The best President's Day sales and deals
Hail to the cheap! Score great deals on fitness gear, laptops, meal delivery and more.
Happy early third-Monday-in-February, everyone! That's otherwise known as President's Day, which was originally a federal holiday to honor George Washington. Sure, it's a little weird that many stores "celebrate" the day by having sales, but I'll take a good deal anywhere, anytime. So below I've rounded up some of the best President's Day sales I've found, followed by some specific deals we particularly like. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the linked stores and the sale of the products featured on this page.
Nest Hello: $199 (save $30)
Tyler Lizenby/CNETOur favorite smart doorbell isn't the cheapest it's ever been, but you're still getting it for under $200. Just make sure you have the necessary doorbell wiring, and be prepared to pay a small monthly (or annual) fee for cloud storage.
HP Spectre Folio Leather 2-in-1 13.3-inch laptop: $1,050 (save $350)
Sarah Tew/CNETTired of same-old same-old laptops? HP's super-thin, super-sexy Spectre gets a little sexier still, thanks to an integrated leather cover, which makes it look like a folio when closed (hence the name). Specs include a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This model is only a couple of months old, and the price has never been this low.
BIG TV, SMALL PRICE
Sceptre 50-inch HDTV: $199.99 (save $150)
SceptreA 50-inch TV for $200. I'll let that sink in for a minute. Granted, it has no smarts to speak of, but with three HDMI inputs, you'll have no trouble finding room for your favorite streaming stick or box alongside your other sources. CNET hasn't reviewed this model, but the user reviews -- of which there are over 3,100 -- average out to an impressive 4.4 stars.
CHEAP VEGAN EATS DELIVERED
Veestro plant-based meal delivery: Save 25 percent
VeestroCall it the Vegan version of Blue Apron: Veestro delivers fully cooked, plant-based meals, either a la carte or at regular intervals. On President's Day you can get 25 percent off any purchase with promo code PRESIDENT. (Psst: If you head there today, it's 30 percent off with code VDAY.)
MAKE YOUR AIR CONDITIONER SMART
Sensibo Sky: $99 (save $50)
If you own an air conditioner or heat pump that has a remote control, attaching a Sensibo Sky will make it smart. Control it from afar, set timers, use voice commands and more. Between now and Feb. 22, it's marked $50 off.
PUT A BOXING GYM IN YOUR HOUSE
FightCamp Gym: $895 (save $100)
FightCampYou know the whole Peloton bike thing with the video classes and real-time performance metrics? FightCamp Gym is kind of like that, with streaming, instructor-led kickboxing classes that play on your TV. The kit includes a full-height punching bag, gloves, wraps, a mat and special sensors to track your punches. Looks like a total blast, and it's $100 off with promo code PREZ.
This story originally posted on February 14 and has been updated periodically thereafter with additional deals.
CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our . Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!
Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018
- Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion previously
- Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption
DUBAI: Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East went down 15.3 percent to $6.62 billion in 2018 from $7.81 billion a year earlier, latest government data shows.
Lower crude prices, which affected most OFW host countries in the region, the job nationalization schemes of Gulf states and a deployment ban last year of household service workers to Kuwait were the primary reasons for the decline, a reversal from the 3.4 percent remittance growth recorded in 2017.
A government study has noted that Saudi Arabia was the leading country of destination for OFWs, with more than a quarter of Filipinos being deployed there at any given time, together with the United Arab Emirates (15.3 percent), Kuwait (6.7 percent) and Qatar (5.5 percent).
Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion a year before; down 19.9 percent to $2.03 billion in the UAE from $2.54 billion in 2017; 14.5 percent lower in Kuwait to $689.61 million from $806.48 million and 9.2 percent down in Qatar to $1 billion in 2018, from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
The Philippine government issued a deployment ban for Kuwait early last year, and lasted for five months, after a string of reported deaths and abuses on Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
OFW remittances from Oman, which implemented a job nationalization program like that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, dove 33.8 percent to $228.74 million in 2018 from $345.41 million a year before. In Bahrain, cash sent by Filipinos rose 2.2 percent to $234.14 million last year from $229.02 million previously.
