Sony Q1 2016 Earnings – Gaming & Media Up, Electronics Flat, and Components Down

(As always, keep in mind that these charts are fairly wide and created in very high resolution so simply click on them to enlarge)

The more I look at Sony’s Q4 FY15 earnings report which comprises of how they did in Q1 2016, the more hopeful and cautious I am of the company. In short, I find the direction Kaz Hirai is pursuing to be the correct one for Sony at the time. The question which remains is if Sony can execute his vision at a quick enough pace and transition to the next phase which is being a more lean and robust company with hopefully better selling devices on the market. That is outside of PlayStation which continues to do gangbuster numbers. Otherwise for Sony, it’s a tale of lower sales but higher profits, thanks to their more premium lineup which offers better margins.

If you look at the above chart, you’ll notice that excluding entertainment endeavors which in my mind comprises of PlayStation, Sony Pictures, and Sony Music, most of Sony’s electronic businesses were down compared to a year ago’s quarter. I’ve already discussed in length what’s been happening at Sony Mobile which you can read about here. However as the chart below shows, despite a drop in sales, Sony’s prospects on each division is improving, including their troubled mobile division. In fact Sony has posted a 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year.

Across nearly all core electronics business, Sony has seen a rise in operating income, even if they’re still posting negative numbers. The reason Financial Services dipped is mostly due to stock market volatility which has been in full affect the entire year. As Sony put it:

 Increases in the amortization of deferred insurance acquisition costs and the provision of policy reserves, primarily driven by a significant decrease in interest rates and the deterioration in the stock market 

For comparison, Apple each quarter has ‘lost’ more money due to currency volatility than companies like Facebook actually make. Context is king, right? Otherwise, as I said earlier, it seems like most of Sony’s businesses are humming right along the path set out by Kaz. However, let’s not forget about the elephant in the room – that division right in the middle – Devices. As you can see, compared to a year ago’s quarter, Devices is down ¥75.3 billion. It’s as if that division fell off of a cliff. For those unaware, Devices comprises mostly of Sony’s semiconductor business which supplies companies like Apple and Samsung things like batteries and camera sensors. According to Sony, the large negative number is in part due to:

Deterioration in the operating results of the camera module business

Deterioration in the operating results of the battery business

Increases in depreciation and amortization expenses as well as in research and development expenses

I’ve heard from a little birdie that Sony may have lost a major customer which could lend credence to the dramatic drop. Otherwise it’s hard to equate their reasonings and that number but for now, all we have is Sony’s vague statement on the matter. For those wondering what percentage of the company each division of Sony comprises, wonder no more with the chart below.

Way more details on each division from the Sony Q1 2016 earnings report after the jump.

Poll: Are you going to see the Ratchet and Clank movie this weekend?

Ratchet_and_Clank_Poster

 

It’s finally here! Ratchet and Clank is out in theaters today, and we’ve already got our tickets. Based on the wildly popular Insomniac Games franchise, this movie makes the Ratchet and Clank universe just a little bit bigger. So, will you be kicking some asteroid with two of our favorite galactic heroes? Let us know in our poll after the jump!

Sony F3216 & F3311 Model Numbers Point to New Low Mid-range Phones

Likely_Sony_Xperia_C6_Ultra_3

With the Xperia X and Xperia XA priced (at least by Amazon, anyway) and their launch nears, Sony might be slowly turning its attention towards more volume-driven devices as the Xperia X represents the company’s flagship line.

Sony may have some new handsets on the horizon targeting the lower mid-range. Two new model numbers have been revealed by the GFXBench benchmark, outing the Sony F3216 and F3311. Both devices are armed with MediaTek chipsets and one of them has a 16MP front-facing camera, which probably means this is the Xperia C series successor.

Sony hasn’t made it a secret that their primary goal is to turn their mobile division profitable before scaling for volume again. With a new factory dedicated to their own smartphones, Sony may finally be getting ready to add a bit more volume to its lineup as its units shipped have slipped quarter after quarter.

Earlier this month, pictures leaked (as can be seen above) which appeared to depict the successor to the Xperia C. With the F3216 & F3311 specs (which can be found after the jump), we might finally be able to put the two together to form a better picture of what’s to come.

Sony Mobile Sales Continue to Slide, Ships 3.4 Million Units in Q1 2016

Earlier today, Sony released their preliminary Q4 FY15 earnings reports which translates to Q1 2016 results. As a whole, Sony has come a long way compared to five years ago. Under Kaz Hirai, Sony has been able to make PlayStation a money making machine, stop the bleeding in home entertainment and sound while turning a profit, and put together a very lucrative ‘devices’ division which is in charge of all the company’s semiconductor components which mainly supplies rivals Apple and Samsung.

