Sony rethinks mobile strategy, sees cheap phones and possibly, Firefox OS as its savior

Sony Xperia Phone LogoIt seems like there’s a bit of confusion over at Sony regarding the mobile division’s plans for the near future, as the company’s head of business told Reuters this week it wants to become the world’s third largest phone manufacturer – it’s currently in fourth place – and that it sees cheaper phones as a key strategy to make this happen.

This is at odds with with a quote from Xperia Product Manager Stephen Sneedon, who said just after CES 2013, its entry level smartphones don’t have enough, “Sonyness,” and it, “Might leave the very entry tier to some other manufacturers. However, according to Kunimasa Suzuki, who spoke to Reuters, cheap Sony phones are here to stay and it’s now planning to vary its strategy depending on the geographical location – a similar approach to Samsung.

To achieve its goal of third place behind Samsung and Apple, it needs to pass Huawei and fend off the mounting challenge from ZTE. While the Chinese pair have been producing some interesting top-end pieces of hardware recently, both are still very strong in the low-to-mid-range too. Sony says its cheaper phones are needed to make a splash in the all-important developing markets around the world, but it doesn’t look like Sony will only adopt Android for this mission, as it may have its sights set even lower.

A clue to its plans comes from a recently announced partnership between Sony and the European network Telefonica to jointly evaluate Mozilla’s Firefox OS. The statement was rapidly followed by the release of a developer-ready version of Firefox OS for the Xperia E, one of the most basic phones in Sony’s range. You don’t go making announcements like this without a plan in place, and Firefox OS is almost solely targeted at emerging markets and low price points. This will leave expensive smartphones such as the Xperia Z to be sold only in established smartphone markets.

ZTE revealed the ZTE Open at Mobile World Congress, which along with the Alcatel One Touch Fire were the two phones running Firefox OS at the show, so Sony is already playing catchup. Sony though, has the advantage of its good name, which could mean even an Xperia E running Firefox OS will sell well in the right place; however it doesn’t expect to put a Firefox phone on sale until 2014, while the first Firefox OS phones from other manufacturers are expected to go on sale this summer.

Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Mobile

Google rolls out Night Sight to Pixel 3 and 3 XL camera app

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

You can now message businesses straight through Google Maps

Google has been updating Maps with a ton of new features over the past few months, and now it's back with another one -- the ability for users to message businesses directly through the Maps app.
Mobile

No cash. No talking. What goes next? Welcome to your ‘app-tive’ digital life

Bank of America's 2018 Trends in Consumer Mobility Report found mobility has changed our lives. Mobile tech influences how most of us communicate, meet people, build relationships, and handle money as we move toward a cashless society.
Mobile

The Motiv smart ring is coming to 20 more countries and physical stores

Remember Motiv's activity tracking smart ring? It's back with a raft of new features that adds biometric identification and token authentication, all on a device that fits on your finger.
Wearables

Everything you need to know about Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers

Garmin jumped into the GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker market five years ago and has built a portfolio of devices that rivals competitor Fitbit. Here's your guide to the latest and greatest fitness devices that Garmin has to offer.
Mobile

Sharp doubles down on the notch trend with Aquos R2 Compact

As if one notch wasn't enough, Japanese manufacturer Sharp unveiled a new smartphone that has two -- one teardrop style notch at the top, and a bigger notch at the bottom. Here's what the world's first dual-notch smartphone looks like.
Mobile

Verizon has made its first 5G video call … with a phone that’s already out

Verizon has announced that it has successfully made its first video call, using a smartphone that's already available: The Motorola Moto Z3. To make the call, Verizon used the 5G Moto Mod.
Mobile

Samsung patents show what Infinity-O display could look like on Galaxy S10

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Mobile

The best protective iPhone cases to defend against dirt, dings, and drops

If you’re going off-road or work outdoors, it could be a good idea to invest in a tough case. These are our picks of the best protective iPhone cases for all iterations of the iPhone, from the iPhone XS to the 7.