Meanwhile, overall OFW remittances grew 3 percent year-on-year to $32.2 billion, the highest annual level to date.
“The growth in personal remittances during the year was driven by remittance inflows from land-based OFs with work contracts of one year or more and remittances from both sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year,” the Philippine central monetary authority said.
Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption and in 2018 accounted for 9.7 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.
Tiger Woods vaulted into contention Saturday and was T-14 with plenty of golf left Sunday at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Woods is on the course for Round 3 and set to play 28 holes today, as tournament officials look to avoid a Monday finish.
Woods began his third round off No. 10 and finished up his par at the par-5 17th to start the day Sunday.
We’ll be tracking every shot from Woods all day. Follow along below.
Hole 6: Par 3, 194 yards
OFF THE TEE (11:32 a.m.): Landed that one just on the right fringe and got a bounce, ball comes to rest on the green but leaves a lengthy birdie try to finish this one off. Definitely the proper miss on this hole with a bunker in the middle of the green.
ON THE GREEN:
Hole 5: Par 4, 423 yards
OFF THE TEE (11:16 a.m.): Beauty. Little stinger with a 5-wood and Woods will be all systems go from the fairway.
APPROACH SHOT (11:23 a.m.): Nice one from about 139 yards out. Chance for another birdie here. Hard to believe Tiger is playing this well given the crazy rain-delay schedule and long days.
ON THE GREEN (11:28 a.m.): Close but no cigar. Just a tap-in par from there and still cruising along on a sunny Sunday morning at Riv.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 7 under thru 14 (8 under overall)
Hole 4: Par 3, 236 yards
OFF THE TEE (11:03 a.m.): Didn’t looked like he caught it the way he wanted but that’ll be just fine. Quite a poke there with a 4-iron and the ball is below the hole with a decent look coming up.
ON THE GREEN (11:11 a.m.): Didn’t drop from 29 feet but a good effort there. He’ll tap in for another par and keep things rolling bogey-free in the third round.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 7 under thru 13
Hole 3: Par 4, 425 yards
OFF THE TEE (10:46 a.m.): Didn’t like that one and it ends up well off the fairway in the left rough. Key stretch to get through here with two par-3s over the next four holes.
APPROACH SHOT (10:54 a.m.): Landed on the green but had a lot of spin on it, think it rolled off the green entirely. Shouldn’t be any concern for the up and down but he was looking for something closer from about 130 yards out.
ON THE GREEN (10:58 a.m.): Lot of break in that birdie try and it doesn’t fall. Tiger will mark but cleans that up for par no problem.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 7 under thru 12
Hole 2: Par 4, 485 yards
OFF THE TEE (10:32 a.m.): Lost that one to the left a little bit and he’ll be hitting out of the rough. This is some kind of story developing with Tiger suddenly T-6 and five shots back. Less than 24 hours ago it seemed unlikely he’d make the cut let alone get into contention. Wild.
APPROACH SHOT (10:36 a.m.): Talking to his ball there asking it to sit and it does. Really nice shot shape on a draw out of the rough and he’ll have about 20 feet it looks like for the upcoming birdie try.
ON THE GREEN (10:46 a.m.): No dice, started walking after it right away. Actually had about 28 feet or so and he’ll have to mark the par putt. Cleans up for a four and we’re on to the next with par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 7 under thru 11 (8 overall)
Hole 1: Par 5, 497 yards
OFF THE TEE (10:15 a.m.): Just a beautiful scene on the first tee this morning with the sun shining brightly. Tiger hits the fairway with driver no problem, might he be thinking about another eagle here?
APPROACH SHOT (10:19 a.m.): Beauty. Now he’s definitely thinking about an eagle because that one is all over the flag and will have maybe 10-12 feet coming up. Guess he hasn’t lost any momentum from last night.
