Sony Ericsson’s (SE) quarterly results, released at the end of last week, make for truly grim reading. The Japanese-Swedish mobile maker made losses of £38.6 million and shifted just 7.6 million handsets.
The appalling numbers have been blamed on the earthquake which hit Japan back in March with supplies hit and the company unable to get more mobiles to market. But CEO Bert Nordberg said the bad times are “behind us”, with only “minor spillover” expected in the next quarter.
This seems hard to believe. While the company has released some decent phones this year, the slimline Xperia Neo undoubtedly being the pick of the crop, it has singly failed to capitalise in an area where the likes of HTC and Samsung have surged forward. Its smartphone operation remains hampered by the insistence of using a custom Android skin that at times wows but more often infuriates.
The Xperia Play appears to have been stillborn, a result of parent company Sony’s unwillingness to let it be called the PlayStation Phone, coupled with a genuine lack of decent games. This was the device that was meant to show Android gaming could be as good as iOS. It failed.
Nordberg says Sony Ericsson has 11 per cent share of Android right now. But there have to be doubts as to whether it can even hold onto this slender slice of the action. HTC’s operation is going from strength to strength, the company shifting 11 million phones in the second quarter of 2011 and earning £377 million of income in the same period.
Alongside Samsung’s push to become the premium Android manufacturer, Sony Ericsson is surely going to have to roll out something sensational in the next few months if it wants to stand still, let alone grow as it clearly needs to do.
What can it do? SE has already learned that users don’t like to be handed creaking, old versions of Android on new handsets, but maybe now it needs to get to grips simplifying (or if not scrapping) its custom skin. This would make updating phones easier and make the user experience far less cumbersome and awkward to learn.
Likewise, it needs to perhaps stop focusing on gimmicks and get back to what it does best: making great cameras and good music players as part of a mobile phone. Trying to develop software solutions and being clever with its own apps won’t work. Users want pure experiences, unsullied by bloatware and marketing bumph.
Can SE get back to the top? It’s doubtful. But it can regain respectability by delivering more handsets like the Neo.