Denver – Archos, the maker of tablets and portable media players, is expanding into smartphones in Europe and plans to enter the U.S. smartphone market sometime in the second half, marketing director Craig Terblanche told TWICE.
The phones will be unlocked, feature dual SIMS that enable international travelers to avoid high roaming fees, and be priced in the same price range as subsidized locked phones, Terblanche said. They will also be Google-certified for access to Google Play and to Google Mobile Services.
The unlocked-phone market is “rather huge” in Europe, where the Archos rollout begins at the end of May, Terblanche said, and although the unlocked market has not been strong in the U.S., “it is changing.”
He pointed to T-Mobile’s new no-contract rate plans, which encourage people to bring unlocked phones to the network, and to shifts in U.S. consumer sentiment. “Consumers are looking more to not being locked into contracts” so they can switch carriers at will, he said.
These consumers, he said, would be “interested in a smartphone comparable to a high-end smartphone that sells for $600-$700 unlocked but in the $99-$199 range with the same level of experience without a two-year contract.”
In addition, MVNOs such as Ptel Mobile let new subscribers bring their own phones to their networks.
Said Archos CEO Loïc Poirier, “The smartphone market is shifting as SIM-free sales versus subsidized sales are increasing, and Archos is prepared to respond, as we can offer retail channels affordable, unlocked and feature-rich smartphones without the need to subsidize.”
Archos is expanding into smartphones, he added, because “smartphones and tablets are interrelated markets that have quickly crossed over with the arrival of phablets, half-phone half-tablet devices. It only makes sense that this should be our next phase of products as this would be a natural fit for our brand and long-term growth.”
In Europe, the company is launching with three 3G GSM/HSPA 7.2Mbps Google-certified Android 4.1.2 smartphones with dual SIMs. For the U.S., Archos is considering 4G LTE phones, and dual-SIM models will be appropriate for the U.S. market for consumers who travel to other countries, including Canada and Mexico, Terblanche said.
The Europe models are the $99 Archos 35 Carbon with 3.5-inch screen, $219 Archos 50 Platinum with 5-inch screen, and $249 Archos 53 Platinum with 5.3-inch screen. The $99 model features dual-core 1.2GHz processor, and the latter two feature quad-core 1.2GHz processor.
The $99 model features 512MB RAM, 320×480 IPS display with 200ppi, WI-Fi, DLNA, Wi-Fi hot spot, and two VGA cameras. The $219 and $249 models step up to 1GB RAM, 960×540 qHD display with IPS and 220 ppi, 8-megapixel main camera with 720p video capture, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and larger screens.