Mobile, on the other hand, continues to be a struggle for Sony as seen by the chart above which depicts their Q1 2015 and 2016 sales. I’ve previously written a fairly extensive piece on why Sony Mobile is actually faring much better than all Android makers, including Samsung in some ways. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading that piece in order to put today’s numbers into better context. As Sony noted in their filing, they’ve seen an:

 improvement in the product mix of smartphones, reflecting an increased focus on high value-added models 

This has allowed Sony to enjoy a much higher ASP than its rivals and resulted in the division slowly turning things around from a financial standpoint. For the year, mobile will be recording an operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) which is 57% higher than they had predicted a year ago. However, compared to the previous year’s ¥217.6 billion loss, it’s hard not to see things improving for Sony, even if it’s not evident when you look at their sales chart below which shows a significant year-over-year decline.

Again, note that this is from a financial standpoint. I know many of you might not immediately see Sony Mobile’s outlook improving and that’s because their focus is more wiping out losses from previous years and putting the division on an even footing before scaling again. We’ve seen others like HTC and LG attempt to regain marketshare without the financial discipline which – while from a consumer standpoint can be enticing as they’ve released all kinds of phones – has only decimated both companies financially as they dig deeper and deeper in the red. For Sony it’s clear: right the ship first, even if it means shrinking down their marketshare significantly and then begin to explore options of growing the division.

Way more analysis and charts on Sony Mobile after the jump.

Sony Profits Up 666% While Revenue Slightly Dips by 1.2%

Sony_HQ_Rain_2

It’s earnings time again and as a whole, things are going well for Sony as evident by the:

 666.5% rise in pretax profit for its full fiscal year 

This can be mainly attributed to the strong performance of PS4 and Sony’s ability to cut costs within its mobile division. All of this has led to:

 income before taxes for the year ending March 31 came in at 304.5 billion yen ($2.81 billion), a big rise from the 39.7 billion yen recorded during the same period last year. Operating profit rose 329.2% to 294.2 billion yen, its largest figure since fiscal 2007 

Looking at things more closely, mobile is still a business that’s struggling for Sony but losses did narrow to:

 61.4 billion yen from 217.6 billion in fiscal 2015 

Ultimately that operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) was 57.4% bigger than the company predicted a year ago but that’s mainly due to Sony choosing profits over scale which has also led to a revenue dip of 20% compared to the year prior. Kazuo Hirai:

 If it means that we’re selling less number of phones going out the door. We’re fine with that so long as we have a profitable business, and we’re really on our way to being profitable in that regard 

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight is more optimistic about Sony Mobile’s future. While what he has to say isn’t wrong; it’s up to Sony to be able to capitalize on future opportunities, especially now that they’re more lean than years past and the division hasn’t shown the same foresight as PlayStation to garner the benefit of the doubt. Ben Wood:

 Sony Mobile has embarked on some aggressive cost reduction over the last 12 months. This has seen it exit markets such as China, India and the U.S. as well as reducing its headcount. Now the business unit has more stable financial position to build on as it looks to driving a return to growth 

It’s no secret that gaming continues to become a more critical division of Sony and PlayStation did little to disappoint. Operating income for the Games division rose 84.3% to to ¥88.7 billion ($785 million) and an 11.8% improvement in sales. Both software and hardware sales for PS4 were up year-over-year which is helping offset the predictable decline of PS3 sales. PlayStation VR will also go on sale later this year but I’m doubtful first year sales will have a large impact on the bottom line as larger consumer interest in VR has yet to be determined and it’s unclear how profitable each VR headset is for Sony. However, if VR does take off, Sony is well positioned.

More after the jump.

Sony α6300 4D Focus Performance Test

Jim Fisher from PC Mag recently called the Sony a6300 a:

 Strong, forward-thinking mirrorless camera 

and named the camera their ‘Editors Choice.’ Engadget also chimed in, calling the camera in their review a:

small, sleek, fast and, most importantly, captures impressive photos and video. Paired with the right lenses, the A6300 has no trouble matching up with its more expensive Alpha relatives or even some mid-tier DSLRs. 

One of the most impressive features of the a6300 is its 4D Focus. During their time with the E-mount camera, Edgar Alvarez from Engadget wrote:

Nevertheless, the prowess of the A6300 is helped by its 425 phase-detect points, compared to the 179 found on the A6000. That, combined with the 4D Focus, makes the A6300’s AF twice as fast as the A6000, according to Sony. And it shows. As someone who’s tested a handful of cameras over the past several months, Sony’s latest mirrorless shooter is definitely the fastest one I’ve tried.

