When Sony released the Xperia Z1 last year in October, there were a few dismayed fans. After all, the Xperia Z had been on the market for just 8 months. Still, the upgrade can be justified – the Xperia Z was released in in February with a Snapdragon S4 Pro. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One had the more powerful S600. However, 4 months after that, they’ve decided to release the Xperia Z2.
Unfortunately, this is not a one-time thing – Sony Mobile Creative Director, Kurozumi Yoshiro said so himself.
“In order to maintain a flagship, you must update at this frequency,” said Mr Kurozumi. When pressed on why Sony does not adopt a yearly update cycle, Kurozumi responded that you cannot catch up with peers on that cycle. He went on to confirm that the Xperia Z2 is the “flagship of the first half of 2014.”
The uproar is much bigger now. With just 5 months separating release dates, those who purchased the Z1 are feeling cheated. Yes, even though the only deal-breaking issues that was fixed was the display and the rest of the changes are minor, I cannot help but ask, “Why was the Z1 not made with these specs?”
It was not as if IPS LCD displays were not commonplace in flagship devices then – the HTC One had the best one, and that launched in March. The speakers were also woeful – not an issue for me personally, but a shortcoming nonetheless. Sony has listened, but could it be that they have acted upon the complaints too soon?
Truth be told, the Z2 is hardly a successor to the Z1 as much as it is a Z1 Plus (similar to the S4 LTE+). This choice of nomenclature is also a confusing decision, but if Sony is going to treat the D6503 as a full fledged successor, it should be releasing it with the proper time-frame as well.
Apple pioneered the yearly flagship release cycle, but made sure to point out specifically that every alternate year (the devices with the “s” suffix), their iPhone would be essentially a public-beta for their next numerical upgrade. Sony now looks to change the formula by reducing the refractory period to 6 months.
The reason Samsung is able to pull it off well is due to the fact that the Note and S-lines are aimed at very different audiences. Paraphrasing them, the Note is a phablet for those who prefer a large screen for entertainment and note taking with the S-Pen. The Sx is for those who want a powerful yet compact device. Sony has made no such distinction between their Z2 and Z1.
Furthermore, the smallest contract duration available in most of the world is 12 months. Till then you are bound to your current device (you can purchase another, but that will be without the carrier subsidy). However, it is entirely possible that Sony might be looking to draw people away from purchasing devices together with a contract. We just recently released an article about the rise of cheap phones and the fall of carrier contracts, which can be read here.
While perhaps irrational, someone who has recently purchased the Z1 will be feeling annoyed at Sony’s decision. To find out, we asked two other Z1 owners for their opinions.
The first, Mr Ong, had purchased his device in mid-October. He said, “I’m not too jealous about the Z2, except for the 200 mAh increase in battery and display. My Z1 is capable enough.”
The other, Mr Chiu, who had purchased his Z1 just earlier this year, said plainly that he was “unhappy” with Sony’s decision of releasing a successor so soon, and felt “cheated”. When asked if he would consider trading in his Z1 for a Z2, he responded with the point that the Z1’s value has depreciated largely after the Z2 announcement, so a trade-in will mean a spending in excess of $300.
Not only does this affects Z1 owners today, it also casts doubts in the minds of potential Z2 owners. What about the Z3 in September which will have better specs? This would definitely not sit well, especially considering the Snapdragon 805 is on its way, ready to power the late-2014 flagships.
In the end, my point is this – the decision made by Sony to rapidly upgrade and release their devices is not a very smart one. While they can’t change what’s been done, they should revise their decision to release the Z3 six months later.