It’s been years since Sony has been a major player in the smartphone space. But the company continues to crank out new phones year after year, and sometimes it even sells some of them.

Now, despite only shipping about 400 thousand phones in the fourth quarter of 2020, Sony says its phone business has actually turned a profit for the first time in years.

Maybe that means Sony won’t follow LG’s example and pull out of the smartphone space anytime soon.

Sony Xperia 1 III

While delivering the company’s most recent financial results, Sony executives note that:

The Mobile Communications business, which had been an issue for us, was
able to record a large profit which exceeded our initial expectations.

In other words, Sony seems to have surprised even itself by turning a profit in the smartphone space. At least part of the turnaround can likely be attributed to cost cutting as much as sales. The company says “reductions in operating costs, mainly within Mobile Communications” helped increase its year-over-year revenue.

It also probably doesn’t hurt that many of the phones Sony does sell are high-priced devices, so the company may not have to sell a lot of them to earn a decent return on investment. And they’re getting more expensive all the time – the Sony Xperia PRO introduced earlier this year is a $2500 phone that can also work as a viewfinder for high-end cameras.

Overall, Sony shipped about 2.9 million smartphones in 2020, which is down from 3.2 million in the preceding year. So while the company’s mobile business is profitable, it’s also shrinking in some ways. So it’s unclear exactly what this means for the future.

via Sony, PhoneArena, and XperiaBlog

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16 replies on “Sony’s small smartphone business is actually profitable again”

  1. Shipping 2.9 million expensive smartphones sounds like a pretty impressive feat to me.

  2. Still using Xperia XZ1 Compact. I love it for its size (& specs too). I’m praying Sony will bring us an updated version in 2021 or 2022.

  3. I clicked on this thinking Sony continues to make “small smartphone[s]” and they’re selling well. I was disappointed.

    I’m still using a 2016 iPhone SE because it’s small and still being supported with updates. There’re rumors that the iPhone Mini may be going away only after 1 iteration but I’m unfortunately not ready to upgrade since my SE is still going strong.

    I wouldn’t mind going back to Android (the SE is my first iPhone) if a flagship/long-term supported small phone came out.

  4. ” The company says “reductions in operating costs, mainly within Mobile Communications” helped increase its year-over-year revenue.”

    That doesn’t sound right. It should say gross profits since revenue is the sum of sales $ before deducting any expenses while gross profits is the delta between sales and direct expenses, if I recall correctly.

    1. Never mind. It seems I should get some sleep. My brain is not processing properly. 😅

  5. I had the original Xperia Z, Xperia Z2, and Z3 Compact phones. All were excellent. Unfortunately Sony didn’t offer phones with B66 and B71 when T-Mobile hard switched to these in my area so I had to go with an LG (which has also been great). I was very happy to see that the Xperia 1 and 5 III have full T-Mobile US support this time around. I was planning to get an Xperia 5 III but lack of wireless charging means that I’ll need to wait a bit longer and get the Xperia 1 III.

  6. I had 2 Experia phones… both had no quality issues, however their specs were low and quickly became out-dated. Owning one iphone for 4 years is a better value than buying an Experia at half the price and only using it for 2 years.

    1. I’m starting to like iPhones more recently, but I’m not nearly impressed enough with their battery lifespan, or Apple’s practices about preventing battery replacements.

      With the diminishing battery life that a phone normally experiences over its lifespan, I can’t imagine owning an iPhone for 4 years.

      1. It’s $70 for the battery replacement, and the battery assembly includes a number of ICs. It is not a bad deal when you give them the phone and it is returned to you 1 hour later (my wife gets it done every 2 years). I get my oil change and tire rotation at the dealership, so I am used to paying a little more for service.

        1. If $70 includes the battery then that is not bad but I can swap out the battery in my phone by twisting a single screw and mine is far more water-sealed than the iPhone is.
          I can go for weeks without having to plug in my phone since I have extra batteries but I guess most people do not care about that.

        2. You raise a good point, they do offer pretty decent battery replacement services themselves.

          However, I tend to keep my phones for about 2 years each time. With an Android phone with a 3000-4000mAh battery, I’ve never felt the need to replace the battery during that lifespan.

          I’m actually using a Galaxy Note 9 right now that is around 2.5 years old, and I only charge it every 3 days (every 2 days if I use it heavily).

          Nearly everyone I know with an iPhone charges their phone twice per day, and needs a battery replacement after a year.

          I have a short list of things that Apple would need to improve on their iPhones for me to switch over, and their battery sizes are near the top of the list.

          1. Yeah, my current LG V30 is 3.5 years old and I have to charge it once a day if I just use it lightly. I have a charging pad at work and at home so I really don’t feel like battery life is an issue, even with a heavily degraded battery. It’s good to hear that Sony has a great replacement policy in place. I’m hoping to get an Xperia 1 III and I’ll be looking to get at least 3 years out of it.

          2. The key to iphone/ipad battery longevity is to power-off the device over night. One feature that I like about Android phones is the ability to power it off and then start charging. Once the battery is at 100% it is isolated from the phone and the wall adapter pays the minimal power to just have charge complete indication… the OS is not loaded, just a firmware routine. This eliminates any battery usage for 1/3 of the 24 hour day.

    2. What about buying 4 phones for 1/4 the price? nowadays there is no excuse to say you don’t have enough specs for a phone of 200-250€. I have a Xiaomi I bought for 239€ in 2018 and it still receives updates. I can understand you don’t want to root a phone and update your phone on your own because it makes you feel more important if you get those officially, alright, but spending 1000€ on a phone is just stupid in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY. There is nothing anyone can say to justify that amount for a device. Do you know you can buy a phone with snapdragon 888 for less than 400€? marketing is doing a great job and I can’t compete with it, I have no resources only a simple voice, but just think about it. Are you buying a device you need or are you buying a device you just want?

      1. The phones you are referencing do not support most of the bands necessary for use on US T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T leaving only more expensive options if we want to have signal wherever we go.

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