Now it’s one thing to read about how autofocus works on the a6300 and it’s another thing to see it in action. A new video from Sony does just that and shows off how the camera’s focusing feature performs.

Sony’s autofocus (AF) system 4D FOCUS is further enhanced with the α6300.

Thanks to the new “High-density Tracking AF Technology”, the α6300’s precise AF tracking allows focus to be maintained even on subjects that make fast, complex movements. This video shows AF performance test both in stills and movies.

Sony goes to compare the a6300 against a more expensive DSLR (which they don’t name) in a side-by-side comparison which I’m less concerned with, especially when they don’t name the competitor piece. However putting that side and just looking at the a6300 by itself in the video, you can’t help but be impressed. That video awaits you after the jump.

Sony a7 II Gets $200 Official Price Drop

Sony a7 II

Today is the day of price drops. First Amazon lowered pre-order pricing of the Xperia X and Xperia XA line and now Sony has their own official price drop. Those interested in the mirrorless body only Sony a7 II can scoop one up for $1,498.

With Sony killing their retail and online stores, you’ll have to make the purchase from Amazon or B&H Photo with the latter of the two able to have the camera at your house by Friday for Prime users.

Sony and Montclair State University Bring Touch of Hollywood to East Coast

Sony_DMPC

Sony has been making some interesting strategic decisions lately.

In a move that will bring Hollywood’s newest technology to New Jersey, Montclair State University has entered into a strategic alliance with Sony Electronics, one of the world’s and the state’s technology leaders. The agreement puts into place a long-term plan to enable the University’s communication and media students to gain real-world experience and get a high-tech preview of their future careers. The University’s new School of Communication and Media building, currently under construction on the 252-acre, suburban New Jersey campus, will provide a facility where Sony will offer industry professional training similar to what is offered at its Digital Motion Picture Center (DMPC) on the lot of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. Slated for completion in spring 2017, Montclair State’s new School of Communication and Media building will have the distinction of being one of the most extensive 4K studio and production facilities in the country located on a university campus. It will include studios and classrooms, as well as a theater outfitted with Sony laser projectors, studio cameras, production switchers and monitors. The strategic alliance between Montclair State and Sony, however, extends far beyond the equipping of this new state-of-the-art building.

Though they won’t be yielding any fruit from this in the short term, Sony is empowering a creative community that will learn and create on their equipments. Particularly in Hollywood, we see it time and time again where directors and talents champion things they grew up with like the love for 35mm film that J.J. Abrams & Quentin Tarantino share. This loyalty also extends to where they’re likely to set up shop which could allow Sony Pictures in the feature to more easily scoop up talent.

Similar to Sony’s DMPC operation in Hollywood, the Montclair State facility will be a training and educational resource, with cutting-edge 4K facilities available to students and production professionals in every aspect of the creative process. Sony will use the space to host business development events, conduct training and promote new technologies, establishing Montclair State University as a preferred environment for Sony’s introduction of new products, technologies and services relating to television, film, media and higher education. Additionally, Sony will enable Montclair State communication and media students to attend the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference and will create internship, mentoring and training opportunities for them. Sony technologies are also used by professionals in a range of b-to-b applications and markets, including live event and sports production, faith, government, education, and healthcare.

More after the jump.

Sony Xperia X & Xperia XA Pre-order Prices Drop on Amazon

Earlier this week, pre-orders for the Sony Xperia X and Xperia XA went live on Amazon UK. At the time, the two phones were priced at £549 and £279 respectively. While the Xperia XA pricing seemed in line with expectations and the phone’s features, the Xperia X pricing felt off.

In fact I noted then that the pricing for the Xperia X was more in line with flagship pricing that the Xperia X Performance should receive and was priced above 2016 flagship phones from Samsung, LG, and HTC. Whether this was simply a mistake by Amazon or a change of heart from Sony is unclear but both phones have since been reduced in price, making them a far easier buy once released this summer.

After the jump, pricing awaits you.

4K Time Lapse: Houston After Dark, Shot on Sony a7R II


I have to say, I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to time lapse videos. Working routinely on a 5K display also tends to make even 1080p videos look lacking so adding 4K to anything makes me that much happier. Jonathan Irvin:

 This is my first attempt at turning a time-lapse sequence into a little feature. I really love doing them and I hope you enjoy! 

And for the equipment and gear, Jonathan used

 the Sony A7Rii and the 24-70 f4. I used the Sony Time Lapse app in camera in custom mode to output raw files. I edited in Lightroom and LRTimelapse. Final edits were made in Final Cut Pro. 

