Shaping The Future #1 – Speaking With Jon Maron of ALCATEL ONETOUCH
Technology is a constantly evolving area and it’s getting better with every product that has been released. Each company works hard to make their presence known and in 2015 one company that has helped shape the industry is ALCATEL ONETOUCH. With their Idol 3 lineup, the company has helped push forward in the low-cost smartphone market. The Idol 3 lineup has helped to give the company some traction in the market and helped show both customers and companies alike that a smartphone doesn’t need to be expensive to be good.
Recently I got the chance to sit down with Jon Maron, VP of Marketing and Communications for ALCATEL ONETOUCH North America.
Ben: In the smartphone market today, where do you feel your company fits in?
Jon: We may be a brand many haven’t heard of, but we’ve been rapidly growing as a challenger brand. We’ve been able to have this growth because we don’t have a bunch of brand expectations to live up to yet – we’re sort of an unwritten book. Practically, we’re focused on giving consumers more for less, and this is how we see ourselves growing from where we are today as the No.5 mobile OEM in North America and globally to a number 4 spot in 2016 with a clear line of sight to number 3.
Ben: The Idol 3 can safely be called a hit, what would you say contributed most to it’s success?
Jon: I think we proved price is no longer indicative of quality. Instead of focusing just on a spec sheet and building to that, we looked at the total experience and built a complete device – a smartphone that brought a clean, uncomplicated design, paired with fantastic experiences often only found on expensive flagship phones and then bring this to them for the price of an entry-level smartphone.
Ben: How do you feel the Idol 3 changed the smartphone market? Where did it contribute?
Jon: I wouldn’t say that any smartphone except maybe the original iPhone and maybe Blackberry has truly ever “changed” the smartphone market. The Idol 3 didn’t really change the market, but rather how people think of affordable phones. It wasn’t really about changing the market, but rather the conversation, and with that, changing the conversation around what this looks like in the end for consumers.
Ben: What do you think will be the biggest factor in selling phones next year?
Jon: I wish I had a crystal ball to answer that one. The carrier channel remains the primary sales channel, but the buying cycle and The way people are buying their devices is changing right now. Rather than buying their mobile device on a subsidy, customers are shifting to buying with leases (pay-as-you-go) and they’re also starting to purchase their phones outright with more unlocked devices. In the end though, most consumers just want a good phone at a great price, and this includes being able to use their phone wherever they want with whatever carrier they want.
Ben: Here in the US we’ve noticed a shift in the market where customers are signing contracts less and less, do you think that is hurting or helping the market?
Jon: Buying phones unlocked and bringing your own device is helping to eliminate carrier contracts, and that’s definitely great for the market as a whole. Right now carriers are still the main place to buy a new smartphone for many people, but by buying unlocked, consumers might have a better selection and better chance of finding something that fits their needs and budget.
Ben: What is the hardest part of making a smartphone on a budget? What would you say is the most important feature to users?
Jon: Budget might be the wrong word, when you’re making a smartphone. The question relies on what the most important features are. One of the important factors is of course the price point, but there are certain requirements on a phone, a good camera, good form factor, long battery life, and even that it has good glass. You really need to look at what are the features that customers actually need versus what would be “nice to have”. The challenge is that there isn’t just one single feature all consumers agree is most important; they all care about different things to an extent. As an example, some may want a big screen, while others can’t use that because it’s too large to carry on a daily basis.
Ben: A hot topic among the Android community right now is how updates are handled. With new versions of Android bringing better and better features, users certainly want to see updates come fast. How does ALCATEL ONETOUCH value updates on their smartphone line?
Jon: Updates have become ubiquitous at this point. Users see an update and they think it’ll just come to their smartphone, but what they don’t realize is that updates can cost manufacturers and carriers both millions of dollars. There’s testing to be done and high costs related to actually pushing the update. The question we ask is “is it necessary?” Every update adds something new and we have to evaluate if that’s really a benefit to a consumer – are we fixing a security or performance issue, or are we pushing update just for the sake of saying we did? So when considering a new update we have to consider if that update is worthwhile and also what does it actually bring that makes it worthwhile. While being on the latest version of an operating system is important, it’s more important to look at security.
Ben: Any sneak peeks into when Marshmallow is coming to the Idol 3 family?
Jon: No sneak peeks as of yet. Marshmallow is definitely an important update and we know customers want it and we are considering it for the Idol 3.
Ben: Earlier this year we saw the announcement of a partnership between ALCATEL ONETOUCH and Cyanogen to make a smartphone with Cyanogen OS pre-installed. While things didn’t work out there, would you ever consider working with another third party for the software on your device?
Jon: ALCATEL ONETOUCH is open to technology of all kinds and if there’s an opportunity to work with a third party that would bring value, we’d certainly talk with them about it. The decision would always come down to whether or not it would be the right decision for our customers.
Ben: If you could have Google change one thing about Android, what would it be?
Jon: One thing that we’ve seen with past versions of the Android OS is that is does use up a lot of memory.. This can cause the performance of the device to be tested, especially the battery life. For example: while some may argue that the companies making the batteries and phones need to put larger batteries in the smartphones themselves, there is a role that software plays in battery life as well.
Ben: What are your plans for 2016, or at least the ones you can tell us about now?
Jon: Well, it’s the middle of November and CES is only 45 days away. All will be revealed then.