Wileyfox has set its sights on mobile operators and major retailers to sell its handsets as it targets sales of two million units by next year
The start-up manufacturer, which launched in October 2015, has pre-sold more than half a million smartphones, doubling its previous effort revealed during the Spark launch (June 28).
Since launch, it has targeted online retailers for sales of its smartphones and partnered with established names such as Amazon, Clove Technology, Expansys and ebuyer, but is now looking to accelerate sales by working with operators, MVNOs and additional retailers.
Speaking to Mobile News at the launch of its Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus smartphones in London on November 2, Wileyfox CEO Michael Coombes revealed the drive into new sales channels was predominantly to provide customers with more retail choice and for them to be able to get hands-on with its devices.
“Online has been our focus until now. We now want to drive deeper into each region, so we want to get more online partners and start getting mobile phone operators and virtual network operators.
“We want to do this to give customers a choice. There are certain customers that would quite happily see it online, take a risk and buy it having never seen it. Others want to see and feel it, and have to go in stores. Then there’s others that want to pay ‘x’ amount every month and that can only be through operators.”
Talks are in place to get its devices on major operators and MVNOs, with Coombes adding: “By 2017, you will see Wileyfox products available at a number of retailers and mobile networks.”
Wileyfox is also targeting expansion into a number of global markets over the coming months, and has since exceeded expectations since the launch of the Spark on June 28.
Then, CEO and co-founder and Nick Muir, told Mobile News it aimed to sell its products into 12 countries over the next 12 months.
It now operates in more than 15, including France, Germany, Spain and Italy, with talks to expand into China, India and the US.
UK staff numbers have increased to 40 from 27 over the past few months. Wileyfox’s success was highlighted when it made it onto the top 100 Disruptive Brands of 2016.
Coombes spoke to Mobile News as he unveiled two new handsets in Wileyfox’s range at a location near Oxford Circus in Central London.
He asked the media during the unveiling: “Which one is the actual smartphone? The €700/800 phone or four of these [Swift 2].” Coombes was alluding to the high quality of the new smartphones and their low price, both continuing the firm’s strategy to offer maximum value at top prices.
The Swift 2, which costs £159, features dual-SIM compatibility and is powered by a 1.4GHz octa-core processor with a five-inch HD screen made from Gorilla Glass 3 (which features on all models), 13 megapixel rear and eight megapixel front cameras, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of memory.
The Swift 2 Plus, priced at £189, also has a five-inch HD screen, with a 16 megapixel rear
camera and eight megapixel front with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.
Both were described by Coombes as “a hell of a phone”, and are on sale now through its official website. Partners begin shipping on November 14.
New additions to the fresh Wileyfox range include aluminium bodies and NFC. There is also a 2,700mAh battery, and a microSD slot.
Coombes said: “So much technology now is not used. You buy a device that’s all singing all dancing [and] has all of these features you don’t even use.
“I don’t need eyeball scrolling retina technology or all this stuff for the sake of technology. If you look at what else you can get for £159 and £189 pounds, there’s nothing like it for the money, that’s what we’re trying to get across.
Brexit has hurt Wileyfox UK arm
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union earlier this year could hurt the home arm of Wileyfox, according to Muir.
The British public voted to exit the European Union on June 24, leading to a sharp decline in the pound. It fell to a 31-year low against the dollar on October 5, impacting UK-based exporters such as Wileyfox.
The difference in launch price between the Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus is down to exchange rates – the pound being weak against the dollar – and components sourced in China. “It makes the UK arm a bit more painful with the dollar so strong and the pound so weak,” said Muir. “On the plus side we are a multi-national organisation, so we have to consider more than the sterling.”
Coombes added: “The ecosystem in China works on US dollars. The problem is you buy in dollars and sell at local currency and then it hits you. Brexit has not helped, we’re trying to absorb as much as possible.”
“Everyone has to play the game, Apple’s prices are up 20 per cent, Microsoft’s prices are up 22 per cent, average vendors a few month ago were putting up their prices by 15 per cent, so they probably have gone up even higher.”
The budget smartphone segment has seen a rise in numbers recently, as companies such as Kazam and IMO began catering for the market. In an exclusive interview with Mobile News last month, IMO sales and propositions head Nigel Whitehead said it was the company’s ambition to be number one in the value market over the next 18 months.
Like Wileyfox, it is looking to broaden its reach to as many retailers as possible and is in talks with a UK mobile operator to stock its devices, with Whitehead claiming IMO is on target to ship tens of thousands of products this year and is confident the figure will quadruple in 2017.
However, Muir has welcomed the increased competition, especially from British brands, in the budget handset space in order to widen consumer choice.
“I genuinely believe that competition is necessary for consumer benefit. Do I think the market is crowded? Yes. But in a bad way? No. It’s just showing what can be done with a good British brand.”