ON THE GREEN: Eagle!! That’s Woods’ second eagle of the round and he is on some kind of roll right now. Inside the top 10 now and five shots out of the lead. This is fascinating stuff.
ON THE DAY: 7 under thru 10 (8 under overall)
Hole 18: Par 4, 453 yards
OFF THE TEE (9:56 a.m.): Good tee shot finds the fairway and he’ll be able to go at this one a little bit.
APPROACH SHOT (10 a.m.): Alright, Woods looked pretty comfortable on that swing and he puts it just on the fringe. Should be able to give it a run for birdie.
ON THE GREEN (10:06 a.m.): Came out a little jumpy from the fringe and he’ll have about three feet left to clean up for par. No problem with that one and it’s a 31 on the front nine for Tiger in Round 3. Big time birdie chance coming up at 10.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 5 under thru 9 (6 under overall)
In November, CVS completed its $69 billion acquisition of Aetna, the largest health care deal in history. Now, CVS is piloting three "HealthHub" stores in Houston with a suite of health care services that could be the drug store of the future.
The new HealthHubs fit into CVS CEO Larry Merlo's ambitious plan to turn his company's 9,800 stores into a "health care destination." CVS wants to arm its sprawling network of stores with a range of health services to protect against competition from Amazon and a wave of mergers in the industry.
"The service component will be an element that is hard to replicate online," Merlo said at a conference last year.
CVS already has 1,100 walk-in MinuteClinics that offer basic care for strep throat or an ear infection.But its HealthHub stores are much better equipped to deal with patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and respiratory illnesses. The revamped stores, with on-site dieticians, nurse practitioners, lab services, and medical supplies on the shelves, signal that CVS wants to move its stores beyond aisles of snack food and toothpaste.
"Do you need to have half a row for greeting cards? Probably not. And how many different types of shampoo do you need?" said Lisa Gill, health care analyst at JP Morgan.
Houston stores replace weaker-performing sections like greeting cards with 20% more floor space dedicated to health products, such as those for asthma and sleep apnea and iPads that explore health and wellness apps.
"This is a natural evolution since they recently bought Aetna," said Ross Muken, analyst at Evercore ISI. CVS wants to present a "holistic approach to health care," he added.
Spiraling health care costs
CVS starts off with a big advantage. It has been pushing into health care for years: it bought pharmacy benefits manager Caremark more than a decade ago. In 2014, it bought Omnicare to expand its business among patients with chronic conditions and stopped selling tobacco.
It's the largest pharmacy chain in the country, and nearly 70% of the US population lives within three miles of a CVS store.
The company's 30,000-plus health care professionals also make its HealthHub strategy credible with consumers: "In the health care system, one of the most trusted advisers is the pharmacist," Gill said.
CVS bought Aetna to create a gigantic customer base: It collects health care premiums from around 39 million Americans. The company believes the acquisition will help it lower costs and increase profit from those plans.
But these stores will face competition from urgent-care clinics that are popping up across the country, as well as retailers like Walmart that are also making a play in health care.
CVS has zeroed in on patients with chronic conditions as a key way it can drive down costs. Patients with chronic medical conditions are the most expensive to insure in the United States. Five conditions account for about 80% of the $3.5 trillion in annual health care spending: Heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, asthma and mental health.
"This is where we see a big opportunity. Individuals with diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease — we know their name," Merlo said last year. "They're not achieving their best health."
Hub stores like the new ones in Houston will target these patients with expanded MinuteClinic services that can screen, diagnose, treat and provide follow-up care. Stores in Houston will also have more patient-care rooms, as well as classes for health and nutrition seminars. There is a class with the American Heart Association in Houston, for example.
Although the Houston stores won't have doctors on site, CVS has partnered with TelaDoc, a virtual health care platform that connects doctors and patients.
Avoiding an ER trip
CVS wants patients to come to its stores for more minor conditions, rather than going to the emergency room, which is the costliest care option for insurers like Aetna. Trips to the ER can run up providers thousands of dollars every visit.
