Alcatel OneTouch (AOT) is the twenty-year-old international mobile and internet arm of TCL Corporation, one of largest consumer electronics companies in the world. It is currently one of the fastest growing mobile phone manufacturers and their Alcatel OneTouch’s goal is to design easy to use mobile devices with the technology people want at a price they can afford. They are making a big push in North America with offices in California and Toronto, Canada – working with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the US and with Bell and TELUS in Canada.
Alcatel OneTouch is trying to blaze a trail into North America, especially Canada, where they claim that their push into the smartphone market has already yielded them fourth place behind Samsung, Apple and LG – although our source has been unable to confirm those numbers. Up until now, smartphones and tablets have been Alcatel’s mainstay, but last week at CES in Las Vegas, they unveiled a new $150 smartwatch as they carefully make their way into wearables. Alcatel OneTouch is anxious to see how their smartwatch sells in Canada, which they believe is one of their most important markets, as they try to gauge their brand recognition.
This type of ‘China’ phone – generally high quality with prices that undercut the name brands – all sell well until the carriers price a major brand at $0 on a contract and consumers will generally buy the recognized brand over Alcatel. Steve Cistulli, Senior Vice President for North America, “The big brands have all the cache, and they’ll do something to make sure that the local store reps are focusing on their products. We need to have something that pushes us to the right side, and we’re constantly pushing back against the big guys.”
Cistulli claims that AOT’s push in 2014 is nothing compared to what they have in store for 2015, when they go after the very people that work in the phone stores and promote products – the store-reps. AOT will be the mainline sponsor of ‘The Color Run’ that will take place in 13 cities in Canada later in the year. Cistulli says that “The Canadian market is an aggressive market. Expectations on the network performance side are much higher; when your infrastructure is working, and you’re not dropping calls every 600 feet, your expectations are quite high on these products. It’s a much longer sales cycle in the United States [than Canada], because the Canadian market demands new technology much earlier.”
So far, AOT has had success on Bell and TELUS, but so far does not have any smartphones on Rogers, although Cistulli claims that by the end of 2015, their products will be on four carriers in Canada. He also said that they have big plans for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year. They have already announced an e-commerce site on Amazon where Americans, and soon the Canadians, can buy unlocked smartphones and their newest smartwatch…the Alcatel OneTouch Watch.
Cistulli says, “Now that we’ve put the carrier channels in place, it’s time to now focus on the brand. The products alone aren’t enough to compete. In 2015, we are going to do a 5x increase over our [marketing] budget in 2014; you’re going to see TV commercials, carrier programs and other big pushes from us.”