Sony's move to focus on flagship Xperia phones could be good for it

Sony Mobile just announced on its Investor’s Day celebration that it is trying to streamline its product portfolio by eliminating ‘Premium Standard’ models like the Xperia X and Xperia X Compact.

Currently the company produces three separate lines of smartphones –  mid-range handsets like the Xperia XA1 Ultra and Xperia XA1, ‘Premium Standard’ models like the Xperia X and Xperia X Compact and flagship phones like the Xperia XZs and Xperia XZ Premium.

After eliminating budget smartphones last year, now the company has decided to further consolidate its line-up by eliminating smartphones that slot in between the mid-range and flagship categories.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

This is a very welcome move and points towards a more lean and focused Sony Mobile, which aims to take back the market share it has lost over the years to Samsung, Apple and Chinese OEM’s like OnePlus. Consolidating their line-up does not only make financial sense, but will also help the company reclaim brand value that has degraded over the years.

A confused and intimidating line-up is a problem that Sony Mobile has suffered for quite some time now. Sony found considerable success with the early iterations of the Xperia Z, but over time, the attention tapered off thanks to a combination of incremental updates, poor pricing policies and a six month cycle of new flagship smartphones.

The foundation is there for Sony Mobile to stage a grand comeback. The innovation is there, all the company needs to do is streamline their line-up and make sure they don’t cannibalise their own products.

Instead of following a sensible one-year update cycle for their flagship smartphones, Sony decided to release a new version every six months. This resulted in dilution of the Xperia brand as every subsequent flagship had only incremental updates and did not look much different to the general public.

While tech enthusiasts and tech journalists could understand the slight spec differences between the new and old handsets, it became quite difficult for the common man to distinguish between the many ‘Z’ handsets on sale.

Last year, Sony decided to revamp their entire smartphone line-up by ditching the ‘Z’ brand name and introducing a whole new series in the form of the Xperia X, Xperia X Compact and the Xperia X Performance.

While this move had the potential to usher in a revival, their gamble failed to take off as the X and X Performance failed to set the market on fire due to a myriad of reasons. Now, Sony seems to have settled on the ‘XZ’ brand name and both the Xperia XZ and XZ Premium have been received warmly by critics.

The decision to streamline the product line-up will dramatically help make Sony’s product range easier to understand for the layman and will also help Sony market its product in a much clearer and focused manner.

Sony’s smartphones have a lot going for them – excellent cameras, a unique industrial design that stands out from the competition, state of the art displays and a wholly unique location of the fingerprint sensor. The upcoming Xperia XZ Premium is a clear representation of Sony Mobile at their best, a clear distillation of everything that makes Sony unique and what they are good at – Imaging, displays and audio.

The foundation is there for Sony to stage a grand comeback in the smartphone market. The innovation and impetus is there, all the company needs to do is streamline their line-up and make sure they don’t cannibalise their own products.

A lean and focused Sony Mobile has the potential to take back the market share it has lost over the years to Samsung, Apple and Chinese OEM’s like OnePlus

With fresh rumours emerging that the company plans to release two new flagship handsets by the end of the year, the potential to confuse their line-up again is ripe for the picking. It would do Sony a world of good if they establish clear product lines like Samsung has done with the ‘S’ and ‘Note’ series, with systematic and timely updates to them once every year.

What the company needs to refrain from is flooding the market with a plethora of products that have little differences between them. This will alienate the mass audience and will dilute the strength of the Xperia brand.

The future looks bright for Sony Mobile. They seem to doing all the right things in order to reclaim lost market share. The new Xperia XA1 and Xperia XZ Premium are getting great reviews. The ball is in Sony’s court now, let’s see if they hit an ace or strike out with a double fault.