Chinese company TCL started MWC 2016 launch events a day earlier than usual on Saturday night, launching three new products and a brand change for its Alcatel portfolio:
- The 5.2” Idol 4 and 5.5” Idol 4S smartphones both include dual speaker JBL sound, a strong reversible design, and have respectively the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 and 652 chipsets. The models range in price from Euro 279 to Euro 449. The packaging doubles as a VR viewer.
- The PLUS 10 is a 2-in-1 mobile PC and tablet with a LTE 4G-enabled detachable keyboard.
- The products will be offered with along a new rebranding campaign, as TCL drop’s the OneTouch part of Alcatel OneTouch.
Alcatel’s new branding and logo strategy, along with the higher tier positioning of the Idol 4 and 4S, reflects a move by Alcatel to differentiate itself from the crowded “value” smartphone OEM marketplace. Notably, alongside the strong industrial design, Alcatel is choosing to switch to better chipsets. Unlike 2015’s Idol 3 models, neither the Idol 4 or 4S use a Snapdragon 400 series chipset.
IHS believes Alcatel’s this “affordable premium” approach will continue to succeed. Alcatel shipped 41.5 million smartphones in 2015 of which 88% were outside its home market of China. The new brand and Idol models will re-enforce Alcatel's international position: IHS forecasts 95% of TCL-Alcatel's 2016 shipments will be international. Alcatel will maintain its unit volumes despite the headwinds affecting the smartphone market.
IHS sees Alcatel’s decision to shift to a stronger brand, alongside more premium models, as a bold but necessary move which Alcatel needs to lift its brand above the multitude of value and mid-tier smartphone makers. Currently, TCL-Alcatel is ranked #5 in terms of global mobile handset unit shipments and #10 for smartphones. As the global smartphone market growth slows and competition becomes even fiercer, what stands out will be design, brand and value.
Importantly, unlike Huawei or Xiaomi, Alcatel does not have to re-purpose a Chinese brand with a global positioning because it has a successful existing international brand.
Alcatel presented its important rebranding campaign by retiring the “OneTouch” moniker opting for the simple single Alcatel brand. As the company highlighted in their key marketing research, the key millennial demographic and customer base drove much of their redesign philosophy as the smartphone maker adopted a brand new logo design moving forward.
The Idol 4 and 4S are both a continuation of Alcatel’s previous Idol 3 series product launched last year at MWC 2015 and a clear marketing push to position the Idol series in the upper echelons of global smartphone brands.
Featuring a 5.2” Full HD and 5.5” AMOLED QHD display respectively framed by an all metal and glass enclosure, the Idol 4 and 4S are clearly designed to punch above their weight class. Both Idol models feature Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 and 652 SoC’s with 3GB of SDRAM memory as well as 4G LTE capabilities of up to Cat 6. All of these features create a proposition which is very competitive to smartphones priced much higher than previous Idol models.
Alcatel will hope consumers see no difference between these new Idol models, and the latest higher priced flagship models from Samsung, LG, HTC, Lenovo, or Huawei.