Perhaps most impressive about the time lapse is how fantastic the night scenes look. The blacks are pure black and the brights are simply gorgeous, thanks to the camera pulling in all available light. The video can be seen after the jump.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow (23.5.A.0.570) Finally Comes to Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Sony_Xperia_Z3_Tablet_Compact_2

Sony has been playing a bit of a dancing game with its tablets and Marshmallow. First, the Android 6.0 build arrived on the Xperia Z4 Tablet (which makes sense) but skipped the Z3 and arrived on the Xperia Z2 Tablet. Now Sony has finally released Android 6.0 Marshmallow (23.5.A.0.570) on the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.

Luckily, the release widely covers the Z3 tablet family which includes LTE models (SGP621, SGP641) and Wi-Fi only editions (SGP611, SGP612). As per usual, while the update is live via OTA, it’s hit or miss depending on your region. So if you’re looking to get the update for your Z3 Tablet Compact or other Xperia devices as soon as possible, I’d recommend downloading the free Mac/PC Companion Manager which tends to have updates faster than OTA.

Sony World Photography Awards Winners Announced

Sony World Photography Awards

I didn’t even know this was a thing before now and I’m blown away by the quality of entries.

Now in its ninth year, the Sony World Photography Awards is the world’s largest photography competition, recognising and showcasing the best photographic talent across all levels, genres and areas of expertise from the past 12 months.

The winning images are taken from a record-breaking 230,103 images which were entered into the awards’ Professional, Open, Youth and National Award competitions from over 180 countries. The total number of entries received by the Sony World Photography Awards since its launch in 2007 has now surpassed 1 million images, reinforcing its position as one of the most respected and influential photography competitions in existence.

So who took top spot from the coveted awards?

The Honorary Judging Committee has selected Iranian photojournalist Asghar Khamseh as the recipient of the most coveted prize, the L’Iris d’Or Professional Photographer of the Year. Kei Nomiyama, Japan, wins Open Photographer of the Year.

More after the jump.

‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ Could See a Delay

This generation has seen no shortage of delays and the PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games could be joining that list. Guerrilla Games Co-Founder and former Production Director Arjan Brussee (who left the company in 2012) chiming in on initial reports about the game’s delay:

With E3 right around the bend, we likely won’t have to wait long to hear about the game’s fate. The game was originally set to appear some time in late 2016 but reports are now pegging an early 2017 release date. If true, I’d wager late February or early March. Again it’s worth pointing out that nothing is official at this point but, if true, I’m glad.

Sony has given Naughty Dog plenty of time to refine Uncharted 4 which has seen a few delays of its own and the final product, which is arriving in two weeks’ time, looks nothing short of spectacular. If developers need more time to iron out bugs and enhance the game, I’m all for it. Others have gone as far as to claim the game’s delay has something to do with the rumored PS4K but I don’t think that’s true.

Sony Xperia X & Xperia XA Prices Revealed?

On the heels of learning when the two new smartphones from Sony would launch, I’ve now learned about their pricing. According to Amazon UK, the new phones will be priced as such:

  • Xperia X – £549
  • Xperia XA – £279

Starting with the latter of the two phones, the pricing makes sense. This roughly puts the Xperia XA, a high-end mid-range phone at a $299 – which if ever released in the US would be $100 cheaper than the recently launched iPhone SE. While the price range does put the Xperia XA in a hyper competitive field, it allows Sony to be more in range with its competitors and the eventual price drop, and more near term promotions will make the phone accessible to a far wider demographic.

If Sony can market the Xperia XA and allow the phone to be widely available, they should be able to achieve a level of success (read: volume) they haven’t attained in some time. However, with the Xperia X, things get a bit more tricky. More on that after the jump.

Sony Xperia X and Xperia XA Release Date Revealed?


Thanks to Amazon UK, we now know when the Sony Xperia X and Xperia XA (pictured above) are likely to arrive. I say likely because it’s never official till announced by Sony but things are looking fairly definitive. According to Amazon UK, the two phones will be released on:

  • Xperia X – May 23rd
  • Xperia XA – June 6th

We’ve previously heard a summer time frame and this puts both phones squarely in that range albeit sooner than I had thought.

Poll: Have you heard of Medium? Do you read publications there?

Medium_Logo

We’ll keep this one simple. Medium is, in their own words:

 a place where great ideas come from anywhere, and quality is what matters. 

It’s a content community where reading your favorite publications is no longer a passive experience. It’s where writing a beautiful post is seamless, and, most importantly, it brings authors and readers together like never before. But don’t just take it from us – check it out for yourself!

Is this news to you or have you been using Medium for a while? Let us know in our poll!