"Think of the number of visits that end up in an emergency room," Merlo has said. "They could be seen at a retail clinic at a fraction of the cost."
CVS believes it can become a "coordinator of care for patients," advising them on exercise, diet, and weight loss plans. Patients with chronic conditions may go to the doctor and leave with a treatment plan, but they're often left on their own after that. That's where CVS wants to carve out a role.
"We're not going to cure diabetes, but we can help that patient with diabetes achieve their best health and avoid unintended medical events that are occurring every day with thousands of people across the country," Merlo said.
'Hub and spoke'
The company plans a "hub-and-spoke approach" to remodeling stores across the country.
CVS is still figuring out what the hub stores will look like. Region by region, CVS says it will decide which conditions are most prevalent in communities and what health services to provide that can reduce costs.
"If there's a community where there's a high diabetes rate, they would have experts stationed in those stores that offer outreach, places for customers to get supplies, places to work on weight loss and check your insulin level," said Evercore's Muken.
Some stores will offer vision and hearing or blood pressure screenings, while others might have blood labs and offer vaccines. It's also running a pilot with SmileDirectClub to offer dental services at six stores.
Trips to clinics boost CVS' profit and allows it to pour money back into creating more competitive health insurance plans through Aetna.
CVS gets to collect a payment for a customer visit, instead of writing a check for an ER visit. 90% of the time patients visit a primary care clinic, a prescription will get written, Gill said.
So CVS gets to fill those prescriptions. And if customers hang around while the pharmacy fills out their prescription, CVS hopes they'll shop the store for an over-the-counter supplement or one of CVS' new healthy snacks.
Citigroup makes offer to buy London skyscraper HQ for €1.37 bn
Talks are part of US bank’s strategy to own rather than rent its major buildings
Citi’s London office in Canary Wharf. Photograph: iStock
Citigroup is in talks to buy its London skyscraper office for about £1.2 billion (€1.37 billion), as the US bank commits its long-term future to the UK despite the political and economic turmoil surrounding Brexit.
Citi hopes to agree a deal to purchase the 25 Canada Square tower in Canary Wharf from Middle East-backed private equity group AGC Equity Partners in the next few weeks, according to a person familiar with the sale.
The US bank has occupied the 200 metre high, 42-storey office since 2001 and has said the building will remain its European, Middle Eastern and African headquarters even after Brexit. The offer is part of Citi’s global strategy to own, rather than rent, its major office buildings in the belief that this will cut expenses in the long term.
Citi’s London negotiations follow the acquisition of its New York global headquarters in Tribeca for $2 billion (€1.77 billion) in 2016. At the time the bank said the move would save it a significant amount of money and was part of chief executive Michael Corbat’s drive to make the lender smaller and simpler.
Citi declined to comment. AGC Equity Partners declined to comment.
The Canada Square sale would be a boon for London’s financial sector and property market, demonstrating the city’s continued appeal to international business despite the risks surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU.
Citi is pursuing a different real estate strategy to Wall Street rival Goldman Sachs, which negotiated a £1.2 billion sale and 25-year leaseback of its new London headquarters with Korea’s National Pension Service in August.
Alongside Goldman’s £1.2 billion property deal, Citi’s planned acquisition is one of the highest prices ever paid for a London office, after the 2017 sale of the “Walkie Talkie” tower for £1.3 billion to Hong Kong’s Lee Kum Kee.
When Citi’s lease on the adjoining 18-floor 33 Canada Square building expires in about seven years, the bank plans to leave the connecting property and consolidate its 6,000 London staff in the tower it is in talks to buy, the person familiar with the deal said. 25 Canada Square has 1.2 million square feet of office space and is the fourth-tallest building in the UK.
As part of its planning for Brexit, Citi has said it will create between 150 and 250 new roles in Europe, only 60 of which will be staff relocated from London. The UK will remain by far its largest international hub, with some 9,000 employees. It also set up a financial technology innovation centre in London last year and is hiring at least 60 coders and programmers.
