A new flagship every six months? Par for the course for Sony Mobile, but it seems that might be about to change in 2015.
Sony’s policy of six-monthly releases has been a long standing gripe of mine, and I’m sure I’ve bored people on forums and in conversations for ages by droning on about it so passionately.
Given my involvement with Sony that goes back to the ‘Mars Bar‘ phone I sold back in my phone dealer days in the 1990s, and reviewing just about every single phone it ever released in the UK, from Sony to Sony Ericsson and back to Sony, it’s hard not to share a view on something I feel is doing more harm than good for the company.
At a lavish launch party for the new Z3 Collection in London on Thursday night, which saw Mollie King taking to the decks, I was rather happy to hear from various members of staff that there is finally an intention to change things next year. At least outside of Japan.
Although the word intention means nothing is set in stone, and I certainly didn’t come away with a cast iron guarantee from anyone, staff that work closely with operators to manage product launches, train shop staff and manage feedback from staff and customers, admitted it’s a regular complaint they hear.
For a company that recently revealed a very disappointing set of results, with job losses and the first non-payment of dividends in its history it is quite likely that financial circumstances has also helped change the mindset within the company.
Less is more
It’s not hard to see why this is such a good idea, and increasingly becoming an idea shared by others. Beyond saving money in producing multiple phones, and having more launches than absolutely necessary, there’s a clear benefit to the consumer too.
Nobody likes to buy something they know or suspect will be replaced in a matter of months. You could call them vain, but it’s still quite understandable. It’s quite obvious that some people would rather shop elsewhere than get into that situation.
Even though we all accept technology advances at an alarming rate, there’s no need to advance at an artificially accelerated rate – especially when the shelf life of a smartphone or tablet is growing all the time, with devices so powerful that it is becoming quite hard to find anything that pushes them anywhere near their limits.
Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 when it goes on sale and you pretty much know you’re good with it for a whole year. Likewise many other models, like the Galaxy S5, or HTC’s One M8.
Buy an iPhone and it’s the same story.
Yet, sign a contract for an Xperia flagship, and by the time you end your contract, there will likely have been three new models released.
That’s unsustainable and, frankly, stupid – however impressive each individual model is.
Getting into sync
One warning I got was that Sony needs to get in line with the release schedules of its key rivals first, and I’d also imagine working more closely with the likes of Qualcomm and MediaTek to make sure each new flagship is ahead of the game.
That time is almost certainly going to be the autumn of 2015, but as the Z3 is little more than a facelifted Z2, it lacks the necessary hardware improvements to compete for a whole year, so we can therefore still expect to see new ‘Z4’ models announced at Mobile World Congress next March.
But as long as we eventually see an end to these six-monthly releases, and Sony finds a way to stagger the releases of its models over a whole year (including the low and mid-range models that often slip under the radar), I’ll still be happy and expect many other people in the industry will be too.
And I’m certain it will see an improvement in Sony’s fortunes going forward too.