Smartphones are increasing in popularity, and not just among the early adopters and "technorati." Take, for instance, the Samsung Exhibit II 4G, on the T-Mobile network. The phone, which became available in late 2011, is being presented as an option for the value-conscious consumer. Even so, we found it during our testing to be surprisingly slick--very responsive, full of features, and able to take advantage of truly impressive T-Mobile 4G Internet speeds.
HispanicBusiness.com caught up with Mark Stockdale, T-Mobile USA's director of Hispanic Marketing, top ask a few questions about the phone, both in terms of the device and in terms of T-Mobile's strategy.
HB: Obviously, Wal-Mart is an extremely valuable retail partner, and is well known for value buys. Can someone speak to how successful the sales have been thus far -- and what kind of conversions T-Mobile is seeing from pre-paid to long-term? Or what the breakdown of no contract vs. long-term contract is?
Stockdale: While we can't disclose the exact mix of contracts, T-Mobile is committed to the Wal-Mart relationship and has seen significant growth in the space. We power Wal-Mart Family Mobile, a plan which Wal-Mart sells and T-Mobile runs at the back end with network operations.
Wal-Mart Family Mobile is a monthly postpaid, no-annual contract plan and was designed with families in mind. We recently made this unlimited talk and text plan even better by adding Unlimited Web service ($45 for the first line and $35 per additional line), which provides full access to Web surfing, data and social media for all lines on the account and is one of the best value options available on any national carrier.
HB: What are some of the scenarios in which you think a no-contract line has an advantage over the traditional model? I can think of a few, but would like to know where the company's head is on this one.
Stockdale: Our Monthly4G no annual contract plans (traditionally called prepaid) are a great fit for customers looking for the many benefits of T-Mobile, including America's largest 4G network, a compelling selection of handsets, and fast data speeds, without the requirement of a term contract. Whether customers don't qualify for a traditional postpaid plan due to credit ratings or simply choose to not sign up for a contract, Monthly4G is a great solution. The primary difference in the Monthly4G model versus traditional postpaid is that customers pay upfront for their monthly usage.
HB: What kind of feedback have you seen from your Hispanic customers thus far? How are you measuring feedback in this important market segment?
Stockdale: T-Mobile's approach to the Hispanic market is nuanced. We make an effort to differentiate our efforts and ensure that any message is relatable and tied culturally to what is important to these customers. We know from our research that value is very important to the Hispanic community, as are international calling and messaging plans. We also see that our Hispanic customers tend to have more family plan lines than our traditional customer base.
We make every effort to get direct feedback and make it our goal to have Spanish language options throughout the customer journey. This starts with our advertising, but also extends to t-mobile.com, our retail store staff and our customer service centers.
HB: I was impressed with the speed of 4G. What's the nationwide availability on this? What about in top Hispanic markets?
Stockdale: T-Mobile's nationwide 4G (HSPA+ 21) network is now available in 217 markets, reaching more than 200 million Americans. In addition, the company's faster 4G (HSPA+ 42) network is available in 175 markets, reaching 184 million Americans. T-Mobile's fastest service is available in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and many more Hispanic-centric markets.
HB: I think the phone has a great array of bells & whistles--for instance, I wasn't expecting mobile hotspot in a relatively budget model, for instance, but glad to see it. Was the lack of haptic feedback in the phone a major way to keep cost down, or just a design decision?
Stockdale: In this case, the key-based feedback was a design choice based on the phone being an entry level smartphone.
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