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Sony Mobile U.S. Quietly Replaced Chief, Cut Jobs and Moved to Silicon Valley

The company, which was once a sizable smartphone player here, has been a virtual nonentity in recent years.


After years of declining market share, Sony has quietly moved its U.S. phone operations from Atlanta to the San Francisco Bay Area and named a new leader. It also cut an unspecified number of jobs during the move, Re/code has learned.

Sony Mobile has fewer employees now than it had when it was in Atlanta, though the company declined to say how many currently work in its U.S. mobile unit.

Kunihiko Shiomi, who had been head of U.S. development, took over as president in January — the same month the company brought the Z5 and Z5 compact phones to the States. Lacking support from any of the major carriers, Sony is selling both models unlocked via Amazon and Best Buy.

The former U.S. head, Ravi Nookala, has returned to Canada and is now CEO of Burnaby, B.C.-based Glentel, which runs a range of wireless service businesses. Nookala worked at Sony Canada before being named to run U.S. operations in January 2013.

Sony’s mobile business, then a joint venture with Ericsson, set up shop in Atlanta in 2009 to be closer to AT&T’s mobile business. At that time, the company still had about 4 percent of the U.S. market.

Since then, the company has had on-and-off relationships with AT&T and T-Mobile but has struggled to get significant share. In recent years, it has been forced to sell its devices in the comparatively smaller “unlocked” market for those willing to bring their own devices. Sony’s smartphone share in the U.S., meanwhile, has been below 1 percent since 2012, according to IDC.

While it still has a couple percent of the global smartphone market and remains a presence in Japan and parts of Europe, the company has been practically a nonentity in the U.S. in recent years, with new phone models coming here months after their launches in other markets.

Sony’s U.S. phone operations could be in danger of shutting down altogether. Executives have said that it may exit the business if it can’t break even this year.

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