Acer announced the launch of five new handsets at Mobile World Congress, but it admits it has a long way to go to establish itself as a mobile phone manufacturer to be reckoned with.
Yohan Bibay, VP marketing for Acer Smart Handheld Business Group, told Mobile: ‘We’ve only been in the mobile phone market a year, but we have produced a phone as sophisticated as the Liquid in that time. So we are on a learning curve, but we are ramping up to meet the exciting market conditions.
‘But we have to develop relationships with telcos and retailers. You need to convince a lot of people if you go into smartphones. We have to look at how we can leverage some of our brand recognition from computers and netbooks with telcos to convince them that Acer is a brand to support in mobile phones too.’
Acer shipped around 500,000 units in 2009 and is looking to increase that to two to three million units worldwide in 2010 and 10 million in 2011. By 2012 it wants to have 5% to 7% market share. ‘Acer is a very determined company,’ said Bibay.
The growth of smartphones has given Acer the impetus to enter the mobile market. ‘We see the phone as a computer, which is what we make, so we think we can win in this market,’ said Bibay.
Acer sees operating systems converging, with around 60% being open source by 2014, but it believes devices will not converge. ‘Multi-equipment is still the story,’ said Bibay. ‘You can’t really have the full work experience on a phone, you need a large screen, so tablets and netbooks will proliferate.’
Bibay thinks this will give Acer a route into the mobile market as it is one of the largest suppliers of netbooks to telcos and it believes it is one that can benefit the networks too.
‘We do a lot of consumer research,’ he said. ‘If someone just has a smartphone they’ll spend an average of five minutes on the internet when they browse. If they have a notebook and a smartphone it’s 30 minutes on the notebook and 10 minutes on the phone. If they have a notebook, a netbook and a smartphone, the use on the latter goes up to 20 minutes. So there is value there for the telcos to multi-equip the consumer.’
He also points out that the profitability of smartphones is higher than netbooks, because of the bandwidth consumption of the handsets. ‘So it makes sense for the telcos to supply notebooks to their customers,’ he argued.
Acer’s strategy to incentivise telcos and customers to adopt its mobiles mirrors what it has done with notebooks and netbooks, namely keeping costs under control and operating efficiently. Acer believes it can win market share and still maintain its profit margin of between 15% and 20%.
‘We return value to the consumer,’ said Bibay. ‘And it’s good for the telcos too, as they don’t have to provide such high subsidies on our handsets as they are cheaper.’
Bibay said the Acer Liquid e will retail for around £100. ‘We will leverage our channels, work with the key retailers in the UK and hope to reach price points that will encourage people to change their phone. The BeTouch E110 and Liquid e will be distributed through Carphone Warehouse.’
He added that in addition to the five handsets announced at MWC a further five will be released later this year.