What on Earth is Sony doing with its smartphones?

It's a strategy that doesn't seem to be bearing fruit just yet, with losses announced for Sony's smartphone unit in the last quarter and a 15% reduction in headcount to help it streamline and launch a renewed attack on the higher end of the market.

The person who bought the Xperia Z at launch will still be locked into a contract with that device (although nearly free), looking longingly at the PlayStation power the current phone packs. Admittedly, Sony finally brought PS4 play to the Xperia Z2, but older phones are still being shown up for their lack of new gadgetry quite quickly.

Perron confirmed that newer phones forced older ones off sale – while Samsung is still selling the Galaxy S3 from two years ago, you can't buy the Xperia Z1 any more.

Sony Xperia Z3

The Xperia Z3 - if only this had been announced six months earlier

That makes sense, but those customers need to feel loved – and Sony's upgrade cycle has previously been a bit confusing, Android updates coming to older phones on a very ad-hoc basis, mirroring much of the Android manufacturers.

Compare that to Apple, which has brought the latest iOS 8 to a three-year-old phone, and you can understand the trepidation a consumer might feel about handcuffing themselves to a the latest phone only to find it's the forgotten child in under a year.

However, Sony's taking a stance on Android upgrades now: it wants to be more agile in offering new software treats to users, and the launch of Android Lollipop seems to have allowed it to even support the Xperia Z.

As to when Sony will start rolling out the update to its main line of devices, the manufacturer has said "the update for Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition will hit over-the-air and should be with you soon – next up, we're looking forward to bringing Android 5.0; Lollipop to the entire Xperia Z Series starting from the early part of 2015… so stay tuned for the latest!"

So, how should Sony fans feel? The bad news is you're probably never going to be more than 6 months from your special new smartphone being outdated, which may irk some. On the other hand, if you're OK to wait, that phone will be discounted pretty soon.

Is Sony's strategy sustainable? If it keeps lowering sale targets (it recently slashed it twice for the current financial year, several millions below the original 50 million target set by March 2015) then it's hard to see how the strategy will bear fruit – there's a high cost to constantly bringing phones out.

But there's one shining light: Sony's smartphones are actually rather good at the moment. The Z2 was a brilliant phone pitched at a decent price, and while the Z3 didn't really add a lot to the predecessor (and the camera quality doesn't quite match up to the level you'd expect from a dedicated technology team) it's still one of the better options.

Will we still be talking about Sony in the same way this time next year? If the brand comes up with a perfect smartphone, complemented with a viable budget option, and sticks to those models, then we could well be – but that's a big ask for any brand.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.