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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #86, August 2015 - HTC & ZTE Fighting To Stay Relevant!
August 01, 2015

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - August 2015 Issue #86


Prepaid wireless is a growing and truly exciting industry.  At I try to provide you with in-depth information that isn't readily available anywhere else.  The content is original, and created from firsthand experience working in the prepaid wireless industry for over a decade.

This monthly email provides you with a quick glance at what's trending in the news so that you can easily keep informed.  I believe in brief, to-the-point summaries/commentary so that you can move onto other tasks in your day.  Each snippet includes a link to the original story should you be interested in the full details.

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HTC Continues Its Battle For Market Share With The Desire 626s
Tech Times
Following its tremendous early success at the start of the smartphone boom, HTC has been struggling in recent years.  They're definitely dedicated to regaining share in the U.S., and have been aggressively pursuing carriers with reasonably priced, well featured smartphones.

The HTC Desire will be available on Sprint Prepaid, T- Mobile, and MetroPCS.  The specs are actually quite respectable, with a nice HD screen, and 8MP rear camera.  The price will really determine its success.  At $170 on T-Mobile, you're getting great value.  It will be interesting to see what price point it lands on the other two.  At $150 or less, I believe they'd see great results.  Whether or not HTC can be profitable at this price point, however, remains to be seen.

ZTE Seeks To Compete With The Axon
ZTE is a Chinese company also trying to make headway in the U.S.  They started off largely with low end handsets, and were prominent in the old Cricket's lineup.  The Axon, however, is a different animal altogether.  Compare it to Samsung and LG flagship devices, and you'll find a formidable competitor at a lower price point.  However, it doesn't have an SD card slot, which leaves you stuck with 32GB of internal memory.  Also, customers should also consider the Alcatel OneTouch Idol, which has similar specs can be had for $250.

Again, profitability is still in question, however, I'm loving this feature set, and the fact that the phone comes unlocked.  Expect to see strong in-store marketing of the ZTE Axon.

America Movil Offers North America Free Roaming
America Movil is Mexico's largest telco company, and plans to extend its unlimited calling, texting, and data to its prepaid customers.  This makes sense after facing increasing competition with AT&T's entrance into the market via its acquisition of  Iusacell.  

Keep in mind that they also own TracFone, which itself acquired Simple Mobile and Page Plus.  America Movil has extremely deep pockets, and we can expect to see these roaming benefits transition State side to its U.S. brands.

Mubble Helps Prepaid Customers Track Usage & Carrier Messages
This app helps prepaid users track balances, and provide a user friendly interface to access carrier messages and offers.  Some people believe that carriers don't want you to keep a close on your balance in order to generate higher revenue.  The theory being that the more aware you are of your costs, the less you'll spend.  The reality, however, is that carriers simply have poorly evolved platforms and customer friendly tools, and are continually seeking to improve the customer experience to keep you happy, and avoid expensive customer calls.

That said, I wonder whether Mubble is a real business, or just seeking to build enough critical mass to sell out (likely to a carrier).  If not, they'd better have some patents, otherwise carriers will simply copy these basic features, and render this app irrelevant.  In any case, I applaud smart people with good ideas, who can get a product to market, and wish them all the success, whether generating cash flow, or selling out!

Cricket Expected To Finally Launch Mobile Hotspot
Well, well, what do we have here!  Cricket finally completed development on mobile hotspot capability, which was sorely lacking from from its New Cricket offer compared to the old/legacy Cricket (pre acquisition by AT&T).  However, if they do end up charging $10/month to access your plan's data allowance, they may see some backlash though.  "So you want me to pay an extra 10 bucks to access the data I already paid for?"  Really they should offer a separate data allowance, and upon depleting that allow you to use your plan balance.

No doubt they'll be playing around with hotspot pricing, including raising plan prices, and including mobile hotspot.  At that level it becomes a marketing exercise, and how the offer resonates will largely depend on how important mobile hotspot is to customers.  For example, if you're not a hotspot user, you'll favor lower plan prices.  I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this topic as details surface.

Helio Is Back!  But Why?

Light Reading
I still haven't determined whether the resurrection of Helio is interesting, shocking, or just plain ridiculous.  I recall when they first launched, they were unique as they were offering only smartphones (at a time when smartphones were new to the market).  Their phones were high end, and their plans were just as expensive.  They were targeting price-incentive techies.  By the time they got going, however, they had merged with Virgin, which was subsequently acquired by Sprint, who then shut down Helio.  

This new resurrection brings one low priced plan, claiming they're better than Boost and Virgin as you can roam with Sprint roaming partners, which is not allowed on Sprint's prepaid brands and other MVNOs.  They also claim no taxes, however, don't clearly articulate that that relates only to telecom taxes; State sales tax still applies.  Also note that although data is unlimited, ALL data usage is at 128kbps; i.e. EXTREMELY slow.

So what's the point of this brand?  I can't help but wonder if some Sprint exec owed Helio's Korean owners a favor for canning their program in 2008?  

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

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