If you've been keeping up with tech news lately, you probably knew that the new Sony Xperia Z4 was announced yesterday. If you didn't know, don't fret; the announcement was only intended for Japan.
To be fair, the rest of the world isn't missing out on much. It's largely the same as the Z3, except for its three most notable upgrades: a Snapdragon 810 processor, 32GB of internal storage, and a fancier 5.1-megapixel front-facing camera. Depending on who you ask, none of those things are really worth the upgrade from the Z3 (or even the Z2) in the first place – at least not around these parts.
On the surface, this might look like Sony has ceased efforts to grow their little corner of the mobile market. Rumor has it, though, that the real fruits of Sony’s efforts will be revealed at the end of May in the form of a new flagship catered for international use.
To be honest, every rumor regarding this potential new flagship from Sony is extremely vague; but if the rumors are true, if Sony really is releasing a more internationally friendly flagship at the end of May, then I wonder if they'll end up getting rid of the Xperia Z name for this flagship. Not because I think the Xperia Z line is lacking – quite the opposite, actually – but because I simply think that trying to gain massive momentum anywhere else in the world would be easier if they had a “fresh start”.
We already know that a big problem with adoption of Sony's smartphones in the U.S. is largely due to the fact that the devices just aren’t widely available. T-Mobile has been fairly consistent with Xperia Z availability, and Verizon recently joined in with sales of its own Sony Xperia Z3v. Verizon is currently the only carrier that sells the Sony Xperia Z3, as T-Mobile recently pulled the device off of their inventory. Nobody knows why.
With that in mind, I feel that if Sony were to unveil a new Xperia Z flagship (whether it is a different variant of the Z4 or a Z5) meant for sale in the U.S., I wonder if people would be inclined to pay any attention to it at this point. The Xperia Z-Z3 has been so limited in its availability, and has even been pulled from shelves at this point for unknown reasons; Xperia Z is not a line of smartphones that the general consumer has grown to love, or even really know. If I hadn't been in this line of work, I probably would have stopped being interested in the Xperia Z shortly after the original Xperia Z only debuted through T-Mobile, despite the fact that the phones are actually quite good.
I think a rebranding might help. It's not that the Xperia Z name is by any means tainted, but I think when people hear about it now they just assume that they can't (conveniently) get it. When they hear Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, Moto X, or LG G they are probably somewhat familiar with the name. Sony? Not so much. A rebranding, along with availability across all carriers and more aggressive marketing, would do the company good.
Even if Sony doesn't end up rebranding this alleged new flagship, I still hope they’re able to sell a flagship on all four major U.S. carriers this time around. Sony’s attention to good battery life, waterproofing and dustproofing, and attitude towards making the “Compact” variant as close to its original as possible gives Sony a good competing edge in the industry. I'm confident that people would be willing to give Sony flagships a chance if they were easily accessible, so here's to (once again) hoping that Sony can overcome the hurdles this year.