TCL, the Chinese company that manufactures BlackBerry and Alcatel handsets, is ramping up its focus on the South African market, on Wednesday taking the wraps off a new smartwatch aimed at children (and parents keen to keep track of their offspring).
The company, which was founded in 1981 as a maker of knock-off TDK cassette tapes (until TDK filed a lawsuit for intellectual property violation), has morphed over the years into a manufacturer of smartphones, tablets, television sets, mobile routers, air conditioners, wearables, virtual reality goggles and Internet of things devices. It has about 60 000 employees worldwide.
The company is placed eighth worldwide in global handset sales, sixth in panels, sixth in tablets and third in television sets. It is also hoping to be a leader in 5G broadband and has retooled three of its research and development centres for this purpose. It is working with big mobile operators, including France’s Orange and China Mobile, on developing 5G technologies.
The TCL brand was thrust into the fore in 2016, when it became a licensee of the BlackBerry brand, manufacturing, marketing and selling the iconic phone maker’s handsets, which are now powered by Google’s Android operating system.
“Our vision is to be the first multi-brand mobile company,” said Ernst Wittmann, regional manager for Southern and East Africa at TCL, at a press conference in Johannesburg on Thursday. He said TCL wants to add more phone brands to its portfolio and is in active discussions to do this. “We are targeting 60m-plus active mobile users across the three brands. Currently, we are on half that.”
The company distributes handsets in the South African market under the BlackBerry, Alcatel and TCL brands. Alcatel is aimed at the low end (up to the mid-tier segment), while TCL covered the mid-tier and BlackBerry is more of a high-end brand, with devices costing up to US$500.
It is now hoping to grab a chunk of the growing markets for wearables for children with its new MoveTime Family Watch MT30, which it launched in South Africa on Thursday at a recommended R2 699 on prepaid. The watch is also available on contract through Vodacom.
The MT30, which runs a customised version of Android, has a 2G/3G chip in it, which allows users (mainly children) to send messages, make and receive calls, and add friends through Bluetooth. The touch-screen device has changeable watch faces, interchangeable straps (blue and pink) and is IP67-rated water and dust resistant, and offers up to a two-day battery life.
Wittmann said the MT30 allows parents to monitor the location of their children and to set up geofence alerts, so if they stray outside a defined area, they will receive a warning. It has an integrated GPS for this purpose, but uses other positioning technologies as well, especially for indoor purposes. The watch has an SOS button, which will call a number that can be set by a parent.
The watch is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media