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Sony bets on direct U.S. sales for Xperia smartphones

A trio of Sony Mobile’s(s sne) newest Xperia smartphones are now available in the U.S., but you won’t find them in carrier stores. Instead, the company is selling the phones directly to consumers through Sony Stores, and various web retailers. That means these are unlocked, contract-free phones with non-subsidized prices, making them a hard sell in the U.S. where carriers still control much of the mobile hardware market.

None the models — known as the Xperia S, P and U — support fast LTE networks, which may be why there’s no carrier support. All three work on AT&T’s(s t) GSM and HSPA networks while the carrier is the midst of expanding its LTE coverage nationally. The three phones also launch with Android 2.3(s goog) at a time when new devices are arriving with Android 4.0 out of the box. Sony Mobile says that all three are upgradable to the newer operating system; without a carrier acting as a middleman, perhaps buyers will see that update faster than from a phone sold directly by a carrier.

Here’s a basic rundown of what Sony Mobile is offering direct with the new phones, all of which use Sony’s Mobile Bravia engine for the display:

  • Xperia S ($559.99) – 4.3-inch, 1280 x 720 display; 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon(s qcom) processor; 12 megapixel camera, f/2.4 aperture; 1 GB RAM; up to 32 GB of storage; NFC support; 5.0 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches; 5.07 ounces.
  • Xperia P ($479.99) – 4-inch 960 x 540 display; 1 GHz ST-Ericsson(s eric) U8500 dual-core chip; 8 megapixel camera, 1 GB of RAM; up to 16 GB storage; NFC support; 4.8 x 2.3 x 0.4 inches; 4.23 ounces.
  • Xperia U ($299.99) – 3.5-inch, 854 x 480 display; 1 GHz ST-Ericsson U8500 dual-core chip; 5 megapixel camera, 512 MB of RAM; up to 8 GB of internal storage; 4.5 x 2.0 x 0.5 inches; 3.88 ounces.

Amid flat sales, Sony Mobile has talked about becoming the top Android handset maker for the past two years, but such plans haven’t even come close to materializing. Instead, Samsung has risen through the ranks during that time frame to take the no. 1 spot, mainly due to its Galaxy line of smartphones; the newest being the Galaxy S III.

By building a solid piece of hardware combined with excellent software enhancements, Samsung has garnered the attention of consumers — and equally as important: carriers —  in a way that Sony Mobile hasn’t yet. To “win” in the U.S. where unsubsidized, full-price phones aren’t the first choice of consumers, Sony Mobile needs to woo the carriers for their shelf space and marketing efforts. Until that happens, the company isn’t likely to compete against Samsung, nor other Android phone makers; at least not in the U.S.

6 Responses to “Sony bets on direct U.S. sales for Xperia smartphones”

  1. Joshua Talley

    Sony needs to forego their own UI and just make fantastic hardware that runs stock Android. I probably would have bought a Sony version over a Samsung Galaxy Nexus if this was the case. I hope they are in the consideration for the next Nexus.

  2. Sony Xperia S is for sale at €359 in Europe unlocked. By comparison the Samsung Galaxy S3 is 529€ and 369€ both unlocked.

    The ICS Android 4.0.4 firmware upgrade has been available for the Sony Xperia S since June 25th. I don’t know about Xperia P and U but I think it should be available there also by now.

    Sony is pretty popular in Europe and Japan, it’s possible Sony still is the top selling smartphone in Japan actually. In front of Apple and Samsung.

    I think the Japanese Giants are on their way up thanks to Android. Sony is doing some quite cool looking devices. The Panasonic Android super phones are absolutely phenomenal insanely beautiful phones, Sharp and Fujitsu are doing quite impressive things also. Toshiba seems focused on releasing a whole range of Android tablets using their own weird screens.

    Just because Samsung is doing a great work does not mean everyone else using Android also is doing great for each their size and for each their current motivation and effort. The reason Samsung is the biggest in the world is also because Samsung invests hundred thousand engineers on it and Samsung invests more money than anyone else in being the number one. Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Fujitsu, those of course are eager to grow their Android business, but those companies also still have giant other areas that their are specialized in. Sure they should invest more on Android and grow their Android markets faster, but it;’s absolutely not like their devices are fully desirable.

  3. Stuart

    These devices won’t sell much. None of them support T-Mobile 3G and I don’t think they will be advertised. It is nice that make them available but they are really international devices. If they have pentaband 3G then at least people have a choice of carriers when buying the device as they do with the Galaxy Nexus. If they sell the dual-sim Sony’s at their stores or on their website then they could have a differentiation. If I am going to pay full price for a phone there needs to be added value to it.

  4. Google should help them by letting manufacturers like Sony apply to these devices Nexus-like brand designation that will translate to guaranteed rapid access to Android updates.

    Jelly Bean on the Galaxy Nexus makes it nearly a new phone, which is a powerful promise to would-be buyers.

    Sure, UI overlays will slow the process, but here Google can help with good tools to speed development of these overlays, and maybe some easily set options for manufacturers to differentiate their products.

    It ain’t as if there are no opportunities for improving the stock Android configuration. Just making the radios/brightness widget a home screen default, and adding an NFC control, would be welcome to lots of people. And don’t get me started about the way Google’s camera app handles switching between still and video shooting (Samsung fixed this, I think, with their overlay).

    Come on, Google. One Nexus device at a time won’t really move the needle. Broaden your approach.