Sam Skontos is the Alcatel Australia boss. He does not mince words. He wants cheap, unregulated, shoddy smartphone imports stopped.

The occasion was the Alcatel Australia annual media briefing. Alcatel Australia, as is Blackberry, is part of the Chinese electronics giant TCL. It also makes consumer goods like TV’s, whitegoods, electronics and more.

Skontos gave a very good overview of both Alcatel Australia business and where Blackberry is heading (GadgetGuy article here).

More importantly, he told us what parallel importers are doing to the market.

“Grey/parallel importers like Kogan usually buy manufacturer’s surplus stock. It may or may not be licensed for use in Australia,” he said.

Skontos went on with numerous examples. Note he was not implying all parallel importers use such tactics but some do.

  • No licensing fees paid for technology like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, MPEG and more. Smaller manufacturers can save costs by conveniently ignoring licencing costs.
  • Possible use of second-hand or inferior parts, especially batteries. These phones are sell and forget with limited warranties.
  • Using refurbished/repaired phone internals in new cases and cheap, untested power supplies
  • No compliance testing for Australia’s networks (saving about $25,000 per model)
  • No certification to work with the three main This can cost $200,000 or more. Some of Australia’s LTE bands are unique to Telstra so these cheap phones may not work on all bands.

“I am not thrilled with grey importing. I am not suggesting that all the phones are suspect – but some are,” he added.

“We have a plethora of great, certified smartphones starting from under $100. Why risk it with this grey market crap?”.

He called on the Federal Government to introduce certification checks for smartphones, especially devices being bought in by grey importers.

Alcatel 2018 range is coming

Alcatel Australia now has the largest selling pre-paid smartphone range and is number three by volume. “It is because we have great quality gear at a range of prices and its available from so many outlets – servos to newsagents. Not everyone, in fact, most of us, can afford a flagship, so we fill that gap”.

“The new range of Alcatel 1 and 3 series are all in the modern 18:9 screen format. We can make them at a lower cost because; TCL now makes its own LCD screens; we use a high degree of common components like MediaTek System-on-a-Chip; and we get 100% certification for Australia.”

Alcatel Australia

“There continues to be a need and strong demand for compelling sub-$200 alternatives, with Aussie’s craving affordable yet well-made, attractive options. We work closely with our parent company TCL to ensure we leverage its manufacturing capabilities that means we can bring immersive entertainment experiences and attractive devices to our smartphone customers through 18:9 displays, improved battery life and enhanced camera quality, all at an affordable price,” said Skontos.

GadgetGuy’s take. Alcatel Australia proves lower cost phones don’t have to cut corners.

Over the years I have reviewed many Alcatel handsets. All are well made, reliable and great value.

I had a brief hands-on with the 3V at $199 – a 2K screen, dual camera and fingerprint all wrapped up in ISO standard build and quality. No remanufactured or second-hand parts here!

Alcatel AustraliaYou can see the full range here. There is one higher level – the Alcatel 5 which would seriously challenge most mid-range phones. I think it would compete well here, but Skontos is all about runs on the board. The 1 and 3 series will give him that.