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Unlocked Freetel Smartphones Hit U.S. Shores

Japanese cellphone maker Freetel, established in 2012, brought its first phones to the U.S. market through, with, Amazon and a third e-tailer planning availability this month.

The two GSM/HSPA/LTE phones, both unlocked, are the flagship $389 Kiwami and $99 Priori3. Both are Android 5.1 phones.

Freetel positions itself as offering Japanese craftsmanship and high-end devices at affordable prices.

The flagship Kiwami features 6-inch 2K WQHD IPS display, 2GHz octacore processor, fingerprint authentication, HD Voice, 21-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera, fast-charging technology, Corning Gorilla Glass and 32GB storage.

The Priori3 features 4.5-inch 480 by 854 screen, 1GHz quad-core processor, 8- and 2-magapixel cameras, and 720p video capture.

Both operate in the 2, 4, 7 and 17 LTE/HSPA bands, enabling them to operate in HSPA and LTE mode in the T-Mobile, AT&T, Cricket Wireless, and Metro PCS bands as well as through other regional carriers and MVNOs.

Both also accept up to 128GB Micro SDXC cards.

The company said it is focusing on the unlocked-phone market in the U.S. and Canada, citing unlocked-phone sales growth.

Unlocked sales continue to grow, said Jeff Fieldhack, research director of Counterpoint Research, “as carriers’ installed base of subscribers who bought a device on subsidy diminishes.”  More than 10 percent of smartphones purchases will be in open channels in the second half, pointing to “a great opportunity and great entry point for new OEMs entering the U.S. market,” he said. “Consumers’ knowledge of device true costs are better understood today [with the lack of subsidies], and they are becoming more savvy and looking for high-quality, cost-effective devices.”

Separately, Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research, told TWICE that Walmart, Best Buy and Target have created unlocked-phone sections in their stores.