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ControverSony: a look at Sony's rocky start to 2016

Sony's mobile division has been on the rocks for some time. It's been more than a year since we started to suspect that Sony might soon wave goodbye to smartphones, but the past several months has seen the Japanese manufacturer make some particularly controversial moves. What’s going on? Find out below.

Sony Xperia X Performance
The Sony Xperia X Performance. Or the Xperia Z6. Or something. / © ANDROIDPIT

Searching for scanners

Sony released the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact in international markets several months before they reached the US. This was disappointing, but not a catastrophe. However, when the Z5 series' US debut was finally announced, it emerged that the devices wouldn't have fingerprint sensors like the other versions of the phones did.

Device components do often differ depending on the market (Samsung's Galaxy S series regularly features different processors in different territories, for example). What’s more, some devices don’t even get released in particular parts of the world, which can happen for any number of reasons.

But I'm still perplexed as to why Sony has failed to deliver the fingerprint scanners to the US market. There are plenty of cheap Android devices that offer fingerprint scanning technology – the Honor 5X, for example. Such phones may not be of the same calibre as Sony’s Z5, but why is it that they can include a fingerprint scanner when Sony can't?

review xperia z5 PT design
The dual fingerprint scanner / power button only acts as a power button on the US Xperia Z5. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony has yet to explain exactly why the scanners are absent – a Sony spokesman gave AndroidPIT the unhelpful explanation that it was a "business decision" – but the lack of transparency isn't the major concern. Sony's failure to compete on the fingerprint scanner front is emblematic of its recent problems.

Last year Sony released an overheating Z3+, cancelled the Z4v, and delivered an arguably unnecessary Z5 Premium. Sony Mobile is causing more problems for itself than it is fixing.

When a price drop goes wrong

The Xperia Z5 range received a price drop in Sony’s store one week after launch. Consumers love sales, and Sony has delivered one for its new product line. Great, right?

Well, no. Though smartphone prices nearly always drop after the initial release, this almost immediate reduction displays a disregard for Sony’s core fanbase. Die-hard fans will have purchased the Z5 on the day it was released or picked it up soon after. For Sony to then put the device on sale after its fans rushed out to buy it seems particularly unfair.

androidpit xperia z5 price drop
The Z5 saw a 12 percent price drop several weeks after launch. / © Amazon

Why didn't Sony create a limited offer for pre-orders instead? This would have encouraged and rewarded Sony’s most loyal userbase for investing in its brand new products. Instead, Sony has cashed-in on those most attached to the brand and it's left a bad taste in the mouth.

The Xperia Z5 has had a further 10 dollars sliced off its asking price and now sits at US$529.95: 12 percent off the launch price. A Sony spokeswoman told AndroidPIT that the original price drop was the result of a “pricing promotion”. At this point, however, I'd be surprised if the Z5 were ever increased to its original price. 

This move fosters a feeling that buying Sony products early isn't smart. 

Mixed messages at MWC

Mixed messages regarding the status of the Xperia Z series were rife at MWC 2016. AndroidPIT Italy was told that the Z series was finished, replaced by the Xperia X series, while AndroidPIT US was told that the Xperia Z series isn’t going anywhere.

Currently, the commonly held belief currently is that the Z series is indeed over, and that, even if the Xperia X Performance is not the Xperia Z6 (to all intents and purposes), another device in the X series will replace it.

At this point, we don't actually know which statement is true. If nothing else, it's clear that Sony is suffering some external communication issues, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was happening internally too. 

androidpit sony xperia z5 hero 15
Sony's Xperia Z6 release status has us puzzled. / © ANDROIDPIT

Perhaps Sony should be commended for dropping its Z5 price and cutting a feature that was reportedly underperforming. And maybe its MWC confusion is simply down to human error. Yes, maybe.

