The Sony Xperia Z5 smartphone. Credit: Sony
Sony is signaling that it again wants to be a bigger player in smartphones, especially in the U.S., after announcing a partial retreat more than a year ago.
Sony announced Thursday that its Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact smartphones will go on sale unlocked in the U.S. starting Feb. 7. The phones will be available at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers for $600 and $500 respectively.
The global smartphone market, and especially the U.S. market, is heavily dominated by Apple and Samsung. Sony, which ranked eighth in 2014 with a 4% market share, recently dropped out as one of the top 10 smartphone providers worldwide, according to TrendForce.
The Sony Xperia Z5 smartphone has a 5.2-in. screen, while the Compact is smaller with 4.6-in. display. Credit: Sony
In the third quarter of 2015, IDC said Sony ranked 12th globally, with less than a 3% market share and ranked 14th in the U.S. with less than a 1% share.
Both Z5 phones will support Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and GSM networks, which include AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. Both phones will also run Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processors. The Z5 has a 5.2-in. display, while the Compact's is 4.6 inches. Both boast camera superiority with 23-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front-facing cameras on each model.
Amazon already sells the Xperia Z5 on its website through a company called Quality Deals Shopping Center, but that is an international version with no warranty. The upcoming Feb. 7 releases presumably come with Sony warranties, among other differences, analysts said. Sony did not comment.
In late 2014, Sony warned of losses on smartphone sales and said it would only sell premium-quality smartphones. The upcoming release of the two Xperia Z models in the U.S. likely indicates that Sony again wants to advance with a wider variety of smartphones, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
"This move could indicate Sony getting back into the smartphone game," Moorhead said. "Sony wanted to pull back on mobility a year ago, but reality has probably set in."
Moorhead said that while Sony stands little chance of going head-to-head with Samsung or Apple in coming years, it's crucial that the company be somewhat successful in the smartphone arena. That's because more video is being streamed to phones and tablets and less to TVs — a traditional stronghold for Sony and other Asian electronics makers, he said.
"A lot of Sony's core technology is camera sensors, so it's odd that a company really good at miniaturization and cameras would consider getting out of smartphones and not have a big presence there," Moorhead said. "Sony can't just exit every business, and even got out of PCs, so they have to confront the smartphone enemy now with the display and TV markets shrinking."
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