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(Pocket-lint) - Sony has told Pocket-lint that customers are far more interested in design than brand names. Speaking during our visit to its offices in Japan, the company said the number one thing cited as important to consumers is picture quality, followed closely by price.

According to the company’s own research, price and picture quality have risen to be as important to consumers as in the good old days of CRTs. Sony told us that customers' expectations for both picture and price were much lower when flat screens were first introduced.

Of course, that’s not a surprise to us, because early flat-panel televisions were lacking in the performance stakes, but everyone was won over by TVs you could hang on a wall - a departure from the massive CRTs of old.

Sony also admitted that sound quality is important too, rating fourth on the list of things people are looking for - either once they have bought a TV or if they are intending to buy within the next three years. Indeed, for customers looking to buy soon, audio was the third most important consideration.

This is especially interesting, given how all flat-panel manufacturers have struggled to build TVs that sound good. A speaker needs space and volume to shift enough air for decent audio, something becoming increasingly less possible the thinner flat screens get.

The firm still has some challenges ahead of it, especially in the UK where pretty much every home now has a flat-panel TV. But it has also promised that in the coming year it will focus on updated design, improved picture quality and greatly improved sound.

What do you care about most when buying a TV? Let us know in the comments below...

Writing by Ian Morris. Originally published on 16 April 2013.