It’s always a pleasure to talk to an exec that calls a spade a spade. And Calum MacDougall, Director of Xperia Marketing at Sony Mobile Communications is just that. During an hour long group session with him that touched on topics concerning security, updates, devices and competitors, Calum was pretty open about the strengths and shortcomings of Sony’s mobile division as well as the industry as a whole. The following are some questions that were asked in that session and Calum’s response.
On the Xperia Z1 Compact
The Z1 Compact is a product we brought to the Japanese market just before Christmas, and now bringing out to the rest of the world in the first half of the year. We really believe this is a unique product- a genuine premium Android device with a smaller screen. Previously if you wanted an Android device with a smaller (4.2-inch) screen , you would have to compromise. You won’t necessarily get the screen capability or the camera capability and the technology you would generally get from a premium Android device.
So this is the first time you really have an opportunity to try a device that has all the high-end technology in it, but in a smaller form factor. We think this is going to be interesting to the iPhone users as well who might be looking for something different.
The Xperia Z1 Compact will be available in the UAE and KSA in February at AED 2399.
When asked about updates to Kit Kat
I can’t talk specifically about different Android versions on our different products, but what I can say is that we know that it’s important to consumers, and that many consumers want to be on the latest version of the Android platform. We are committed to drive updates as quickly as we can- it’s something we continue to work on and seek to try and improve.
When asked about Sony’s design philosophy
We have a lot of debates about it. The Xperia Z1 Compact is an evolution of a similar design manual, that is to say two glass panels, front and back, metal frame, on and off button – a very consistent design language throughout. What we found when we tested is that consumers are still excited about the design.
I don’t know what the replacement rate is in some of your countries- maybe every seventeen to eighteen months. So I think for consumers, the consistency of design is actually something interesting, because they see and recognise it is Sony. Of course we can’t make phones like this for the next two to three years – we have to evolve the design and refresh it over time as well. I think we have a design that consumers feel is valuable, is different when they hold it in their hands, they feel it is distinctive, and that feeling is for somebody who hasn’t bought a phone for eighteen months, probably useful when making a decision.
When asked about Sony’s naming conventions
On the naming side we wanted something that consumers could readily understand. Imagine you know nothing about smartphones – you walk into a smartphone store with all these brands in front of you, it’s pretty confusing to be able to navigate around it, even if you’re done a lot of research as people do.
Our purpose in naming is to try and make it easy to explain what the product is, so Z series that we launched this year is our premium range of products, so you know when you buy a Sony smartphone with a Z in it you get the very best of what Sony can offer in that device. Z is a letter that has heritage with Sony in the Vaio side of the business, and signifies our premium line.
We actively didn’t want to choose Mini for the new Z1 Compacy. If you look at the minis in the market from Samsung and others – they’re not the same as the product we bring. They’re downscaled or down-performance versions. We felt that Compact was a name that actually represented what it was, it was everything that’s in the Z1 but in a more compact form factor. So I think the naming and the approach is more focused on what we believe is going to be most relevant and interesting.
When asked about improvements in battery technology
If you speak to consumers, the biggest thing they want is battery life. There’s nothing more frustrating for a consumer than battery life. In terms of pure battery capacity there hasn’t been as much innovation as there have been in other parts of the mobile industry. I can’t say specifics about what our battery division is doing, but of course it is an issue for everyone else. Right now a lot of the solutions you have are on the software side with battery stamina mode, turn off the applications so we continue to use the battery in the best possible way. But there’s no question that every time we talk to consumers – and we all know this personally anyway – battery is the single biggest frustration.
When asked about creating more devices as Google Play editions.
The Xperia Z Ultra was a particular decision we made in conjunction with Google to release that version of the device that you can buy through Google Play. I can’t tell you about other plans for us to do anything on top of that, but that was the first time we’ve done it so it’s a first exercise for us on how consumers react to it.
When asked about Sony’s market segment in the Android playground
These products we’re talking about today are certainly competing in the high-end spectrum and it’s certainly our intent to focus on that part of the market where we think we have the premium-ness in the Sony brand to be able to compete there. That said, to be a successful OEM in the mobile industry you need to be able to sell a lot of volume, and our stated target for this year is to sell 42 million units. We won’t sell 42 million Z1 units so we need to be able to sell products across the range. It’s certainly our intent to bring more and more capabilities of our flagship device into other products, and we also see a strong strength of our brand in the mid-range where people see Sony’s premium and quality brand that stands out and acts as a differentiator.
So I think the answer is primarily we see ourselves competing in the high end where we bring innovation and a strong brand. In the mid-range of products we intend to bring products that justify the strength and the premium-ness of the Sony brand by bringing more technology down in the future, which I think we will see more of in the future.