Apple’s win, android’s loss as Sony mobile faces extinction
is CEO of Empirical Works
When the BBC asked about Sony’s ve-year plan for its mobile division in March, chief executive Kazuo Hirai responded, “ ere is no guarantee that we will be in any business in ve years’ time. at’s just the nature of the electronics business,” implying that Sony may be exiting the mobile phone business in the near future.
Mr Hirai is clearly a realist when it comes to the landscape, and the profit-driven move in February to reduce Sony to a company with just three core o erings is re ective of that. Traditionally, this was a company associated with TVs, audio, and cameras – as of now, the focal points are Sony Pictures Entertainment, PlayStation, and image sensors (which are used in iPhones).
Of particular interest is that the former consumer electronics juggernaut will assumedly cease to produce phones. Sony makes great phones, so it’s a shame to have to eulogise them.
Tech-wise, some of the features, like waterproo ng, camera quality, screen quality, and even the design, are Apple-level or better. e problem is that no one knows this, and no one is buying them.
In fact, nobody besides Apple is making money from high-end smartphones. If you want an expensive, fancy phone, an iPhone is rst choice for the majority.
Sony obviously doesn’t make any money, and surprisingly neither HTC nor Samsung are generating much revenue from their high-end, feature-rich agship phones.
In Q4 2014, Android accounted for just 11.3 per cent of all smartphone pro ts, as per Strategy Analytics, and most of that comes from the mid or low-level Android phones.
Apple clearly dominates when it comes to marketing, brand message, and consumer perception. Sony’s tech is brilliant and they’re diligent with research, but do you feel cool when you go into its store, as you do with Apple? Why are you paying almost $1,000 for a Sony phone? When was the last time you saw an ad for a Sony phone?
e problem with Android has always been Google’s philosophy and approach, which has never been about making money or being rst-to-market. It’s about pushing a platform that is open and free to its hardware partners, which sounds noble, but what has happened is that companies have taken Android, modi ed it, and cheapened the brand and product in order to grab the lower end of the market.
As a result, what you now have is a litany of cheap Chinese knocko s that run Android, some of which are actually quite decent for knocko s, but have vastly undercut the market for sophisticated Android phones, like Sony or HTC’s o erings.
It has achieved Google’s goal of ooding the market – Android accounts for 80% of all shipped smartphones in Q4 2014, but at the cost of only making 11% of the pro t despite the market share.
It’s akin to what has already happened with laptops and PC. People will pay good money for an Apple MacBook, but who would pay more than $1,000 for a desktop PC or PC laptop these days?
e sad corollary of this is an across-the-board decline in quality and prestige, which is the rst step in a race to the bottom i.e. the precise situation desktop PC and PC laptops are in these days. is oversaturation will also sti e Apple’s creativity, since Android doesn’t challenge them. So they could just settle for minor updates to the iPhone every year if they so wished, as they’ve been doing with their own MacBook laptop lines.
In the tech world, you want to see things improve, evolve, and continue to be innovative. With Sony exiting the Android phone market, this is a threat to all three.