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Carriers, Suppliers Scramble To Boost Revenue

12/01/2013 07:00:00 PM Eastern

NEW YORK – The cellular market has matured, the smartphone market is graying, and cellular carriers and suppliers are trying new ways to boost revenues.

Carriers and suppliers are targeting new underdeveloped niches, and suppliers are hard at work expanding distribution or expanding their phone selection.

And no wonder. At the end of 2012, wireless subscriber penetration hit 102 percent of the U.S. population when combining subscriptions to cellphones and data devices such as cellular-equipped tablets and mobile hot spots, CTIA said.

ComScore found that during the three months ending September, 147.9 million people ages 13 and older owned smartphones, accounting for 62 percent of all cellphone users.

And Canalys forecasts fourth-quarter smartphone shipments in North America will grow a healthy 10 percent to almost 49 million, but that’s down from yearago growth of 29 percent.

One solution to gaining share in a mature market is AT&T’s launch of cellphones that let parents track the whereabouts of their kids.

For their part, Samsung and HTC expanded distribution of a pair of phablets to better target a segment of consumers who want a phone and a tablet but don’t want to carry two devices.

And up-and-comer Alcatel One Touch expanded distribution of its Fierce and Evolve Android smartphones to T-Mobile’s MetroPCS brand.

In another recent product announcement, Black- Berry collaborated with Porsche Design to produce a luxury smartphone.

Separately, Apple began selling an unlocked version of the iPhone 5s on its website starting at $649. Apple began offering an unlocked iPhone 5 last year.

Here’s what some of the new products offer:

Chinese vendor Alcatel One Touch expanded distribution of its Fierce and Evolve Android smartphones to T-Mobile’s MetroPCS brand, having made the duo available to T-Mobile in October.

MetroPCS priced them at $99 and $59, respectively. Both lack 4G LTE, but the Fierce operates on T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network. The Evolve is a 3G HSPA phone.

The Fierce features Android 4.2, 4.5-inch qHD display and 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The Evolve features Android 4.1 and 4-inch WVGA screen.

At $129, Amber Alert GPS from the company of the same name is available through AT&T’s web store and the carrier’s flagship Michigan Avenue store in Chicago.

The 3G device, which clips to a backpack, weighs 1.5 ounces and features GPS, two-way voice calling, and ability to be tracked by Android and iOS smartphones apps and computers.

The device is also available from Salt Lake City-based Amber Alert GPS at AmberAlertGPS.com direct to consumers with two service plans priced at $14.99/month to $24.99/month.

BlackBerry collaborated with Porsche Design to produce a luxury smartphone that retails for $2,350 through Porsche Design stores.

The Porsche Design P’9982 smartphone from Black- Berry is an unlocked full-touch phone that can be used on GSM-based 4G LTE and 4G networks around the world, a spokesperson told TWICE.

The phone is BlackBerry’s second collaboration with the luxury brand. The first was a keyboard-equipped phone launched in 2012.

The new model features a customized version of Black- Berry’s 10.2 OS, satin-finished stainless-steel frame, and hand-wrapped Italian leather back door. A limited edition will be hand-wrapped in genuine crocodile leather.

Filip Technologies’ cellphone/GPS-locator watch for kids became available at $199 through AT&T’s web store and its flagship Michigan Avenue store on Chicago.

Distribution will expand to the majority of AT&T stores early in 2014, and AT&T expects Filip to be available through indirect channels “during the course of next year,” a spokesperson said.

Designed for children ages 5 through 11, the device lets kids make and receive GSM voice calls to and from five numbers approved by parents. It uses assisted GPS, cell tower location, and Wi-Fi hotspot triangulation to let parents locate the wearer via an Android or Apple smartphone running a Filip app. An emergency button triggers an automatic location beacon and dials emergency services if family members cannot be reached.

For $10 per month, parents get unlimited two-way voice calling and messaging to the wearer.

HTC’s One Max phablet, available since Nov. 15 through Sprint channels, became available through Verizon channels on Nov. 21 at $299 with two-year contract, $599 with no contract, or $25.22/month for 24 months under Verizon’s no subsidy EDGE installment plan.

The One Max, HTC’s largest screen phone to date, is a larger version of the HTC One and features a 5.9-inch HD1080p display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz CPU, UltraPixel camera and 3,300 mAh embedded battery. Sprint’s version launched at $249 with twoyear contract or $25 per month with Sprint’s OneUp no-subsidy trade-in program.

In addition, HTC’s 4G LTE Desire was added to Virgin Mobile’s growing family of 4G LTE devices. The price is $279 without contract. Key features include 4.5-inch qHD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core 1.4GHz processor, and LTE.

T-Mobile’s MetroPCS prepaid brand became the latest carrier to offer Samsung’s 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega smartphone/ tablet hybrid.

The phablet is available in MetroPCS corporate stores and in independently owned MetroPCS stores in the brand’s 45 markets, as well as online, for as low as $349 after instant rebates.

The phablet is also available from Sprint, U.S. Cellular and AT&T.

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