. Also they can’t just keep using older tech just to keep cost down if

    a)that sort of hardware is no longer supported or manufactured in sufficent numbers by the SOCs or

    b) using such hardware greatly diminishes the performance of the devices and ultimately, the user experience

    Budget end smartphones might have made sense in the days of the 600mhz cpus, maybe even the 1st gen 1GHZ snapdragons but I don’t think they really have a future with smartphone makers.

    All that aside, if they do eventually exit the budget segment, it’ll be because the figures don’t stack up in favour of their continued development.

  • Raphael

    Xperia Z sets Sony with no rival but Apple in terms of materials quality and design. Its ad campaign clearly aims at high-end buyers (unlike Samsung Galaxy). Only success of Xperia Z/ZL & other 2013 flagships could allow Sony to get away from entry level market.

  • Xlash Andraid


    Just don’t try to be a company like Apple, wich sells the idea of “having something unique” to a determined sector of people who is wrongly called “elite”. Apple products are crap, overrated and expensive. Of course SONY products are synonim of quality, but that doesn’t mean they should be painfully expensive that only a millionare sheik can afford, excusing with the argument that the phone features and the experience for the user costs a lot (of money).

    In the other side, neither the strategy of releasing a bunch of low-ranged phones is correct. Let’s be honest, who cares (for example) about Xperia Typo or Xperia E? if they are supposed to compete against the samsung, lg, acer, lenovo, etc. phones, they’re still more expensive and have disadvantages such bootloader locked.

    What SONY needs to do is releasing 4 or 5 phones per year, 1 or 2 flagships, and three mid-ranged phones with special characteristics but no so many differences between them, so we the consumers have the option of choosing wich one accomplishes our needs and of course, paying a reasonable price for it.

    SONY is neither Nokia nor Samsung. Those companies have their own strategy that could work (in theory), but that doesn’t mean they’re totally successful.

  • If Sony wants to get the crown from Samsung and Nokia (during its bright years) they should produce 3 segments of mobile phones entry level, mid-range, and flagship mobile phones per year and still deliver frequent updates on these 3 devices. That way it would be easy for them to manage the portfolio for these devices and give them the updates that they need. Now, I know giving updates on an android products especially if you build a different UI on top of it is very challenging, hence, producing 3 classes of devices per year would be very manageable for Sony to give updates on these 3 devices without breaking the UI and experience of the user IMHO.

  • Michael Hofmann

    Sony’s mid-range smartphones will become cheap over time. For example you can pick up a Neo or Mini-Pro for similar if not cheaper prices than the budget phones of the Tipo/Miro whilst they still offer the same performance despite being 18 months older. Just let the midrange phones become the budget phones of the future. That way you can let Sony get on with what they do best which is innovation poured into great design.

  • Nico

    Thanks for the credits!

    Interesting things going on.
    Nokia doing quite well with low end handsets.
    Apple is rumored to be launching a cheaper handset. I wonder how that will work out?

    About the lower end Xperia’s
    A basic handset is also a way to seduce people, if they like the basic model they may also like the model that is positioned 1 or 2 levels. Guess what people buy?

    When I look at my own family, all my kids have Xperias, (U, X8 and one opting for a U or a J)
    For them it is their first phone and they like Sony, so what will they buy when they have their own money?

  • dime

    I think they should continue like this… and don’t stop the low end phone because not everyone one want to spend a lot of money for a mobile and also they should be faster with the updates and implements new innovations to the other older phones because that’s how they can do trust to people who bought Sony phone to buy again phone from Sony in one word to be a satisfied user. Continue and go on to reach Samsung…

  • dime

    This is a great comment I agree I had Sony ericsson Since T100 , k300,k630,k700, w300,w705 and vivaz pro when I was younger and now I’m 23 years old and i’m still with Sony now I have xperia s

  • Adrian

    Then Sony has to learn to bring that “Sonyness” to their highend models first. Until now Sonys phones are more or less standard overpriced models with problems and bugs. Xperia Z and possibly Xperia V is one good step into that Sonyness but it depends how they ill handle upgrades to new androidversions and add features that one really want to use instead of just downloading a third party app that makes the job in a better way.

  • junin romualdo

    I think Sony could see the market differently not releasing 20 phones per year, but releasing few and giving more support, because then consumers would be always satisfied, as most people change phones of 2 in 2 years. And releasing phones that were worthwhile, not only launch a phone with few technological revolutions. I say this as came the Xperia S being overlooked in relation to the Xperia T were few improvements. And Xperia T is already with Jelly Bean! Sony has to consquistar new and old users! So continue with low-end phones but with due support.

