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Consumer Cellular Expands Smartphone Selection

Portland, Ore. – MVNO Consumer Cellular, which targets the 50-plus age group with an unusual postpaid service that requires no contracts, expanded its smartphone selection to include its lowest-price smartphone to date.

The $100 Huawei 8652 is targeted to consumers who want to upgrade to a smartphone but don’t want to pay high smartphone prices or sign up for contracts, said CEO John Marick.

Subscribers can change their plans without penalty after buying a phone to match their actual usage, he noted.

The new model is the 3G Android 2.3 Huawei 8652 with 3.5-inch full touchscreen, 600MHz processor, Bluetooth, 3.2-megapixel camera/camcorder and GPS navigation. It became available today direct to consumers and will appear in Sears and select RadioSHack franchise stores in October.

In Consumer Cellular’s selection, it joins the $149 3G Motorola Bravo Android-based smartphone, $175 3G Huawei 8800 Android smartphone and $200 refurbished iPhone 3G S. Prices include activation.

The Bravo, launched in 2011, features 3.7-inch multi-touch screen, 3-megapixel camera/camcorder, WiFi, GPS, and 3G. The Huawei 8800, launched earlier this year, adds 3.8-inch touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera, and 720p video capture.

In early 2011, the MVNO launched the Android-based 3G LG Thrive at $90 plus a one-time $35 activation fee for a total of $125, but it was available in limited quantities and quickly sold out, the company said.

The MVNO stopped charging activation fees in mid-2012. It sells some of its phones only direct, including the refurbished iPhone 3GS.

“Smartphone sales have quickly outpaced feature phones, but they can come with hefty price tags that make it difficult for people who don’t want to spend a lot on a phone to keep up with changing technology,” said Marick.

Consumer Cellular, which resells AT&T service, launched in 1995 as a direct-to-consumer marketer, but the MVNO began heading into retail in 2010 to reach consumers who prefer to buy in stores. Its handsets are sold through Sears, select RadioShack franchise stores, and Walgreens stores in Florida.

When it launched in the mid-1990s, the privately held company targeted what were then known as cellular “convenience users” in a market dominated by business users and wealthy consumers. A few years later, Consumer Cellular shifted its focus to target the 50-plus demographic with products and services appealing to low-usage consumers who are not early adopters.

In an unusual strategy for carriers and MVNOs, Consumer Cellular offers only postpaid no-contract plans to appeal to older consumers who have good credit but don’t like contracts.

Plan features include calling plans beginning as low as $10 per month, no contracts or activation fees, and usage Alerts to notify customers before they exceed their monthly data or voice allotment.