Sony May Consolidate Its Smartphone Lines, Reports Say

In the face of fierce competition, Sony may consolidate its smartphone models to only the Xperia X series, according to reports.  

Sony, Xperia, Samsung, Apple, smartphones, global smartphone marketshare

Sony's Xperia Z, Xperia C and Xperia M smartphone lines could soon be reduced to one Xperia X product line as the company fights for market share in the very crowded and ultra-competitive global smartphone business.

Sony's coming changes were rumored in a May 13 posting in the independent Xperia Blog that is based on reports from Asian tech media sources. Sony has "ended the Xperia Z series, [and] apparently the Xperia C and Xperia M series have also been cancelled," according to the article. "This means that Sony may exclusively use the Xperia X as a single brand to push all future handsets."

The coming changes were also apparently hinted at in promotional slide presentations produced by Sony Mobile that purportedly show the company viewing 2016 to 2018 as a period "marked by 'Xperia X' as a new visual identity for Sony's brand communication," the story reported. A new Xperia X logo will also be launched for all promotional print and TV advertising in conjunction with the changes, the story continued.

With fewer product line designations, Sony could focus on one promotional and sales campaign, rather than spreading itself thin in the market against huge competitors like Samsung and Apple, which lead the global smartphone sales wars.

An April global smartphone shipments report from research firm TrendForce found that Samsung still leads in global market share, with 27.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016, followed by Apple at 14.4 percent, Huawei at 9.3 percent, Lenovo at 5.8 percent, Xiaomi at 5.5 percent and LG at 5.1 percent. All other brands, including Sony, make up the rest of the market with very small slices of the remaining market-share pie, according to a recent eWEEK story.

What is not known about the Sony rumors is if the company is planning to reduce its number of actual smartphone models or if the effort is being eyed to combine its handsets under one model line to simplify its marketing and sales efforts.

Sony reduced its number of Xperia smartphone models starting in November 2014, according to an earlier eWEEK report, as the company began efforts to find the right path back to profitability and increased sales for its mobile unit. Sony also dropped the development of new smartphone models for the huge China market at that time.

Samsung followed a similar product-cutting strategy that same November, reducing the number of smartphone models it offered for sale around the world by about 25 percent to 30 percent as it worked to right its bottom line after several disappointing quarters.

Things are tough throughout the smartphone market lately.

Worldwide smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2016 fell by 18.6 percent to 292 million devices compared with the fourth quarter of 2015, but Apple's performance was even worse, with its iPhone shipments dropping by 43.8 percent in the first quarter, according to the TrendForce report.

Samsung's first-quarter shipments were a bright spot for that company, reaching 81 million units, up 2.5 percent from the prior quarter, according to TrendForce.

Sony brought its latest consumer Android smartphones, the Xperia Z5 flagship phone and its smaller Xperia Z5 Compact version, to the United States back in February. The Xperia Z5 (pictured) includes a 5.2-inch FHD 1080p (1,920-by-1,080) Triluminos display, a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, an Adreno 430 graphics processor and 3GB of memory.

The Xperia Z5 Compact version comes with a slightly smaller 4.6-inch HD 720p (1,280 by 720) Triluminos display, but includes the same CPU and graphics processor, the same flash storage features and the same Android operating system as its larger stable mate.

In August 2015, Sony unveiled its Xperia C5 Ultra, which is built around twin 13-megapixel cameras front and rear, and the Xperia M5, which sports a 21.5MP main rear-facing camera that includes hybrid auto-focus, a 5X zoom and 4K video capabilities.