  • jxPerience

    actually he’s right. They cannot compromise the “SONYNESS” to make a budget XPERIA PHONE. Actually i dont like all XPERIA BUDGET phones from last year. They are all underpowered and released for nothing because consumers got confused due to all models are very identical to each other.. I think with this strategy we can see that SONY MOBILE will focus on quality and not in quantity. Compare last year they focused on quantity and not on quality, the result was too many similar specs handsets and very late for updates implementation. I Am A NO SONY BUDGET PHONE supporter. It will ruined my precious and HIGH class XPERIA BRAND. So with these we can say that if we saw XPERIA it means ITS LUXURY AND HIGH END. NOT A CHEAP and LOW CLASS NEXUS/GALAXY/ONE/RAZR BRAND

  • Hannad Ahmed

    IKR, but it says Thanks maxiobor and Nico! i posted this on you fb wall saturday….Sad Hannad, i wanted to feel the power of thankfullness from Xperiablog. But who cares.

  • Basti

    Nobody in the western world cares for the budget phones. People can afford highend-phones and are willing to pay even higher prices, if the phone interessting enough (look at the iPhone). This is were Sony can earn money.

    It’s probably very hard to earn money in the middle-range, since the aggressivly priced nexus devices make high profit margins impossible on the one side. On the other side they are still to expensive to be sold numerous in the poorer regions.

    There is nothing wrong about selling budget-phones, but there was no improvment of the 2012 budget-phones over the 2011 budget-phones. They could have saved the development cost for all these phones and just produce the 2011 phones with minimal cost.

  • Raphael Deschaepmeester

    it would be favorable to Mobile Sony to focus on the high end in 3 or 4 xperia marketing (keeping the idea of ??xperia Z of course) because people confuse on the choice, would be better oriented in the range xperia precisely less dispersion Sonymobile = Clarification of expectations and needs of consumers and between us, Updates would be better followed on 3 or 4 on Xperia 20 xperia (knowing that this is the weak point Sonymobile)

    The Z is going to pave the way for the success of Sony therefore, it keeps the same design of the Z while improving on the technology, updates, addition of aspect, design, features a LED notification a fire would be a good idea for Sonymobile (in terms of competitive advantage) and the user’s xperia (I think) short, we’re not there yet, but progress is improving more more ….. Sony should remain primarily on the design of Z as telephone operators in my country (France) had never shake as Xperia Z. ….. this is something that I had never seen before the arrival of the latest addition to Sony. very encouraging for the future ….. thank you for letting me express myself :)

  • jjghj

    I don’t mind Sony leaving the low end segment, however I hope they don’t just make the big flagship phones, please make a high end small phone! I know you can’t fit all the features on it but as much as you can, I love the Mini Pro and the U for their size, I would never consider the S, the P or the Z or V, just too big for me personally, doesn’t matter what they offer.

  • Trafalgar

    It could be that the reason why Sony had a wiiide portfolio of entry level phones last year is because it will be the first and last time they’re doing it. I think they need to cater the needs of the “regular” people who can’t buy expensive smartphones. They should follow through with the Xperia Z and ZL but they still need to have phones for every demography. They shouldn’t be “elitist” and be “the people’s smartphone powerhouse” or something.

  • riri

    I think it’s their strategy to not producing only exclusive smartphones to the varied market. but for my personal reference, I would just for to the mid to high end sony phones that are good in over-all performance plus signature features that only sony has. and I dont agree that the phones are pricy coz i’ve done some comparing among the phones with in the same price range and class. so please dont make them anymore expensive because you’ve already had some loyal customers over the years. :-)

  • paul_cus

    I don’t care what they do with the low end market, but I think they should only have one true flagship phone a year. The Z shouldn’t be replaced in the second half of the year, in my opinion.

  • Lam_Ang

    That would be great if they will have timely updates on their products.

  • airefc

    Please Sony make some more unique smaller devices like the mini

  • APai

    actually sony’s 2012 low end models are probably the best in the market. it’s the mid and top range that they could not compete with! how ironic! in the quest to give a true sony experience – they stripped critical parts out of each top end model.

    S has 32 gb built in but no later model has that (confounding!!)
    J has gorilla glass (officially) T doesn’t ?
    V is water proof, T is not ? (and only 8gb built in ? wtf)
    U has no expansion slot and has only 4 built in?…and shares pretty much the same guts save for ram as the P & sola, but does not get JB ?

    at least they did not repeat this “making all phones relevant” approach in the top end 13 models. so far.

  • APai

    apple and samsung are building their own SoCs and are creating the buzz. sony is taking commodity SoCs and making their flagships. look at how the qualcomm 800 series chips are “already ” more powerful than what’s on Z and ZL ? if sony wants to be the class leader, they have some work cut out.

  • aleci15

    Too much sony technology that won’t be fully implented and thus the experience becomes subpar.not to mention sony doesnt really release any entry level for the Japanese market so they can really synchronize their production for both markets.

  • tru

    Sony pls stop entry level phones. Sony should be only used by standard people.

  • i agree with him.

  • Ben-Amie Lim

    Lower end devices are one of Sony’s strongest points. they won’t exit it.

