RIP Xperia: Why Sony Stopped Selling Phones In Australia

Image: Getty Images

After years spent trying to recapture the imagination (and money) of Australian consumers, Sony Mobile appears to have thrown in the towel.

Though the company hasn't made any public announcements, it's now become clear that no new Xperia devices are coming to the local market despite being made available overseas, and even previously released Sony phones will become increasingly difficult to find.

It doesn't particularly come as a surprise, at least not to me. I haven't received a press release about a Sony phone since April last year. Since then, the company has released two flagship phones internationally — the Xperia XZ2 Premium and XZ3 — but neither have made it to Australia.

At MWC, the world's biggest technology convention for all things mobile, earlier this month, representatives from virtually all the major mobile brands reached out to offer assets and details about their new phones, but I heard nothing about the just-announced Xperia 1.

In fact, I haven't had contact with anyone representing Sony Mobile since October (when I was returning a set of unusual smart ear buds), and the PR firm that was working with the Xperia brand then no longer does.

My attempts to find out from Sony whether the Xperia 1 might make it to Australia, or whether (more likely) the brand had left the country, went nowhere. Eventually, after reaching out to Sony Electronics Asia Pacific, I received a statement: "At this stage, there is no confirmed Australian launch date for the 2019 Xperia phones. We have downsized our sales activities in Australia as a part of our area strategy, but we are committed to continuing customer support operations."

It's certainly a shame, as Sony has a long and successful history with their phones here.

My very first mobile phone, in 2003, was a Sony Ericsson T230, so I've long carried a certain fondness for the brand. In the early days of the Android smartphone, too, Sony had some standout designs like the curvy Xperia Arc and the well-intentioned Xperia Play.

When I was signing up for my first post-paid phone contract in 2013, the Xperia Z was frequently positioned alongside the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4.

But Xperia phones seemed to become less and less prominent in Australia as time went on. Phones like the Z3 Compact and Z5 Premium did things that no other devices were doing, but you didn't see many using them.

Image: Supplied

It might have been down to poor marketing, or Sony's habit of releasing 11 different confusingly named phones per year. It might also have been that Sony phones always carried the same monolithic design and understated take on Android, even when the market leaders were spruiking ever more colourful apps and gimmicky software tricks.

Or it might just have been the increased competition.

With Apple and Samsung taking huge chunks of the market, Sony's place as a more niche flagship player was increasingly threatened by better and cheaper mid-range handsets. And Sony's responses — further splintering of its product line and a confusing reset of the brand with the mid-range Xperia X in 2016 — didn't particularly speak to the Australian market, even if there were some fantastic phones there.

By that time, Google was also moving its considerable clout into the flagship phone space, with its Pixel carrying the same kind of minimalist appeal as the Xperia.

A return of sorts for the Z line later in 2016 and radical redesign in 2018 didn't move the needle for Aussies, and it seems unlikely the tall screen and double-down on Sony camera and video tech in the Xperia 1 would have either. Though it's probably a moot point for now.

Sony Mobile's local website is still up and lists phones from the Xperia X to the XZ2, although it no longer includes an option to buy phones from Sony. The XZ2, like all Sony phones, has also been removed from JB Hi-Fi's physical and digital shelves. You can still get it online at Catch, TobyDeals and a few others.


This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    Or it may have been selling overpriced phones that underwhelmed and were late to market. The last four (or five) generations of Xperia handsets have been disappointing when compared to their competition.

    A few things that would make them more competitive;

    1. Actually release your phone straight after you announce it. Not 3-6 months later.

    2. Have up to the minute hardware in your flagship.

    3. Sell at a decent price.

    The three points tend to blend together for me. I've seen Sony announcements in the past that are exciting, with decent hardware. Sadly because they take so long to actually materialise in shops the hardware is no longer cutting edge when it comes time to buy. I'm not going to be excited by a phone using exactly the same CPU as something released 6 months ago.

    The same thing applies to price. If you release something that is cutting edge you can charge a cutting edge price. But if you have Samsung, Oppo and Huawai all selling similar devices for less you're not going to make a sale (or at least not as many). So either lower the price, or get it out sooner.

    As for the design, aesthetically it's still appealing. Honestly I prefer the Sony approach to that of Samsung. So I don't know that you can blame them for sticking to that. However, it'd be interesting to do what Samsung did a few years back when they starting introducing "edge" still phones. ie: Have two different models with basically the same hardware, just a different appearance.

    That may be a worthwhile approach for Sony to try. Create an S (Standard) model and an X (experimental) model with more interesting aesthetics.

    I loved the form factor of my Sony phones. But they were just shit to use.

    And what was with the 6 month cycles. It makes no sense.

    Bye Xperia.

    In all honesty, I found that my Sony Xperia experience has been wonderful. The only problem I've had (that seldomly appears) is the fact the SIM card disconnects. Still, it's a shame to see a Sony disappear from Australian markets. I would've loved to have purchased another Xperia, though one problem that really annoyed me was the fact accessories and peripherals were not widely accepted (it was mostly, and don't take offense to this, the stupid Apple and Samsung products. Who cares about those two, when you have a phone you want to keep for a long time but can't due to the lack of support from manufacturers). Either way, I'll keep my Xperia until it inevitably dies. Farewell, Sony. It was good whilst it lasted. Hopefully there's better luck to be had in other markets as clearly we didn't appreciate the product enough until it was gone. Time can be a huge factor, but I wouldn't have it any other way. At least the device gets tested (properly) before it comes to the market (unlike Apple and Samsung. Take for instance the exploding batteries?).

    Also, concerning the 6 month cycles, Apple does the same, what's your point? And concerning hardware, it doesn't matter, at least it gets somewhat of a head start (if that's what you can call it, thanks to Apple and Samsung). Also, price. $999, compared to $2,000. Makes sense, right? You'd rather get the cheaper phone than the more expensive one.

    Bye Xperia. From a proud owner of an Xperia Z5 Premium

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