It seems incredible that a company like Sony Mobile, which has always been characterized for leading and being innovative in the phone sector, is going through a creative block where sales are also subpar. We have already seen on more than one occasion that the market is unforgiving, and any slip can end up being very expensive. 2017 for Sony went unnoticed, but the first rumors for next year suggest that the Japanese company will make a strong comeback.
Taking the opportunity of having this unconfirmed information, it is time to talk about what we would like to see as new and different from Sony Mobile next year. The brand lost its edge in key aspects. If it wants to look Samsung and LG in the eye next year, both with its high-end devices as well as competing safely in terms of the most modest devices, then these are my wishes for Sony to be a company that is both admired and feared by the competition in 2018.
The best image sensors worst exploited
Nobody questions the mobile’s image sensor quality if it is signed by Sony. The LG V30 (IMX 351), the Note 8 (IMX 333 Qualcomm version) and the HTC U11 (IMX 362) use it .. even the
performance than its competitors?
Nobody questions the quality of an image sensor made by Sony. They are the best in hardware, but not in the final execution that the users sees.
It is true that Sony Mobile and Sony Semicon (the company that produces the cameras sensors) are two companies that act independently one from the other even though they share the last name, but since a few years we have seen how they have become suppliers of the best technology and other manufacturers are the ones that have taken the most out of it.
I understand this may happen for one year but when it becomes the rule, it makes a serious problem. Yes, the 2017 Xperia XZ record in slow motion with 960 fps but it is not an experience to take much advantage of. Generally what people want is to take quick photos, that look good and to have manual options at hand when we want that touch of necessary adjustments to make our photos look better.
What do we expect Sony to do in 2018? That they continue to produce great image sensors but becoming the ones with the best software. In some thing is going to be difficult to compete, like the artificial intelligence of the Pixel 2 XL but they need to go back to be referents in this category. We’ll see if they know how to focus the problem.
Dieting with fron frames
Another thing that surprises us from Sony. When they launched the Xperia Z at beginning of 2013 we saw they had achieved to get that iconic touch that in more than one occasion the Japaneses got with other products. In the wake of the Z they were building and making small changes, leaving the glass to pass to aluminum body but they took over the front frames.
Bet for front speakers has made them separate from other trends that have had more popularity.
This year the trend has been reducing the front frames to the maximum and try with more vertical screens. A trend that has not only reached the flagship phones but the more modest smartphones as well. Does Sony sign up for this? No, they continue using those front frames that enlarge the terminal size. Yes, the XZ Premium has a 4K HDR display with 800 ppi but with a small size, and it’s something but not quite enough.
The first rumors of the XZ2 leads to think that the frames will be thinner and that Sony will catch up with this trend. They are not late because everything points to that in 2018 we will see more of this style terminals. Besides, the strategic position for the fingerprint reader on the lateral frame will help reduce some millimeters and offer a better screen ratio on the front.
Why hasn’t Sony done this before? If we see the trend of other flagship phones, we can observe that the 18:9 displays are the result of several years of reducing frames a little bit at a time, it wasn’t suddenly. The Japaneses bet on the front speakers, something that make more difficult the reduction and this has made them stay behind but it seems that in the next months they will catch up.
Less noise, more software
4K display on a phone, more useless apps, a 3D camera mode for scanning objects … For sure none of these features are the whim of some person responsible on the company and all of this is due to consumers studies. Everything is very well studied but it gives us the feeling that they end up without hitting.
We must recognize that with all the software updates they are moving fast and we appreciate that Oreo even comes installed from factory on some phones like the Xperia XZ1. The feeling they give me is that they are looking more for the wow effect than for offering useful apps and functions in the day by day.
My wish here is that they make small changes and get focused on functions that people are demanding: more photography modes, being able to clone apps for using two different sessions, leave aside the resolution war and offer more hertz or high quality panels … I don’t think this is the section in where they have to make more changes but making a review to go to more useful tools would be great.
A mid-range more attractive
In 2017 Sony Mobile has launched nine different Xperia models, a contained number in where they have tried to cover all types of sizes (Compact, Ultra) and price/use ranges (XZ1, A1, L1, R1). If we talk about the specific mid-table, we see that none of its terminals has being an alarm for price or specifications.
Sony seems to be more focused on offering an aspirational product on its mid-range. The problem is that the whole thing is not attractive enough to be the best of the year.
The Xperia A1 is a natural competitor on this range, it was a kind short when it comes to the hardware and with a higher price than other phones such as the Motorola G5S or the Xiaomi Mi A1 that this year have had a very hard fight for being the best of the year. The Sony Mobile’s proposal, is fine but having phones of lower base prices, with better specifications and an Android less loaded and with more probabilities to be updated, it is a difficult fight.
We’ll see if in 2018 they achieve to have a good competitor on this league, this has never been Sony’s specialty but they have had very interesting contenders in a higher price line for the people that look for something better. The problem for the Japaneses is that on this year they have been orphans in this area and, in many markets, money talks and people prefer to spend less or paying of hundreds of euros more expensive for flagship phones.
Whe want a strong Sony Mobile
The end of the year is a great time to make lists of purposes and wishes, especially for the mobile manufacturers. The Xperia have lost their position this year and although they have had some hits, as bringing Oreo series, they have moved away from the media interest and the consumer interest for not being able to be up to a very high point that they and we have set.
As we said before, the mobile market doesn’t forgive those who fall asleep and the iconic innovation point that they have always had is necessary. We hope that in 2018 the spark comes back to them and the first rumors we are seeing become true and it get confirmed that the Japaneses are back and that innovation doesn’t depend on Chinese and Koreans.