NEW YORK — Smartphone suppliers are differentiating their products with licensed brand names, niche designs, and affordable LTE price points at $200 and less without subsidy, while smart watches are differentiating through added functionality and designs that look more like traditional watches.
New premium phones, however, have also been added to the product mix.
The Consumer Electronics Association forecasts that U.S. factory-level smart-watch revenues will rise 474 percent in 2015 to $3.1 billion on unit sales of 11 million. Factory-level smartphone revenues will rise 5 percent to $51.3 billion on unit sales of 169 million.
New low-priced LTE smartphones unveiled in recent weeks include an LTE version of Samsung’s Prevail smartphone at $129 from prepaid-service provider Boost Mobile. A $200 LTE phone from Archos features an octa-core processor at $200 without subsidy.
To differentiate their phones, Snail Games sought out a gaming niche with a phone optimized for game play, Blu Products launched a $199 unlocked smartphone said to be the thinnest in the Americas at 5.15mm, and Gold Key unveiled a watch phone with secure communication.
Through licensing deals, smartphones are coming to the market with the RCA and Kodak names.
Here’s a sampling of what’s coming:
Alcatel OneTouch: The TCL Communications brand is launching its first smart watches, which will be available in the U.S. in the first quarter. The Alcatel One Watch series incorporates sensors and apps that let users monitor activities and connect to Android smartphones to control music, take photos, receive notifications and the like, the company said. The watches feature USB charging built into the band and a proprietary OS to deliver longer battery life than the Android Wear smartphone OS, the company said.
Archos: The tablet and smartphone maker unveiled the 4G Diamond with LTE to bolster the selection of premium smartphones priced at less than $200 without subsidy. Smartphones at less than $200 have been dominated by entry-level handsets with basic functionality, the company contended.
The device features pure Android 4.4, 5-inch 1,920 by 1,080 HD display with 440 PPI, 64-bit Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor (quad-core 1.7GHz plus quad-core 1GHz), 2GB RAM, Adreno 550MHz GPU, 16-megapixel main camera with 1080p/30 fps video capture, 8-megapixel front camera, Category 4 150Mbps advanced LTE, 2,700 mAh battery, dual SIMs and 8mm depth.
Blu Products: The supplier of unlocked phones launched what it called the thinnest smartphone available in North and South America at 5.15mm (0.2 inches).
The Vivo Air, made of a solid block of aluminum magnesium alloy, is also promoted as the lightest smartphone available in the region, at less than 3.53 ounces.
The unlocked Android 4.4 phone, available through Amazon at $199, lacks 4G LTE but incorporates HSPA+21Mbps technology in the U.S. 850/1,900MHz and foreign 2,100MHz bands.
It features 1.7GHz Cortex-A7 octa-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 1,280 by 720 display with 306 PPI, and 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p/30 fps video capture.
Bullitt Group: The U.K.-based company builds ruggedized cellphones under the licensed Caterpillar brand and launched the industry’s first Kodak-brand smartphone.
The imaging-oriented Android phone will be followed by a Kodak-brand 4G Android phone, an Android tablet and a connected camera. All will offer “best-in-class image management software and features” and offer “easy access to printing and sharing services,” the company said.
Cricket Wireless: The prepaid cellular provider and phone maker ZTE unveiled the 6-inch LTE-equipped ZTE Grand X Max+, which is available in Cricket stores and the company’s website for an unsubsidized $199. It is an update of the current 6-inch ZTE Grand X Max but equipped with a better camera and double the storage and system memory.
GoldKey: A watch phone called the GoldKey Secure Communicator is said to come with “dual-factor authentication” featuring secure email and encrypted cloud storage. The Android watch phone downloads Google Play apps and features GPS, speaker, microphone, Bluetooth, hot spot capability, dual-core processor and 5-megapixel camera. It became available through the company’s website and its partner network at $399 unlocked, or $199 with GoldKey services.
LG: The curved G Flex 2 reduced its P-OLED screen size to 5.5 inches from 6 inches to balance a more comfortable grip with content viewing. The display steps up to 1080p; the processor steps up to a 64-bit 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm processor from a 2.26GHz quad core, and the OS moves up to Android 5.0. The improved self-healing coating on the back makes scuffs and scratches disappear in 10 seconds rather than in a few minutes. The phone also boasts improved optical image stabilization and adds ability to recharge from almost 0 percent to 50 percent in 40 minutes. Also new is laser autofocus.
RCA: Sonoma Communications, the RCA licensee for smartphones, is launching its first four RCA-brand smartphones. The two 4G and two 3G smartphones are GSM unlocked models running Android 4.4. Prices range from $139 to $159.
Samsung: The updated Galaxy Prevail Android smartphone for Boost Mobile gets LTE and other enhancements at $129. The Prevail also gets a larger screen at 4.5 inches, a 2,000 mAh battery instead of 1,750, and Android 4.4 instead of Android 4.1. It runs on a 1.2GHz quad-core processor.
Snail Games: The Los Angeles branch of the Chinese company launched two gaming smartphones, the Android-based W and W 3D with gamepad-style design. They’re said to bring the feel of traditional game controllers to mobile devices. They come with pre-installed games.
Sony: The stainless-steel version of the Smart- Watch 3 rolls out globally in February. It features 1.6-inch 320 by 320 TFT LCD transflective display for visibility in bright sunlight, built-in GPS, IP68 waterproof rating and charging via a standard MicroUSB port.