I don't wish to advise against buying Sony devices. I'm still excited by them; I recently wrote about why the idea of its bezel-less phone really appeals to me, and why it could be good for Sony. But one thing I am advising is that you don't buy the phones at launch, or pre-order them. No way. Not in the current Sony climate.  

It's early days for Sony's 2016 campaign but so far it's not looking great, and I'm no less worried about Sony's future than I was a year ago.

What's your take on Sony's recent form? Let me know in the comments. 


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  • SONY is so f****d up right now they don't know whether they are coming or going. They have half-assed the last 2 or 3 versions of the Z-series, and then they send some P.O.S. Z5 to the US market with no fingerprint scanner. Then to make things worse, they totally drop the Z series altogether announcinig at the last minute there is no Z6, which everybody has been highly anticipating. I think SONY is trying the put themselves out of the smartphone business, and they are doing a great job of it. I have been waiting for SONY to show some sign of intelligent life for the past couple of years, and probably would have bought the Z6 if it lived up to expectations, but as of now I am totally done with SONY.

    They need new management that knows how to make and market the smartphone we want. And quit ignoring the US marketplace. That's dumb. The US marketplace is the biggest, most important, and most affluent marketplace on the planet, and SONY continues to dump on us.

    F**K Sony. I will reluctantly purchase an iPhone.

  • Dave 7 months ago Link to comment

    I'm pretty much feeling the same - no idea what the hell Sony is doing at the mo! Mass confusion over their new range - Is the Z range over? Is the X range taking over? Pricing guide & sudden cut throat drops!
    Constantly saying one thing (or letting slip) then back tracking on the comments. This is the sort of thing that makes buyers very wary of buying a product where the company seems in such a state.

    Definitely going to wait until mid year or even later until deciding whether a Sony again for my next upgrade.

    Thing is, whilst they drag their feet, other manfucturers are releasing new phones & it could very well end up that one of those catch my eye...

  • I have sad bitter relationship now with Sony.
    I have owned many Sony products, spent thousands over the years...
    It looks over for me as I feel ripped off over my xperia z2 that I bought after my zperia z died.
    I had a z for two yrs and was pretty satisfied....
    As for the z2, just sad, WiFi never worked, camera always shutting down due to heat , no one over here in India offering any fix.
    WiFi not working worth a crap after spending a real sum of money .
    Dont know what happened over in Sony land but it looks like some major quality issues happening.

    Don't know if I will ever buy another Sony product after feeling left in the wind on the z2.

  • Paolo 7 months ago Link to comment

    Sony should just stick to PlayStation and forcing Kesha to keep working with Dr. Luke and just leave mobile altogether instead of completely half-assing it. Just saying.

    Their devices are good when taken alone, but it's very clear there's ZERO heart, effort, and intent with them other than to ideally balance their checkbooks, because it clearly reflects on them. Compare them to LG's, Samsungs, and Google Nexi, and you CAN tell.

  • Confused? by Sony marketing, confused on releases? just confused? One positive about Sony though heard the z3 running on the concept marshmallow runs like a dream! hope the Z5 will be the same when updated soon?

  • Moisés 7 months ago Link to comment

    Hi Scott, please help me....

    I want a new Xperia, here in Brasil I can find a Z3+ for R$ 2100,00 ( US$ 575), Z5 Compact for R$ 2500 (US$ 625). Best ´price I can find them.
    Can't buy on Amazon because they would charge me taxes when it arrives, (60% of the price ). Also no warranty .
    Z5c is better but smaller, not sure I can go back to a smaller screen , mine is 5 in. No Z5c in my city, so I have never had it on my hands, but it seems an ugly phone.
    This store sells for a good price, they have the Z5 Premium for R$ 3300 (US$ 825), it was released last week here for R$ 4700 (US$ 1175). It is too big, also kinda out of my reach !

    I do not want to use the 4k vídeo, so the Z3+ would not be a problem, I know Z5c is better, but Z3+ looks nicer and bigger display..

    What would you do?

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