Sony Mobile

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.

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

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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%

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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 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.

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

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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 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.

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 Xperia X Performance to Offer HDR Display?

If these rumors pan out, there might be a good reason to wait till summer. Apparently, the soon-to-be flagship Sony Xperia X Performance will offer an HDR display, a first in smartphones.

 An HDR screen would mean crazy rich colors that are more vibrant. According to Phone Radar’s source, the Xperia X Premium will sport a 10-bit HDR display that can show 1,024 shades of the primary red, green and blue (RGB) colors. That’s a nice upgrade over the usual 256 RGB hues that other screens offer. 

But that’s not all; in addition to an HDR display which would allow the phone to reach deep blacks and bright whites, the phone’s screen will supposedly be twice as bright as competitors.

 The leak also suggests that the purported Xperia X Premium’s panel would offer a scorching “1,000 nits of white brightness” and can even go up to 1,300 nits at maximum. Our current smartphone average is 437 nits, and the Galaxy S7 Edge notched 530 nits on our light meter. 

All of this sounds crazy at face value but besides making HDR televisions, Sony was also the first manufacturer to make a 4K display smartphone (the Xperia Z5 Premium) so I wouldn’t put it past them. Of course, just because you can build it doesn’t mean you should. Would an HDR display be nice on a mobile device? Yea, I guess, but seeing how those Facebook vids and YouTube series barely pass muster for 1080p which is what’s mostly consumed on a phone versus a Netflix series like Marco Polo, I’m not sure having a display like that will really matter. Now, on a tablet? Sign me up.

Update:

I’ve mistakenly called the Xperia X Performance (correct in the title) the X Premium in the article which I’ve since fixed. However, the original source does call it the Xperia X Premium which either means there will be another model announced by Sony or they are also mistakenly typing Premium for Performance like I had.

Battery STAMINA Mode Already Back for Some Xperia Z4 and Z5 Owners

Battery_STAMINA_Mode_JapaneseIt’s been less than a week since we first heard about Battery STAMINA Mode returning to Xperia models running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and some owners are already reporting the return of the feature. Specifically:

 firmware build number 32.1.F.1.38 is currently live on the Xperia Z5 (SO-01H), Xperia Z5 Compact (SO-02H) and Xperia Z5 Premium (SO-03H) 

The update is currently limited to devices running on NTT DoCoMo and also includes the Xperia Z4 (SO-03G). Though no specific timetable has been given for its return, all devices running Marshmallow are expected to get Battery STAMINA Mode back with future updates.

Sony Xperia Z5 Gets a Price Cut in UK

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The flagship Sony Xperia Z5 just got a bit cheaper in the UK.

From what I’ve gathered, this isn’t a temporary sale and instead the new pricing for the Z5. Sony could be looking to move more units as summer approaches which is when the Xperia X family is set to arrive. More about the deal after the jump.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow Arrives for Sony Xperia Z3, Xperia Z2 Tablet, And Others

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Sony Mobile is finally getting around to updating some of their older smartphones and tablets to Marshmallow. Specifically, Sony is releasing Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow for the:

  • Xperia Z2 – D6502, D6503
  • Xperia Z3 – D6603, D6653
  • Xperia Z3 Dual – D6633
  • Xperia Z3 Compact – D5803, D5833
  • Xperia Z2 Tablet – SGP511, SGP512, SGP521

More info after the jump.

Sony Xperia X Video Shows Predictive Hybrid Autofocus

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One of the things that fascinates me the most and will likely be the biggest selling point of the upcoming Sony Xperia X will be its camera. In a new promotional piece, Sony is highlighting the phone’s predictive Hybrid Autofocus feature which can automatically track a subject and predict their next move and, in turn, keep them in focus the entire time. From Sony:

 Xperia X’s Smart Capture technology helps you banish blur. Enabled by Sony’s new Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Smart Capture lets you choose a person or object and automatically track it. Now your subject stays in focus, even when moving, and the most unpredictable scenes come out in the sharpest detail. 

If the feature works as advertised, the Xperia X will have something most competitors lack and could act as a key driving force of sales for Sony. The video showing off Predictive Hybrid Autofocus can be found after the jump.

Sony SmartBand 2 Update (2.1.17) Brings Third-Party Support to Heart Sensor

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A new update is rolling out for the Sony SmartBand 2.

 Sony Mobile has updated the companion app for the SmartBand 2 SWR12 fitness tracker, which brings numerous improvements. The newest version (build 2.1.17) adds a new feature called Get moving which gently encourages you to get off your arse if you’ve been sitting idle for too long. 

Alongside added functionality to the app, Sony is also wisely allowing third-party apps to tap into the SmartBand’s heart sensor.

 Sony now also allows you to use the heart-rate sensor with third-party apps, which is great to see. Other changes include automatically entering STAMINA mode when the battery is low and a lower vibration setting for notifications. 

This is a good move by Sony which can help unlock the unit’s functionality and usefulness. While stock apps like the one provided for Sony are always nice, it’s sometimes more niche apps that help define a device for users and by allowing other developers to use the sensors of the SmartBand 2, Sony makes their own hardware (where they’re making money from) far more attractive to consumers with little work needing to be done on their end. The update is now live on Google Play.

