By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Fort Worth, Texas — No-contract carrier Cricket is expanding into another national chain with the launch tomorrow of a private-label RadioShack brand of phones and service through RadioShack stores nationwide.
With the addition of RadioShack No-Contract Wireless service, RadioShack is expanding its prepaid selection, and Cricket is adding another national chain to its roster of retail partners.
For Cricket, the partnership is the company’s first such private-label partnership. “It is part of the company’s transition to focus on the most attractive national retailers who provide a quality customer experience,” a Cricket spokesperson told TWICE. “It’s beneficial for Cricket to be in a retailer whose majority business is selling mobile products, therefore presenting a quality sales environment and allows us another way to address our core customer base in a high-touch selling environment.”
Cricket stressed that the deal is not a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal in which RadioShack buys Cricket airtime on a wholesale basis and then bills consumers for service. “The phones and service will be RadioShack-branded at the point of sale and are in line with Cricket’s service plans for national retail distribution,” the Cricket spokesperson said. “The customers will be Cricket customers.”
RadioShack said its new prepaid service is not replacing any of its other prepaid brands. Other no-contract brands offered by RadioShack are Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, AT&T GoPhone, Verizon PPD, and Tracfone/Net10.
In 2009, Cricket embarked on a drive to expand distribution when it added its first national retailers. The retailers — Best Buy, Walmart, Dollar General and Target — sold Leap service in the 65 markets in which Leap operates its own network. In those markets, the prepaid carrier previously sold its services and phones only through company-owned stores, Cricket-branded stores owned by third parties, and indirect retailers, mainly independent wireless specialists. The company later left Target.
In 2011, Cricket expanded its distribution again after reaching a reseller agreement with Sprint, enabling Best Buy to offer Cricket-branded phones in markets where Leap did not operate. Soon after the Best Buy expansion, Dollar General and Walmart expanded Leap sales to stores in all 50 states. And late last year, Amazon picked up Cricket.
This year in April, Cricket returned to Target on a national basis, but the partnership later dissolved. “Our products sell best in national retail in a high-touch customer experience, and that’s what we’re concentrating on now,” Cricket told TWICE.
Through RadioShack stores, two phones will be available under the Cricket partnership. They are the Huawei Mercury Ice smartphone and the Huawei Pillar feature phone. Two more phones will be available by the end of September.
The Huawei Mercury Ice is available tomorrow and is exclusive to RadioShack for 30 days. At $149.99, the Android 2.3 phone features 1.4 GHz processor, scratch-resistant 4-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel camera/camcorder, and included Muve Music service included in a $50/month unlimited-data plan. Muve Music delivers unlimited song downloads, ringtones and ringback tones.
The Huawei Pillar feature phone at $39.99 features hard QWERTY keyboard, service plans that start at only $25 a month, and built-in camera.
All RadioShack no-contract phones will be available with Muve Music, and the RadioShack phones will be the only Muve Music phones that come bundled with an 8GB SanDisk memory card to store up to 6,000 songs, as well as pictures and videos.
Feature phone plans start at $25 a month for 300 minutes plus unlimited messaging and Web access. For customers looking to increase their voice minutes, the $35 a month service plan offers 1,000 minutes plus unlimited messaging and Web access.
The private-label smartphone plans start at $50 a month and include unlimited data (1GB at full-speed), unlimited minutes and domestic text messaging plus unlimited music with Muve Music. A second service plan offers unlimited data (2.5GB at full-speed), with unlimited minutes and international text messaging plus unlimited music with Muve Music, for $60 a month.
Feature phone plans start at $25 a month for 300 minutes plus unlimited messaging and Web access. A $35/month plan offers 1,000 minutes plus unlimited messaging and Web access.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.