Trade embraces ‘Skoda’ of mobile

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It’s been a year since Simon Hassell left accessories distributor Kondor to head up the UK operation of little-known Chinese Bluetooth product manufacturer Bluechipworld. But already he has established it as a trade brand within major retailers in the UK, and helped make inroads in other markets also.

Coming into the UK market with Kondor and Data Select as its UK distribution partners, Bluechipworld’s products now include handsets, Bluetooth headsets, earphones, car kits, chargers, cases, holders and adaptors.

These can now be found in mobile retailers and non-specialist retailers such as Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Phones 4U, Dixons, Tesco, Asda, Argos, Sainsburys, Halfords, Toys ‘R’ Us, Maplin, QVC, Netto, Boots and Littlewoods.

For the main, its handset range is playing the biggest part in the company’s present sales activity. Bluechipworld began its assault on the UK market with the December release of the VX-1 mini mobile, the size of a credit card and designed primarily as an emergency handset performing only basic call and text functions. Tesco was given an exclusive to sell the device for £18.99, unlocked.

Bluechipworld reckons the device has been a resounding success, and one of Tesco’s best-selling mobiles in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, shifting over 10,000 units.

Hassell says: “We stuck our flag in the ground at Tesco last year with the VX-1. It has proved to be a massive success. Mobile plays a big part of what we do now – ‘It’s not a new market, it’s a fresh approach’, as our marketing material says. The VX-1 is unique.

“We always planned to go into the handset market but we knew we had to do something different. Did we take a risk? Possibly. Because we launched an entry-price handset SIM-free. Nobody had ever really done that before in the UK. And it worked, so it was a risk worth taking.”

The next handset in line for Bluechipworld is the VX-2, which also features only simple call and text functions. It will be available next month for £24.99 in black, chrome, pink and white. Hassell says a number of retailers have signed up to sell the device, but declines to name them just yet.

The VX-3 and VX-4 will follow shortly after the VX-2. The VX-3 is a step up and features a colour screen and FM radio. Headphones will also be bundled with the handset. It will be available in gold and silver, and cost £29.99.

The VX-4 looks like a regular smartphone, with a full QWERTY keypad. It is aimed at heavy texters, says Hassell, and will be available in black, yellow, pink and green at a cost of £49.99. Retail agreements are yet to be confirmed. Kondor has put its name behind the three handsets already, and will take stock of them in the next few weeks.

Bluechipworld is also ensuring it targets as many markets as possible with its handset portfolio. It will release two new phones for the senior market and for those with a disability in the coming weeks. The VX-5 features large buttons and large screen, as well as loud ringtones and vibration alert. It will cost £69.99.

The VX-5i is almost identical, but it’s screen is half the size. Bluechipworld hopes to sell this for as little as £29.99.

Hassell stresses that getting the pricing right for these handsets is critical for their success. “These types of phones usually go on sale for around £99.99 but we’re being quite aggressive with the VX-5 and setting a price of £69.99,” he says.

“And we expect the VX-5i to take the market by storm also. Why make the older generation or those with a disability pay over the odds for a phone that they can’t use fully? These handsets solve that crucial problem.”  

Hassell says interest for the company’s flagship phone, the dual-SIM VX-6, has been “huge”. It is the firm’s best-featured handset to date and, like the VX-4, looks like a traditional smartphone.

It comes with support for social networking sites and features GPRS and email capabilities, as well as a slot for expandable memory of up to 32GB with the use of a microSD card. It is expected to cost £99.99 when it goes on sale in August.

Hassell is happy to admit the launch of the VX-6 has been pushed back to ensure that it’s fully tested and suffers no faults when it goes on sale. 

“The VX-6 has taken a little longer to launch because the handset is highly-specified,” he says. “We have a retailer that wants to sell that but we won’t launch until we’re absolutely sure it’s ready and tested sufficiently.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 464 (May 24, 2010).

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