Alcatel at IFA 2013: A clear focus away from price war and towards innovative features

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We met with Michael Chen, Global Portfolio Director for smartphone maker Alcatel-One Touch, to discuss about the brand in Europe and forthcoming “hero” products, the Idol Alpha and the Idol S.

From the onset, Chen acknowledged that the company is working hard to shed its “bad image” of producing “cheap” smartphones, a state of affair not helped by the fact that finding mainstream/high end Alcatel OT devices on the open market, either from retailers or operators, is near impossible.

One big marketing push that it did to help was signing a three-year sponsorship of the Tour de France cycling event. The other way of getting customers to talk about a company positively is to ship products that are genuinely different from the rest of the competition. Or as Chen put it, smartphones that can be used naturally by users.

The Idol range is a good example of what Alcatel is prophesying. Nearly three million units have been sold since the range was launched at CES earlier this year. Chen presented us with the Idol Mini, a phone that packs a 4.3in display into a very slim form factor with a £120 price tag.

As for the Idol S, it will be the first 4G LTE smartphone Alcatel will produce, one which will cost between £220 and £250. Last but not least, is Alcatel’s Idol Alpha, a 5in device that is resolutely high end with a 3D aluminium frame with two translucent areas that light up (reminds us of the Sony Ericsson Xperia S from 2012).

It is however the accessories that piqued our interest. Alcatel OT launched three for its just-unveiled Hero, a 6in phablet. There’s an interesting E-ink flip cover that helps save power when reading books, a tiny laser projector that magnetically attaches to the handset and doubles as a stand and a Bluetooth feature phone which will be bundled for free with the Hero.

Alcatel One Touch’s range looks promising but it remains to be seen how successful it will be in convincing operators to stock mainstream models, especially with ZTE and Huawei.