Separately, Citi is looking for a bigger office in Paris after deciding to increase the number of trading jobs it plans to relocate to the city. The decision was prompted by staff lobbying for a move to the French capital rather than Frankfurt, which has been designated the company’s main post-Brexit EU trading hub.
Broker CBRE is advising private equity group AGC on the sale of 25 Canada Square after a refinancing of the building’s debt over the summer laid the groundwork for its disposal. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019
Mostly dry and cloudy for the Savannah Irish Festival on Sunday
Sunday will start off cloudy and stay mostly cloudy throughout the day. Spotty showers are more pronounced later in the day and especially going into Sunday night. Daytime high temps, with a south wind, will range from the upper 60s north to the lower 70s across the Altamaha River.
There will be a better chance for showers Monday through Wednesday as a cold front / warm front combination wavers across the area. Each day there will be a 40-50% chance of showers and temperatures will fluctuate widely.
Monday, a cold front drops south through our area, resulting in the high temps for the day, peaking around noon, before falling Monday night into Tuesday. Tuesday, we'll see mostly cloudy skies and with a raw northeast wind direction, daytime highs will be below normal only reaching 60 degrees in Savannah. Wednesday, the aforementioned cold front lifts north as a warm front and daytime temps rise dramatically into the middle and upper 70s!
Both Thursday and Friday the long-range models show variably cloudy skies, lower rain chances and much higher temps. Both days are looking to be around 80 degrees, approaching records for each day. The record high Thursday in Savannah is 84 degrees and Friday's record is 83 degrees. Both of those records were set just last year!
Overnight...Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Lows in the mid to upper 50s. Southwest winds 5 to 10 mph, becoming northeast after midnight.
Sunday...Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Highs around 70. Southeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20 percent.
Washington's Birthday...Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers, especially in the morning. Highs in the lower 70s. West winds around 5 mph.
Tuesday...Showers likely and much cooler. Highs around 60. Chance of rain 50 percent.
Wednesday...Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent for scattered showers. Not as cool with highs in the upper 70s.
Thursday...Variably cloudy and very warm. Record High: 84 (2018) 20 percent chance of showers. Highs in the lower 80s.
Friday...Mix of sun and clouds with a 30 percent chance of showers. Highs around 80.
Saturday...Partly sunny with a 20 percent chance of showers. Highs in the middle to upper 70s.
Sun and Tides (Sunday):
Sunrise: 7:04 a.m. Sunset: 6:12 p.m.
Low: 12:24 a.m. (-0.5’) High: 6:16 p.m. (6.9’)
Have a great night.
With Galaxy S10, 5G and foldable devices, Samsung hopes to get its mojo back
Designs haven’t changed much in years, but Samsung is making game-changing moves.
Samsung's phone lineup will take a huge leap this year. Among the advances: fingerprint readers, super-fast 5G connectivity and even foldable phones that expand into tablets.
We'll get a glimpse of those new features and more on Wednesday, when the company hosts its Unpacked event at San Francisco's Bill Graham Auditorium. Samsung will kick off its keynote at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET.
The South Korean phone giant will use Unpacked to introduce its new Galaxy S10 lineup, the phones many of us will buy over the next year. It's also expected to show off wearables, in addition to talking up its 5G push and foldable phone. The event will be jam-packed with some of the biggest changes to Samsung devices in years.
Unpacked can't come soon enough. Let's face it, phones just haven't been exciting lately. It's become harder for manufacturers to cram new innovations into their rectangular slabs of glass each year, even though prices keep going up. Suffering from both phone fatigue and sticker shock, many of us are hanging onto our devices longer than before. Samsung, Apple and everyone else need to work harder to woo us into spending.
Smartphone shipments dropped 5 percent to 376 million units last year, according to Strategy Analytics. "This was the first time ever in history the global smartphone market has declined on a full-year basis," Strategy Analytics analyst Linda Sui said. "It is a landmark event."
