Every brand starts locally, even nationally, but wants to eventually go global. Global brands experience better success, have more of the worldwide market to win, and can eventually go on to have some measure of success in the larger market. Meizu is a company that, like most, desires global recognition – but the company also knows that the US remains a hard market to crack.
Coming off its new Meizu Pro 5 and the phone’s launch, VP Li Nan was asked about Meizu’s desire to enter the US market. Nan didn’t say that Meizu would enter the US market, nor did he give a date or expected year, but he did say that Meizu is eyeing the US market. The one issue for the company concerns the carrier stronghold on smartphones: Meizu wants to provide a unique experience for its customers by selling direct to them, not by striking deals with carriers.
Of course, Samsung can testify to the difficulties faced with carriers, with the company launching the carrier-exclusive Galaxy S6 Active (AT&T) that many wish would be extended to all carriers, not just AT&T. The same can be said for the Motorola Droid series in the US as well. Sony devices are often launched in carrier exclusives in the US, with T-Mobile having some earlier Sony Xperia devices before the Japanese manufacturer announced its Xperia Z4v for Verizon (the device still hasn’t launched on the network yet).
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These are just a few examples of how carrier-locked phones and carrier exclusives rule in the US. Yes, unlocked smartphones and off-contract plans are taking off, but whether or not a smartphone sale starts with a carrier is irrelevant; eventually, every smartphone buyer has to go to a carrier of some sort to get his or her phone activated (even online buyers), and AT&T and T-Mobile are the GSM (global system for mobile communications) carriers in the US. Many consumers live in areas where AT&T and T-Mobile coverage isn’t that great (rural areas), and CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint serve those areas well.
Meizu has excellent goals, but contextualization is key. Sometimes, you have to go into a foreign market with the goal of meeting the needs and expectations of those customers even if it goes against your own desires. The end goal is always to get customers interested, and if selling carrier-locked smartphones is the way to get there, then it’s a small price to pay to meet your long-term goal. LG and Samsung are two Korean manufacturers that have sacrificed a lot, but the success of these two manufacturers in the US show that working with carriers may not be such a bad deal after all.