Sony eyes greater share in Thai premium smartphone market

BANGKOK, NNA - Japan's Sony Corp. is aiming to become the third-largest player in the premium smartphone market in Thailand after shifting production of certain models from China to the Southeast Asian country.

Satoshi Mekata, general manager for the mobile sales division of Sony Thai Co., the Japanese electronics giant's local sales arm, told NNA that premium smartphones, priced at over 20,000 baht ($580) each, normally account for 20 percent of new smartphone sales which are expected to hit 18 million handsets in Thailand this year.

"In the past, premium smartphones grew up to 20-30 percent annually, but the growth has slowed down to 10 percent since two to three years ago due to a longer life cycle of phones than in the past," Mekata said.

There are four players selling premium smartphones in the Thai market, including Apple Inc. of the United States and South Korea's Samsung Group, which respectively rank first and second, followed by China's Huawei Technologies Co. and Sony, alternately placed third and fourth.

The Japanese brand aims to increase its current share in the premium smartphone market of less than 10 percent to 20-25 percent to cement a position as the third-largest player.

Sony started manufacturing smartphones for the first time in Thailand at its factory located in Bang Kradi, Pathum Thani Province, in late 2015, choosing "Xperia X Compact" as the first model to be produced locally and exported globally.

According to Mekata, Thailand is considered a technology base where many electronic components are locally made and, therefore, moving a production base to the country benefits Sony in setting competitive prices.

The rising cost of labor in China, the biggest production base for Sony's mobile phones, and tax privileges in Thailand are the main reasons for the relocation.

However, the company still focuses on maintaining regular users, most of them male, in the premium smartphone segment, as well as further growing by trying to reach out for new target groups such as younger and female customers.

Last Thursday, Sony unveiled its latest flagship premium smartphone with a super slow-motion video function, dubbed "Xperia XZs," as the second model manufactured at the Thai factory. It is scheduled to go on sale in Thailand at the end of this month with a price tag of 21,990 baht ($639). (NNA/Kyodo)