Sony Corp. has launched its latest smartphone Xperia Z in India, stepping into competition with Apple Inc. ’s iPhone series and the Galaxy smartphone range of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. The Xperia Z, which first went on sale in Japan on Feb. 9, is priced at 38,990 rupees ($708) in India. Apple’s iPhone5 starts at about 45,500 rupees, with the high-end version at 59,500 rupees, while the Samsung Galaxy-I costs about 36,500 rupees. Smartphone sales are on the rise in India, where consumers are rapidly replacing basic phones with products that can offer Internet browsing, video, music and other features. Sachin Thapar, head of mobile phone sales and marketing at Sony India, said the company is aiming for 9% market share in terms of revenue in India by the end of this year. That implies a tripling of revenue from last year to 35 billion rupees. According to research firm Canalys, Samsung had a 40% market share of smartphone sales in the October-December quarter of last year. Sony held 9% Nokia 7% and LG 6% BlackBerry and Apple both had a market share of 5%, with the remainder held by smaller brands.
Rahul Gupta, an independent analyst who tracks India’s mobile phone handset market, questioned the pricing of the Xperia Z. “If you are giving 40,000 rupees to somebody to buy a phone, he will add 3,000 or 4,000 rupees more and buy an iPhone or some other brand like a Samsung,” he said. But Jessica Kwee, an analyst with Canalys, said Sony could, like Apple, adopt a pricing strategy that allows consumers to buy in installments.
Sony’s Mr. Thapar said about 15%-20% of smartphone sales in India are in the premium segment, costing more than $500 per unit.
The five-inch Xperia Z has a 13-megapixel camera and weighs about 146-grams. It operates on Google Inc.'s Android Jelly Bean software and is powered by Qualcomm Inc.'s 1.5 gigahertz quadcore processor.
It is the first smartphone to be wholly developed by Sony since its divorce from mobile phone partner Ericsson last year.
Mr. Thapar says Sony plans to offer Xperia Z buyers free software applications and free music downloads from its Sony Music store as well as free videos for a limited period from its Indian television unit Multi Screen Media Private Ltd.
Multi Screen Media runs Hindi-language channels Sony Entertainment Television, SET MAX and SAB, and the English-language SET PIX.