Sky Movies and Sony Sign Exclusive Film Deal, Including 4K Titles

Sony_X930C_4K_HDRSky and Sony Pictures have signed an interesting deal that will be bringing 4K films to Sky customers.

 The deal will mean Sky customers will have access to Sony movies, including those in 4K, just after they’re released in cinemas – and before they hit other streaming services. 

The deal between the two companies will be valid for Sky Movies subscribers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy – allowing them access to Sony Pictures films:

 over a year ahead of any other subscription service and only a few months after they have been released in cinemas 

This means that upcoming films like Ghostbusters and Spider-Man: Homecoming will be seen on Sky Movies a few months after they have been released in theaters. The key part here is “ahead of any other subscription service,” which means Sony is keeping its films away from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other like providers in those countries. However, SP films will still be released on Blu-ray and paid platforms like iTunes and PlayStation Network on time though obviously not in 4K, yet.

More after the jump.

Sony to Postpone Earnings Results for Fiscal Year Due to Earthquakes in Japan

Sony_Headquarters_Japan

We already know that when Sony reports its consolidated results forecast for the fiscal year, it will be lower than expected. That’s in part because Sony will be booking

 an impairment loss of ¥59.6B on its camera business. Operating Income for FY now estimated at ¥290B, down from ¥320B. 

Originally Sony had set April 28th aside for their earnings call but due to the recent earthquakes in Japan which have also affected two of their image sensor factories which provide optics for the iPhone, the company has announced a delay in their earnings results.

It’s unclear exactly when Sony plans on reporting their results, other than the vague May timeframe given. This is likely so they can better assess the damages done by the quakes which they will surely be asked about during the earnings call. Statement from Sony after the jump.

Raychul’s Review of ‘Ratchet and Clank’ Makes Us Want to Save the Universe Again

Raychul_Ratchet_and_Clank_Review

In 2002, Insomniac Games released a little game for PlayStation 2 to great critical acclaim and raving reviews called Ratchet and Clank. Now, two console generations and several successful games later, the duo have made their PS4 debut in a remake that is sure to please fans of the original game. Just ask our good friend Raychul Moore:

 I think it’s one of the best re-releases of a classic game that I originally loved that I’ve ever played. 

According to Raychul, Ratchet and Clank does not fall victim to the curse many other remakes do – it actually has that “special something” that makes the game feel new and modern.

 Ratchet and Clank is one of the first games I would definitely say you can tell they rebuilt this game from the ground up. 

So, whether you’re new to the franchise or are excited to dive back in to the world with an out-of-this-world arsenal, get ready to play the game, based on the movie, based on the game (and go see the movie, out in theaters April 29th)! Ultimately, Raychul concludes with:

 One of the genres I miss the most in today’s gaming is a really well done fun platformer. I’m so glad that Insomniac brought back Ratchet and Clank … It fulfilled all of my needs and wants for a platformer and gave me big crazy fun guns to do it with. 

Check out her full video review of Ratchet and Clank after the jump!

Try Android N Developer Preview for Xperia Z3

Android N

Despite still rolling out Marshmallow, Sony is beginning to prepare for Android N (please let it be Nutella).

 Now you can get your apps ready for Android N using Xperia Z3. Sony is working with Google to bring you the N Developer Preview on selected Xperia Z3 devices. 

Specifically, Sony wants you to use the

 N Developer Preview to test your apps with new system behaviors for saving power and memory. Extend your apps with new features such as multi-window UI, direct reply notifications and more. 

Let’s just hope that this is a sign that Sony plans on being even more aggressive with their Android N rollout. It’s also curious that they’re testing it on Xperia Z3 devices and not Xperia Z5 though that could be due to the numbers of Z3s in the wild vs. the newer Z5. So what’s new with Android N? Details after the jump.

Sony to Report Lower Profit Margins for FY 2016

Sony_HQ

Come April 28th, we’ll know a lot more, but it’s looking like Sony isn’t going to be able to hit their original goals for FY16.

Just last quarter, Sony’s image sensor division, which has traditionally been a point of strong profits for the company, recorded a surprise loss for the quarter. Now it seems that the division will continue to struggle in the coming quarters as slow down in China and other Asian territories continues along side a maturing smartphone market. Luckily for Sony, we’re headed towards a world that requires more and more sensors – from self-driving cars, to drones, headsets, and 360 camera rigs to name a few. Assuming Sony is able to take advantage of them, and there are already reports of Sony prepping sensors for cars and the company having formed its own drone division with the sole purpose of showing off their camera technology to much larger firms, I have a feeling that the long term prospects for their image sensors are just fine.