Three’s device portfolio has come a long way in the last year. The network has gained access to the iPhone, as well as a host of high-end devices, and launched ‘super tariff’ the One Plan – potentially offering double the minutes, texts and data offered by its competitors.
This strategy has been led by Three’s director of devices, Nigel Field, who says the manufacturer’s aim is to provide an excellent range, and ‘not necessarily in the high-end’.
The operator is interested in getting customers to adopt the One Plan, Field adds, and Three is pairing the tariff with all of its handsets.
The ‘One Plan’, which starts at £25 per month for Sim-only plans, offers consumers 2,000 any network minutes, 5,000 Three to Three minutes, 5,000 texts and 1GB of data.
Field says: ‘The One Plan has not necessarily given us better handset range but has led to better volumes. Partners recognise the benefits. I can’t share specific figures but both the One Plan and iPhone have helped grow volumes.’
The One Plan and iPhone were designed to launch together, says Field, adding: ‘The iPhone was very important to secure – it puts us more on the radar. It has been critical for us this year.’
And Three’s iPhone deal is very competitive. On a 24 month tariff at £30 per month,The operator’s customers can get the 16GB handset for £99. The tariff includes 500 minutes, 5,000 texts, 5,000 Three to Three minutes and 1GB of data.
Field says: ‘The iPhone deal is very strong and we have taken a good share of the acquisition market.’
Three can afford to offer the device so cheaply because ‘it’s all based on value tariffs’, adds Field. ‘We have our own financial targets. We sell a strong performance of packages. This leads us to grow quality customers.’
As a result, the network is ‘taking customers from across the board’, Field says, adding: ‘Money Saving Expert is saying we offer the best deal and people are beginning to realise we have good value tariffs and the network is very strong. Customers value network strength for download. We have a halo effect for that and broadband – that’s all helping and it’s all come at the right time.’
Three has avoided the prepay market since having its fingers burned in 2005, when its highly subsidised handsets were targeted by box breakers. However, the network, which has the smallest prepay percentage of all the operators, is back with an aggressive strategy.
‘Prepay is a big opportunity for us,’ says Field. ‘We have a small share in prepay so there is lots of opportunity to focus on that area. That’s why we’ve revamped pay-as-you-go tariffs and smartphones.’
The operator is also looking at Android and already has a Three branded handset – the ZTE Racer. ‘We are working with Samsung as well for a new Android handset,’ Field adds.
And Three is not the only network looking at low cost Android. T-Mobile, Orange and Vodafone have also outlined ambitions in the area with their own-branded handsets launching for Christmas.
Meanwhile, Carphone’s Christmas strategy is centered around Android, but at all price points.
Field says: ‘It is interesting. Android as a platform is becoming well known and it will be interesting to see how it performs. In a couple of months we will also have more high tier Android phones.’
And the operator is ‘very supportive of multi platforms in [its] portfolio’says Field. Three will stock Windows phone 7, Android, and the N8 (Symbian 3), he says. ‘We want to give customers choice. It will be interesting to see over the next six months how these will do. There will be a significant degree of marketing around Windows 7, so customers may go in and ask for that platform.’
He adds that in the last three months, consumer awareness of Android has grown and the platform has ‘become something customers ask for’. ‘HTC has helped, especially with HTC Sense. There is also a growing awareness of the operating systems – Apple probably started it but Android was a slower process,’ says Field.
Meanwhile, the network is working on making ‘every phone available on prepay’, says Field. Adding: ‘We will have a BlackBerry pay-as-you-go range launching shortly. First, the Curve, and then the BlackBerry Torch on contract then pay-as-you-go. The high-end will be more expensive but there will be customers who want that.’
Christmas is also a big opportunity for Three, Field adds. He says: ‘We are looking at having a great range in Q4.’
The operator’s pay-as-you-go strategy will be about low cost smartphones, particularly on Android, while contract will be smartphones across all price points. New handsets added include a Windows Mobile 7 device in Q4 as well as the N8, Torch, and Desire HD.
And tablets are another area of growth for the network. Having secured Apple’s iPad, Field says Three will be ranging tablets for Christmas over the next few weeks, which will be available with mobile broadband tariffs.
‘With tablets, people will have to pay partially upfront. Customers do see a value in paying upfront,’ he says.
Quarter 4 will be a big quarter for Three, and clearly devices will play a significant part.