Battery STAMINA Mode Returning to Xperia Phones After All

Battery STAMINA Mode

With Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google introduced a feature dubbed Doze which replicated some of the same functionality as Sony’s own Battery STAMINA Mode. Despite not being nearly as efficient, Sony didn’t see a reason to compete directly with the feature and in turn, removed it from all phones running on Marshmallow. This was from Sony then:

 The Marshmallow version of Android has its own smart solution for managing power consumption (Doze and App Standby). These functions are integrated directly into Android 6.0, which made Stamina mode redundant. In other words, Stamina mode was removed from M. 

Now, thanks likely to the outcry from within the Sony community and beta program, it’s looking like the missing feature will be making its return after all. More after the jump.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium Now Offered in Pink

It would have been nice for February, but starting next month, in select countries, you can get your hands on a pink Xperia Z5 Premium. Designer Murai-san talked about the Xperia Z5 Premium Pink:

 The colour was first created for Xperia Z5 Pink and the hue also lent itself well to the finish of the Z5 Premium. As with other Z5 Premium devices we wanted to give an expression of light, so we adapted the colour to the Z5 Premium’s materials, the result is a deeper, rich tone due to its glossy finish – the perfect complement to its Premium name tag. The colour is also one of the trend colours for 2015AW-2016SS, so Xperia customers can tailor their look and colour co-ordinate their phone and outfits with the latest fashion trends. 

Unfortunately Sony doesn’t want to do any of the leg work to help you find one of these on sale. Instead they simply say:

 Xperia Z5 Premium Pink will be available in select countries only from beginning of May (depending on local market availability, please check with you local retailers/operators). 

I expect sales will be massive.

Sony Xperia Agent Has Far More Charm Than Amazon Echo – A Video Preview

Chris Barraclough from recombu was lucky enough to be invited to Sony HQ to get a closer look at the Sony Xperia Agent, the company’s answer to Amazon Echo. Xperia Agent can actually do a whole lot more than Echo, thanks to its built-in projector and small display.

 Even cooler is the built-in projector, which pops out to beam images onto the tabletop in front of the Agent. So for instance, you can get the Agent to show you a photo feed from your social networks, or play a video. The projected image isn’t massive, but at least it’s clear and colourful 

As for the device itself, Xperia Agent is designed to be seen – whereas Echo is meant to disappear into the background.

 The Agent looks like a cross between a mini robot and a coffee machine, complete with a ‘face’ that animates when the Agent is on duty. That front panel is actually a secondary display that offers up useful information, which is also spoken out loud in case you’re out of sight. 

Unfortunately, unlike the Echo which is already on the market and even just saw the release of a smaller companion unit, even Sony isn’t sure when Agent might come to market.

 Right now the Xperia Agent is still a ‘working concept’, so the Agent’s functionality is likely to change before it hits market. And Sony doesn’t even have a vague idea of a possible Agent release date, so it may be many months – or perhaps even another year – before we finally see it in stores 

After the jump, a video preview that gives you a pretty good idea of how Xperia Agent differs from other units out there.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow Returns in Canada for Xperia Z5 & Z5 Premium Owners

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Android 6.0 Marshmallow has returned for owners of the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium in Canada after being mysteriously pulled two weeks ago.

No details yet on what exactly was the culprit but it’s nice to have the update back. Now, could you imagine the outcry if Apple released an update, only to pull it and now have it return after two weeks?

6-inch Sony Smartphone Images Leak, Likely Xperia C6 Ultra

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Just hours after talking about a new Android 5.1 Lollipop build being released for the Xperia C5 Ultra, images of its likely successor leak. Specs are currently nonexistent but from the pictures, we can see a 6-inch phone with very minimal side bezels, a design cue from the Xperia XA. Like the C5 Ultra, this phone appears to sport a large front-facing camera and flash.

For those playing at home, the C5 Ultra was the only phone from Sony to provide both a 13-megapixel front-facing camera and flash so it’s not that preposterous to assume that its successor will have that as well, likely with improved specs. Other things we know about the mysterious phone include dual SIM card support and USB-C charging. Of course, even if the leaks are 100% credible, it doesn’t always mean the product at hand (in this case, literally) will actually come to market.

After the jump, a few more pictures.

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra Receives Android 5.1 Lollipop Update (29.1.X.0.101)

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Sony is going on a bit of a bug squashing spree. The Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z3+ have already received new Android Marshmallow updates and now the Xperia C5 Ultra is also joining the update bandwagon:

 moving the build number from 29.1.X.0.87 to version 29.1.X.0.101. The update is live on both the single SIM (29.1.A.0.101) and dual SIM variants (29.1.B.0.101), although only in select regions at the time of posting. For the dual SIM Xperia C5 Ultra, the update is live in the Nordics, Malaysia and Vietnam, whilst it is only out in Turkey for single SIM owners right now. The update should open up to more regions very soon. 

If Sony was able to get more devices on the same OS build as Apple which famously gives their latest release to as many devices as possible, it might in the long term actually make development easier for them as they don’t have to juggle working on numerous builds of Android and can focus on one iteration at a time and push forward with that.

Alas while the C5 Ultra is supposed to receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow at some point, it’s unclear when that update will arrive. With Sony still releasing Lollipop updates on the C5 Ultra, I’m not sure if that’s an indicator that Marshmallow is still far off or them doing their due diligence.