Alcatel Onetouch, one of the largest phone makers in the world is making a big push in the Australian market, launching a number of new smartphones, tablets and a smartwatch into local markets over the coming months.
Pushing into a channel that is dominated by major players such as Apple and Samsung is a challenge – but it’s one that regional managing director Sam Skontos is well acquainted with, having been a senior manager during the launch of Virgin Mobile.
“Carriers and channels are stating to warm up to the idea of seeing some of the challenger brands coming in, predominantly China-based brands,” he says.
“They’re keen to see it because it starts to give competition, it starts to give choice, it starts to give some real price advantages over some of the big brands”.
At the launch of their new products, the regional head of marketing for Alcatel Onetouch, Nic Ferraro, declared the company was ‘unashamedly’ focussed on the pre-paid phone market, announcing their flagship Idol3 smartphone. On paper, the Idol 3 either matches or exceeds the iPhone 6 but will hit the market at an opening price of under $300.
With Android smartphones, Skontos notes the amount of what he called ‘bloatware’ being preinstalled by manufacturers and carriers is being pared back.
“This is the big thing carriers, and in particular channels, are looking for.
“They can’t afford to be selling a product if the customer is going to be returning it in 30 days, seven days, whatever the case may be.
“That’s where we’ve proven ourselves in having the quality and having been in the market for five years. We’ve got the retailers, channels and carriers all comfortable that we’ve got one of the best quality range of handsets in the market,” says Skontos.
He says that Alcatel Onetouch’s advantage is their capacity to do everything from design to manufacture under the one roof. Their facilities in China are self-owned meaning they avoid the controversy associated with manufacturers such as Foxconn – something Apple has contended with over a number of years (http://channellife.com.au/story/apples-dirty-supply-chain-give-us-break/).
Penetrating the carrier market has been challenging.
“We entered the market five years ago and it was tough. We were a bit of an unknown quantity. We were seen as being a Chinese manufacturer. They weren’t prepared to take the risk. They were more interested in going with the big brands,” says Skontos.
He told us the company, which is part of the TCL group of Chinese companies, decided to take a two-fold strategy by going into retail channels in order to get in front of consumers so that they could work on building consumer confidence in the brand and products. At the same time, they used the retailers to communicate the company’s reputation with customers back to carriers.
This allowed them to build a strategy where customers bought the phones outright but bundled with a carrier’s SIM card.
“That gave the retailer confidence. That gave the carrier confidence,” says Skontos.
The strategy then moved onto the relationship with Vodafone – a company that Alcatel Onetouch had enjoyed long relationship with an OEM partner. All Vodafone-branded products in Australia are made by Alcatel Onetouch.
The company has its products placed within retailers either through a direct relationship or by distributors.