  • Avinash

    Xperia Tipo and Miro are the Best sellers from Sony in India. I dont think they will ditch the low end market that easy. Not every other man can afford to have a Mid to High end smartphone. They should obviosuly think on it

  • Philippe

    i actually quite like the way how sony mobile runs, take z and zl for example, the customer has been given the choice whether to buy a standard 5inchi phone for cheaper price or to spend a bit more for same perfomce premium phone. as well as all other low end phones, there is always a choice model for everyone,

  • Not everybody can afford High-End Device.
    Sony should just make all kind of Phone.
    I hope Sony will not became like Money Hungry like Apple.

  • powerofviva


    ************************* XPERIA PLAY 2 *****************

  • Killing Spree

    Maybe.. Just maybe they will just lower the marketing budget on Sony’s entry level devices.

    Cnet thinking ahead like they own the company.

  • im agree with you

  • If they chosse that .. why not… they have to struggling now …

  • release 1 phone a year… only flagship with all the support… i mean thats where most users r having issues with sony… i bought a xperia S and had to wait for a good part of the year to get ICS…. bought xperia T the day it hit the market… and am still waiting for jellybean… however i do like the upates Xperia T received which added the new movies and walkman app aswell as the leaked xperia Home launcher…. If sony goes the apple way and makes 1 phone a year…. and supports it as much as it can.. i wouldnt mind paying more than apple for it… I am a “sony guy”… i use vaio notebook despite the fact they are overpriced for their specs…. and i still bought a Xperia T for 74k rupees when a Galaxy s3 and HTC one X were 49k and 44k respectivly… was and will stay loyal to sony… but start supporting your products damn it…. XPERIA S owners r pissed off already for the late ICS and now the LATE jelly bean….just relase 1 product and go full guns with it…

  • i do agree… S4 pro has already been used in 2 phones…and ofc its fast but still its not “NEW” any more… the 13mp RS sensor is a + so is the water and dust proof thingy and ofc… the Build quality as with all sony products is top notch…. i am greatly impressed by the xperia Z…but i do wish it had afew more things going for it… 4 gb ram….( i know 2 gb is more than enough… hell i got 1gb on my xperia T…and i never had any kind of lag/slowdowns on it…infact it preforms much faster than my gf’s htc one X and my brother’s GS3…. but y i say 4gb is cuz… Geeks will be geeks… the bigger the number the happier they get…)…. now that nivida just announced tegra 4…(still need to see a comparison with the next qualcom chips ).. one of those 2 cpus would have put xperia Z 10 folds ahead of the comptetion ( it stil is though :P)…
    i really wish sony steps up their game in a big way and give the cheap plasticy samsung with the toyish look a run for their money….

  • Xperia U.. costs 17k rupees here in my country… compared to the 24k for Galaxy Ace… and xperia U has a dual core :p… so i do agree that the low end phones they make r good but .. i wish they only focus on high end…. my friend recently bought a Xperia Sola…. which he calls is a big upgrade over his iphone 4 s…. which costs 4 times more.. (sola is just 21k)

  • Nico

    I was thinking about the car industry, Sony is a bit like Toyota.

    Thinking about Toyota

    Currently Sony has 2 brands, Sony and Xperia.

    Maybe Sony could do the same with the branding as Toyota has done with Lexus.

    Xperia could be used for the premium models, the Sony brand name for the better entry level and mid range models.

    It seems obvious to offer a kind of update guarantee for the premium models

  • spatch

    I bought my mother the Xperia Tipo, hoping that she would enjoy an entry level smartphone the same way I love all my Xperia handsets. Compared to the Xperia S, the touchscreen on the Tipo is very hit & miss, and she is really struggling with it’s lack of sensitivity. It’s a mediocre phone at best.

    Sony needs to put out only a few handsets a year, and stick to the mid to high range phones. Sony is already known as an expensive brand, so they should stay strong with phones like the Xperia Z and aim for Apple’s market.

  • maxiobor

    I wish sony will release one low-end model, Sony Xperia Mini just with better HW its great phone and many ppl bought Xperia Mini

  • Strange

    I think Sony should come up with a seperate brand for budget phones.
    The Xperia brand should remain premium.

  • howard

    i think that sony will reduce their lineup by the next years,

    i mean that they will release less entry level phones and focus on mid range and high-end phones.

  • My Sola right now, i.e. after IS upgrade is very close to unusable. It regulary lags and crashes while I am playn audio files and browsing the net.

  • DJMashup

    Hasn’t 2011/2012 seen enough Sony “low/mid” range phones to see us through the next 10 years?

  • frederator

    I agree with the article too coz I just saw on Sony Mobile’s website that they’ll be releasing Xperia E next month which according to some articles is priced at $160. Anyway, I love how Sony makes uniquely-designed and really good-looking phones. Be it an entry-level or a high-end device, it’s all in the XPERIAnce. ;-)

  • Pingback: Sony CEO confirms focus on high-end smartphones over “commoditized portion” | Xperia Blog()

  • Pingback: Sony Xperia Z: Das beste Modell der CES ist jetzt vorbestellbar |

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