Ina Fried

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Sony Insists It’s Not Just Playing Around When It Comes to Phones

Sony has successfully managed to reacquire its phone business.

Now for the hard part: Reacquiring the customers.

It’s been 10 days since Sony officially took over the business once run as a joint venture with Sweden’s Ericsson, so it’s a little early to judge. But it is fair to say that Sony has a tough road ahead.

“We’re not disappointed with our market share,” Sony Mobile marketing chief Steve Walker said in an interview, noting that the company is second or third among Android players in many countries. “At the same time, what we see is, to really win consumers’ hearts, you can’t just offer smartphones.”

Sony is touting its strengths in gaming, entertainment and imaging, but the company focused on similar areas when it was Sony Ericsson, with only mixed results.

Walker said that there were some limits to how much of the company’s know-how and intellectual property could be shared with the joint venture, and he promised bigger and better collaborations ahead.

“There were still some limitations,” he said. “All of those barriers are gone.”

Walker said the company is not closed to using other operating systems, but for the time being, he believes that Android is still its best bet. Since many of the phones offer similar specifications, Walker said one of the main things it needs to do is reestablish Sony as a strong brand in phones.

“A smartphone purchase choice is as much about brand affinity as [an] individual product,” Walker said.

Sony has thus far introduced four phones under its own brand, including the Xperia U and P models announced in Barcelona on Sunday.

In the U.S. market, where Sony has struggled to win support from carriers, Sony is focusing on the LTE-equipped Xperia Ion for AT&T.

“There are other things we are doing with U.S. carriers,” he said, adding that he “can’t be too specific.”

The company also plans to bring out its other devices in July, albeit in an unsubsidized fashion.

Walker said the company knows it needs a bigger presence in North America.

“It’s 100 percent core to our strategy,” he said. “We recognize it is the biggest smartphone market. You can’t consider yourself to be a successful smartphone player without a sustainable presence in the U.S.”

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