Las Vegas – Practical-minded millennials and the wireless industry’s transition to unsubsidized phones are helping drive up Alcatel One Touch’s U.S. sales, said Steve Cistulli, North America senior VP for the Chinese smartphone and tablet vendor.
The company provides “cost-effective products to carriers so they don’t have to subsidize,” he said. In addition, cash-strapped millennials and a rising number of “technology pragmatists” are turning to the company’s entry- and mid-tier phones to buy the phone that meets their needs without paying for features and performance that they don’t need, he said.
“All our phones are typically priced at less than $200 to the carrier,” Cistulli said. Alcatel One Touch takes the same pricing approach with cellular-equipped tablets. The entry-level POP 7 tablet, the company’s first to be sold through a tier-one carrier, is available from T-Mobile with 3G service at $168 without contract.
Alcatel One Touch’s U.S. momentum began to build in 2013 when the company sold direct to a tier-one carrier for the first time, having entered the U.S. market in 2009 through importers, Cistulli said. In 2013, Alcatel One Touch sold direct to two tier-one carriers, and this year it’s selling direct to all four.
The company’s transition from a portfolio dominated by feature phones to a portfolio dominated by smartphones is also driving growth, he said.
Eighty percent of the 5 million phones shipped by the company last year in the U.S. were feature phones, but by the end of 2014, 70 percent of the company’s annual U.S. shipments will be smartphones, he told TWICE on the eve of CTIA’s Super Mobility Week. Almost 90 percent of the company’s current U.S. SKUs are smartphones.
The company’s portfolio is also making the transition from 3G to 4G LTE, with three LTE smartphones shipping this year and almost every new product in 2015 shipping with LTE, he said.
The company has also expanding its product selection, launching more than 15 phones in 2014 compared to less than 10 in 2013.
Alcatel One Touch has already made the transition from white-label to branded supplier, which in turn will increase demand from carriers, he said.
The company ended its white-label business in 2013 after carriers became satisfied that the company could design and manufacture products to their quality standards, Cistulli said.
Carriers prefer to transition from white-label to branded products because the manufacturer assumes the costs of marketing and promoting the products, Cistulli said.
Alcatel One Touch will do its part to build demand for its products in the U.S. with the global sponsorship of a world tour by world-famous electronic DJ Avicii in 2015. The tour includes U.S. venues.
In the U.S., phones with preloaded Avicii content and apps will be available, building the company’s awareness among 14- to 30-year-olds, Cistulli said.
The company will promote its Avicii sponsorship though social media and traditional media such as radio and TV.
Alcatel One Touch will also become a presenting sponsor in 2015 of a series of U.S. events still to be announced.
In other developments, the company said it expanded its selection of cellular-equipped tablets with three LTE-equipped models, launched its first smart watch, and launched the E Card. The E Card is a portable reader with 4-inch e-Ink display intended mainly for use as a companion device for a Bluetooth-connected phablet. The reader will display texts, weather, email, web pages and content such as boarding passes.
The Wave smart watch connects via Bluetooth to Android smart phones. Its round 1.2-inch-diameter touchscreen displays notifications, controls the music and camera functions of a Bluetooth-connected Android phone, and accepts and rejects incoming calls. It also features heart-rate sensor, pedometer and sleep monitor. It doesn’t incorporate the Android Wear OS.
Prices weren’t disclosed.