Google Pixel and Essential point to such a fate as consumers choose iPhone and Galaxy phones but there are key lessons Sony and others can take away from their success.
"there are key lessons Sony and others can take away from their success"
Less function, more advertising. The laws of modern consumerism. Make people think a turd is a bar of gold and they will buy it, try selling them an actual bar of gold and they will call it a turd because they have not seen it on TV, and/or none of their friends own one.
As far as tech is concerned, LG and Sony are currently leading the pack. Problem is 95% of people do not know it. People see the one or two gimmick features (FaceID, Curved screen, Good JPEG post processing to trick people who know nothing of photography into believing it has the best camera, Flashy general aesthetics) being advertised, and they automatically assume those brands are the best overall.
Apple and Samsung still make great phones, and the problem is like you said the average consumer will 90% of the time buy one of those devices based on brand alone.
On the premium side Apple and Samsung dominate, and there's nothing anyone can really do at this point to stop them unless a huge backlash happens like a global security hack (since an exploding battery still didn't stop Samsung).
As you said advertising will help for sure, but the only way for companies to compete is to win the flip-phone, entry, mid, and niche premium markets where they can be a good 3rd option.
1. Make a decent $20 - $30 flip phone. There are plenty of people who still buy them, and at that price if it's still good, it can be used in plenty of government programs as a free phone to underprivileged people.
2. Make a good budget smartphone for first time users, and the cheapest of cheap for $99.
3. Make 2 good mid-range cell phone for $199 and $299. (Competing with iPhone SE, 6, and 6s)
4. Finally make their premium cell phone dedicated towards gaming and brand it with the PlayStation brand, and sell it just above cost at $599 - $699 (128GB / 256GB) that way it's cheaper than both Galaxy and iPhone premium models while offer similar performance, but better gaming performance than every Android device. Sony is known for the PlayStation brand, and if you want to pull some Galaxy owners, and a few iPhone owners away from Samsung and Apple, then offering a phone that improves gamers current PS4 and potential PS5 gaming experience significantly, or allows you to remote play games through Unlimited Data plans would be the only true niche to turn any phone into a real competitor for Apple and Samsung.
The whole purpose of this strategy is to win battles that are possible to win, add good advertising on top of the good pricing and tiering you get the brand recognition to be a solid 3rd option.
I feel Sony is the only company maybe besides apple to make luxurious premium mobiles.
Now If I was head of the Sony Xperia line I would bring back the Walkman phone and the Camera phone.
Combine the aesthetics of the sony xperia x performance 32gb graphite black, especially the color scheme and combine it with the NW-ZX300 walkman
XPERIA X Performance WALKMAN.
Take the Sony Xperia XZ Premium series and combine it with some of Sonys best camera specs.
XPERIA XZ Premium CAMERA
They just need to market a little better and look at what the competition is doing a bit more.
I've got the xz premium I'd easily class it the best phone I've ever had its sleek snappy the screen is insanely impressive with no other device able to match it's 4k HDR output. But design wise it doesn't match the S8 so lots of people won't jump to it
I'm with you on that live my xz premiumbut see why people go for samsung and apple unfortunately
the only problem with Sony mobile devices is the design. It's too old and need to be refreshed. Both Samsung and Apple did it and it works. They have enough power under the hood of every devices they released. It's just the design is utter ugly to average current consumer.
Apply and Samsung galaxy phones are good but they rule the roost tbh. The flagship Sony and LG phones are terrific, tbh Huawei are also excellent
Not enough marketing
the last time they did enough marketing was with the original Xperia Z
the only problem with that phone was the self cracking glass
not really "self-cracking" more likely the glass they used (Dragontrail) can't endure the heat generated by the phone
but they choose to stay with a product from Japan instead of using superior product from a foreign company
What make the issue worst is when the glass crack the phone become useless unlike phones with Gorilla Glass
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