Carphone Warehouse freezes Satio phone sales

The retailer has temporarily stopped selling Sony Ericsson's flagship Symbian smartphone, after a software fault prompted a high rate of returns

Carphone Warehouse has suspended sales of Sony Ericsson's Satio, after seeing an unusually high rate of returns for the handset.

The phone retailer told ZDNet UK on Monday that it is "working closely" with Sony Ericsson to restock the Symbian-based smartphone as soon as possible, and that it will offer a replacement to any customer who returns a faulty Satio.

"From time to time, we experience issues with new handsets and their software, which may result in a customer experience that is below our usually high standards," Carphone Warehouse said in a statement. "We want customers to have complete confidence and satisfaction in the handsets they buy from us, which is why we have temporarily withdrawn the Sony Ericsson Satio from sale."

Sony Ericsson noted that "a small number of consumers" had experienced software issues with Satio smartphones sold through Carphone Warehouse. "Sony Ericsson is giving this matter its utmost priority and is working toward solving it as soon as possible," the company said in a statement.

Neither Sony Ericsson nor Carphone Warehouse specified the software issues in question.

T-Mobile, Orange, 3 and Vodafone also stock the Satio. A spokesperson for Vodafone said on Monday that its variant of the device had been through "careful testing".

"We have experienced some returns, but not an exceptionally high level. We will keep a close track and continue to monitor, but we are still selling Satio at this stage," Vodafone's spokesperson said.

According to mobile analyst Dean Bubley, Sony Ericsson has had some software reliability issues in the past, but it is not the only handset maker to have done so.

Like some of its competitors, Sony Ericsson is "clearly trying to do a trade-off of getting attractive devices to market as quickly as possible, but perhaps doesn't always have the balance right in terms of quality of software and time-to-market," he said.

"It's not just Sony Ericsson — it's the Nokia N97 and the original version of the BlackBerry Storm and the voice on the first generation of the iPhone," he added.

Carphone Warehouse's suspension of Satio sales could hurt Sony Ericsson, Bubley said, because the smartphone market is currently becoming "incredibly intensely contested".

"For example, there is an increasing number of Android devices which are not just for geeks," Bubley said. "There is a window of opportunity that Sony Ericsson is in danger of losing."

Sony Ericsson is expected to release its own Android handset, the Xperia X10, in February next year.