By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Taiwan-based BenQ, one of the world's largest cellular phone makers, is bringing its brand to the United States this year as part of a larger effort to penetrate the U.S. consumer electronics market.
The company's U.S. subsidiary, based here, has begun shopping two GSM world phones and a combination GPRS/802.11b PC Card to wireless carriers. It plans to offer Symbian OS-based smartphones in the third quarter, said Al Giazzon, marketing VP for the Americas.
The $5 billion company entered the cellphone market about five years ago and in calendar 2003 became the world's sixth largest cellphone maker based on unit volume, he said. The company makes cellphones on an OEM basis for suppliers worldwide and markets under its own brand in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. All of its phones are GSM models.
Cellphones will be part of the fourth-quarter launch of BenQ's first brand-awareness campaign, which will probably include nationwide TV advertising. The ads will be supplemented in five to seven of the largest metro markets with print and outdoor ads, Giazzon said. Cellular phones will be among the featured products used to promote the brand and its lifestyle focus, he said.
The company's U.S. CE portfolio includes plasma and LCD TVs, MP3 portables and digital cameras. Its first U.S. cellphones will be targeted to the entry- and mid-level markets, "but by the third and fourth quarters, we'll span the total gamut, including phones with integrated MP3," he said. The models will include Symbian OS-based smartphones. CDMA and W-CDMA phones aren't in the picture for now, he added
BenQ won't be positioned as the lowest-cost provider but will stake its claim in "very aesthetically pleasing" functional models, he said.
For its U.S. cellphone debut, BenQ is offering the entry-level 660C, a triband 900/1,800/1,900MHz clamshell with Java, WAP 2.0 browser, color display and external OLED display. The S670C clamshell, which operates in the same bands, is a mid-tier model with integrated camera and GPRS data. They will be accompanied by a hybrid GPRS/802.11b Type II PC Card operating in the 850MHz, 1,800MHz and 1,900MHz bands.
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