Rumors that Sony may leave the mobile market have been ongoing for years, as the Japanese electronics manufacturer struggles to turn a profit in the competitive industry.
Earlier in the year, Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai denounced the rumors, stating the company was in the mobile business for the long haul, but this week Hirai changed his tone. He said that if the mobile unit is not profitable by the end of 2016, Sony may consider “other options,” reports Reuters.
Hirai claims Sony is on track to break even next year and should start posting profits, but in the event of a decline in sales, things could change. He didn’t give any potential scenarios, but a sale of the mobile business would be the most likely outcome.
Sony sold its PC unit to Japanese Industrial Partners last year for an undisclosed amount. JIP has since launched several products under the Vaio name, including a smartphone, but none of those products have launched outside of Japan.
In other markets, Sony has progressed much faster under Hirai’s new leadership. It has become a leader in image sensors, the PS4 is a massive success, and other electronics sectors continue to show decent performance. The mobile unit is the big non-factor for Sony, as it continues to lose money building new phones every six months. The latest range of phones do take a different approach — the Xperia Z5 focuses on the camera and the Z5 Premium offers the first 4K display — but it might not be enough to win over customers in the West.
Sony currently has a dismal 15 percent hold on its home market in Japan, with Apple surging at more than 50 percent. In the United States, Sony has a measly one percent, fitting in with the other struggling mobile operators like BlackBerry and HTC.
It will take a lot of work for Sony to achieve a strong position in the mobile market, considering the amount of money Apple and Samsung spend on advertising in the U.S. and Europe. The Xperia Z5 has one of the best cameras, a super long battery life, and impressive internals, but it doesn’t offer anything new or exciting to break away from the pack of Android operators that are trying to remain relevant.