Sony is capable of making some truly great devices. But there's still work to do.
In years gone, and still to some extent, the Sony Xperia Z line of high-end Android phones has been an object of gadget lust. If you were looking for high-end, there's every chance you'd find it with a Sony badge on.
The trouble is it feels like the Japanese giant has procrastinated somewhat. Updates have been regular, but incremental, and there's not a massive amount going on to differentiate some of the newer models with their older siblings.
If we could influence what was to actually happen in 2016, here's what we think Sony should do.
1. Let's see the world's best smartphone camera
As a big part of the marketing hypetrain, Sony claims to have the world's best smartphone camera. Only we'd probably call shenanigans on that. It's good, but it's not the best. Samsung and LG can both probably make a solid claim to be in front of Sony at this point, and the iPhone 6s is right up there as well.
The latest Xperia, the Z5, does have a very good camera on it. A 23MP EXMOR RS sensor that delivers good looking images either at full resolution or in the 8MP oversampled form. But not the world's best. The Xperia Z5 doesn't even have optical image stabilization (OIS), where many others, even those with lesser cameras, do.
Sony has under delivered on its cameras for too long. Why would we expect more? Sony makes some of the world's finest mirrorless cameras. It sells its sensors to other companies. It has a successful camera division. So why hasn't Sony blown our socks off yet?
2. Bring down the asking price
Sure, Sony has phones available for the more budget conscious. But it's also now finding itself outpriced at the top end as well. It might work for Samsung because of the overwhelming presence it has in the entire smartphone world. But you're not going to stop someone buying a Galaxy S or a Galaxy Note by being as or more expensive.
The Xperia Z5 Compact is our current recommendation to buy if you're looking for a Sony phone. It's the smallest and with it, the cheapest, but it's still not cheap. As phones get a little older the asking price drops, but when you can buy an LG G4 for a decent amount less than any Xperia Z5, why wouldn't you? It's not as if that phone is ancient, or anything.
Obviously Sony wants to make money. But it's also starting to price itself out of the market. There's nothing really going on with its phones that warrants spending more on one than on a competitor product.
3. Get back in the smartwatch game
Sony was actually ahead of the curve with smartwatches, having started out on its own before Android Wear was a thing. Sure, the early efforts were anything from sleek, and the Japanese company's last attempt, the Smartwatch 3, was a Marmite kind of wearable. Some loved it, others hated it. But it was Android Wear and it offered some features that other competing watches on Google's platform did not when it launched.
But, aside from a mild refresh with a metal band, Sony has been quiet ever since on this front. The Smartwatch 3 made its grand debut at IFA 2014 and the landscape has changed a whole lot in the course of the year and a bit that followed. But the only way the ecosystem will continue to grow is if the variety of watches grows with it.
Sony has proved it can do it, now let's see it do it again.
4. Properly sell phones in the U.S.
Remember the Xperia Z4v that Verizon was supposed to get? One example of Sony's poor efforts in the U.S. where there is actually a market to sell Xperia phones. Folks want them. Maybe not in massive numbers, but as we see here on the site, there is no shortage of desire to pick up a Sony Xperia in the United States.
It's not as if Sony has never done it, either. Arguably it was never done properly, but things have never been as bleak as they are right now. Whether it takes better carrier relations or just selling via an official store unlocked or even through somewhere like Amazon or Best Buy, it's something plenty would like to see.
5. Speed up those updates
Sony isn't the worst at this but there's also still room for improvement. Currently Android 6.0 Marshmallow is in a testing phase, but with no official time frame for updating existing phones. Nor have we heard a whole lot on the monthly security fixes.
But here's the thing. Sony's take on Android isn't the most customized out there. It's not Google fresh, but for the most part it relies on a few visual tweaks while keeping much of the UI and UX close to stock. There's little reason for it to take a massive amount of time to ready and deliver an update. It's not like Sony has gone full Touchwiz or LG on its software, and yet at least one of those two has already started to be delivered.
Sony is open enough when it comes to talking about which devices will get the updates. But it isn't fast enough about making them happen.
That's just five things we think Sony should do in 2016, but if you've got any suggestions yourselves be sure to hit the comments below!