Last month, Samsung reported a steep drop in revenue and profits as the sluggish smartphone market took its toll. Most of its businesses, from chips to displays, felt the effects of weaker demand and stiffer competition in the handset sector. Smartphone sales declined, memory chips destined for handsets didn't sell as well and mobile displays suffered.
Overall, Samsung shipped 291.3 million smartphones last year, Strategy Analytics said, down 8.3 percent from 2017.
Samsung, which declined to comment ahead of Unpacked, hopes the changes it's making to its lineup will be enough to get us to open our wallets again. At the very least, the company wants us to be intrigued enough to head to its new stores to see the devices in person.
Galaxy S10 tweaks
Samsung has struggled with the same problem as everyone in the mobile industry: making changes big enough to get people to upgrade. Last year's Galaxy S9, S9 Plus and Note 9 didn't have many noticeable improvements from 2017's Galaxy S8,S8 Plus and Note 8. Sure, the phones had faster processors and souped-up components, but the designs remained the same and they didn't do anything all that different. That hurt demand for the phones.
The Galaxy S10 design isn't expected to be a huge leap from the S9 -- there's only so much you can do with rectangles -- but it should include some tweaks that make it a better phone.
"It's been kind of hard for them" to make huge changes beyond what they've already done, Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. "But some innovations we're expecting and are rumored will be welcomed."
To start off, there's expected to be an in-screen fingerprint reader. The Galaxy S10 should sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, the first chip that works with Qualcomm's 3D Sonic Sensor, an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that's embedded right into the display itself.
That means Samsung fingerprint readers could return to the front screen, reversing an unpopular move to the back of the phone that reviewers and users complained about. The ultrasonic technology is expected to be much more secure than Samsung's Face Unlock technology. With the 3D Sonic Sensor, Samsung can still offer a display that stretches across the entire front.
Samsung is also expected to improve the camera in its devices, adding more lenses and a new "Bright Night" mode to take better images in dark environments. For those camera lenses on the front of the phones, Samsung is expected to continue to avoid the notch popularized by the iPhone. Instead, it could include a "hole punch" design for the camera that lets the screen take up even more real estate on the front of the device. It teased this design during its developer conference in November.
Foldables and high speeds
The Galaxy S10 tweaks aren't all that's in store at Unpacked. Samsung's other phone announcements should be real showstoppers.
The biggest news is likely to be the unveiling of Samsung's first foldable phone. The company has been talking about the device for years and finally showed off a prototype in November. It uses a new screen technology called Infinity Flex Display that lets you repeatedly open and close the device without screen degradation.
The device will be a compact smartphone when closed and a more expansive tablet when fully opened. Apps will seamlessly transition between the display sizes, letting you pick up on the tablet where you left off on the smartphone. When the device is unfolded, you'll be able to use three active apps.
Beyond those early details, Samsung hasn't said much about the foldable, including when it could hit the market. While it's unlikely to sell in huge numbers right away, the foldable could point to the future of smartphones.
And then there's 5G, another emerging technology that we'll all eventually use.
5G technology is expected to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run between 10 and 100 times faster than today's typical cellular connection and will be even quicker than service on a physical fiber-optic cable. It will also connect a device to the network faster, with speeds as quick as a millisecond to start your download or upload.
The overall speed gains mean that phones will be better equipped to handle complex computing tasks in a fraction of the time they currently take. This could make possible advanced photography features, artificial intelligence actions and augmented reality apps, all of which would take far too long to process with today's phones. 5G technology will also allow driverless cars and buses to talk to each other, as well as surrounding objects, such as smart streetlights.
Samsung has said it will introduce a 5G phone for Verizon, AT&T and other wireless providers in the first half of 2019. One version of the Galaxy S10 is expected to come with 5G connectivity, though it's likely Samsung won't offer 5G on all its phones. 5G components are expensive and the service isn't yet in all markets. So don't expect the 5G version to be cheap.
Samsung has a lot riding on Unpacked. That's why it's packing a lot in.
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Why did Sony's smartphones lose their popularity?
