Sony is Thinning its Smartphone Model Lines Due to Low Sales

A year after rumors circulated that the move was coming, Sony has decided to drop some models to focus on flagship and mid-range handsets.

Sony Xperia, Xperia XZ, Xperia X Compact, smartphones mobile phones, Apple, Samsung, Huawei, ZTE

Sony is changing its smartphone sales strategy to cut out its "premium standard" phone models which were aimed just below its flagship handsets to center its attention on its flagship phones and mid-range models.

The move to drop the premium standard models, including the Xperia X and the Xperia X Compact, was unveiled at the company's recent 2017 Investor Day event, according to a May 24 story by XperiaBlog.net.

The premium standard models, which the company hoped would provide flagship-like features at a lower price than the flagship models, were apparently shunned by mobile device consumers outside of Japan, who instead chose the higher-priced flagship models, the story reported.

Full year 2016 sales figures for the premium standard phones showed they achieved 85 percent of the expected sales in Japan but only 31 percent of their expected sales outside of Japan, according to presentation materials provided by Sony at the Investor Day event.

The company's flagship phones, the Xperia X Performance and the Xperia XZ, exceeded its Japan sales targets with a 104 percent sales performance and hit 60 percent of its sales targets outside Japan.

Sony's new smartphone strategy means it will offer flagship models like the Xperia XZ Premium and the Xperia XZ, as well as mid-range models including the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra.

The changes in the smartphone lines are part of other changes the company envisions as it works to recover market share lost to competitors in 2016 by improving sales operations and differentiating its products with technologies and features that are unique to Sony, Kazuo Hirai, the president and CEO of Sony Corp., said at the Investor Day event.

Sony did not respond to an email request for comment from eWEEK about the reshuffling of its smartphone line.

The premium standard Xperia X Compact phone, which is now being dropped, had been announced in September 2016 by Sony at the IFA 2016 conference in Berlin. Also announced at that time was the Xperia XZ flagship model, which Sony will continue market.

The Xperia XZ is a water-resistant phone that features a 5.2-inch full HD 1080p TRILUMINOS touch-screen display with a curved Corning Gorilla Glass cover, a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor and 3GB of memory.

Users also have a choice of a single SIM model with 32GB of eMMC storage or a dual SIM model that provides 64GB of storage. Both models include a microSD card slot that accepts memory cards of up to 256GB for expanded storage.

The Xperia XZ also includes a 23-megapixel rear-facing main camera with triple image sensing technology, predictive auto-focusing capabilities, 5x zoom and 4K video capture, a 13-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 lens, and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor for device and user security.

The flagship 4G LTE handset is a GSM phone that also includes a 2,900mAh battery, quick-charging capabilities, a USB Type-C port and WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, Google Cast and near-field communications (NFC) connectivity. The smartphone also meets IP68 standards for water, dust, dirt, temperature and vibration resistance and runs the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system.

The Xperia X Compact model included a 4.6- inch HD Triluminos curved touch-screen display with a Corning Gorilla Glass cover, a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa-core processor, 3GB of memory, 32GB of onboard eMMC storage and a microSD slot that accepts memory cards of up to 256GB for expanded storage.

Both handsets were announced late last year after rumors circulated in May 2016 that the company has been looking at streamlining its Xperia Z, Xperia C and Xperia M smartphone product lines to offer fewer models.

Sony has been having a tough time in the global smartphone wars for the past several years as its worldwide market share fell from 2 to 3 percent just a few years ago to less than 1 percent in 2016, according to figures at the time from analyst group Strategy Analytics.