The pride of the global brand
In 2011, Sony acquired Ericsson's stake in the joint venture. As a result, the division now known as Sony Mobile got full access to the parent company's technology and R&D. How much that helped is hard to determine, but Sony managed to reach close to 5% global smartphone market share at its peak in 2013 and was aiming to become the third biggest manufacturer in 2014. Instead, the company began sliding down the charts.
One of the major reasons Sony’s smartphones weren’t successful in the years that followed was the company’s overall strategy for the mobile market. Sony, being a technology giant, wanted to become the "Apple" of Android by offering premium phones only. In 2012, Sony Mobile's CEO said "That is where the value is, that is where the money is", referring to the top segment, and adding that the goal was to "play to our strengths - the premium brand that Sony stands for". However, Apple’s appeal to consumers was not easily replicable and the Android market, at least in its early years, was demographically very different from that of the iPhone.
It turns out, Android users had a wide variety of smartphones to choose from, and premium prices had to be backed up by significant hardware features or consumers would just get something cheaper that offered pretty much the same experience.
One thing that put Sony at a great disadvantage on the US market was its shoddy relationship with mobile carriers. Exactly what transpired between executives on both sides will likely remain a secret, but it probably had to do with Sony refusing to make adjustments to its phones that carriers demanded. Then there’s also revenue sharing involved when selling through a carrier, which might have been another point of disagreement between the parties.
Either way, it didn’t take long before Sony stopped selling its smartphones through carriers, which meant a significant drop in shipments and also lack of brand exposure to potential customers. That move had another negative consequence for Sony. For years, the company had to either disable the fingerprint sensors on its smartphones or remove them altogether for the US market. The reason for that was never clearly stated, but it was linked to a deal Sony made with one of the US carriers that had a clause about the sensors in it.
Design that makes you yawn
To be fair, Sony did have a few attempts at innovation, the most notable of which is the Sony Tablet P. The dual-display phone-tablet hybrid probably looks familiar to you now, when companies left and right are working on foldable and dual-display smartphones, but it was released in 2011! The technology back then wasn't good enough to make such a device useful, however, so it remained as more of a showpiece.
Failing to take advantage of its heritage
But for a long while, Sony played the megapixel game, sticking 23MP sensors into its phones, while competitors relied on 12MP sensors. One might assume that Sony would have the advantage here, but in reality, lower-resolution sensors on phones are generally less susceptible to digital noise, allowing them to produce clearer photos despite the lower pixel count. The fact that Sony did not use OIS in its cameras didn't help either. The company also ignored dual-camera setups for too long, betting instead on less useful features like 960 fps video recording.
To make matters worse, Sony has been slow to adapt to the market trends, its first flagship with OLED display came out last year. 2018 was also when it finally ditched the design with enormous top and bottom bezels it became known for (not in a good way). However, it was quick to follow with the removal of the headphone jack, straying away from the music enthusiasts as well, a demographic it used to cater to in the past.
Beyond the criticism Sony often receives for the lack of innovation, its smartphones never got much negative press, as it was the case with LG, and offered decent performance to those that remained loyal to the brand and there aren’t many of them left.
Sony’s smartphone sales have shrunk so much, the company expected to ship around 7 million devices globally in 2018. To give you some perspective, that’s roughly as many as any of the top 3 manufacturers sell in about 2 weeks.
At this point, Sony’s smartphone business is on life support provided by the company’s other successful ventures. It almost seems like Sony refuses to pull the plug on the Xperia line out of sheer pride and stubbornness to have smartphones in its portfolio at any cost (similar to what LG is doing). At the rate its sales are going down, however, by this time next year Sony phones will be rarer than a red panda.
What can other companies learn from the fate of these three manufacturers?
We certainly hope that more phone makers will remain relevant on the market. Competition, after all, is ultimately beneficial for us, the consumers. But maybe one or two victims of bad business decisions won’t be bad either, reminding companies of their “mortality”. Who’ll become the sacrificial lamb, however? Maybe 2019 will show us.