Alcatel Makes a Royal Call

royal_wedding_phoneSo the royal wedding is almost here; just less than a month to go. And just in case you were still looking for a way to express your national pride in the event, Alcatel has released a commemorative phone, imaginatively titled the Royal Wedding Phone. It comes in a Union Jack casing and features the initials of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the back. There’s even special ringtone versions of God Save the Queen and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, as well as a wallpaper of the royal couple.

Royal memorabilia is reported to be a multimillion-pound industry, and with the royal wedding shaping up to be the UK’s biggest ceremony for 30 years, I’m not surprised to see companies in the mobile industry looking to cash in. Giffgaff is offering a free package worth £25 for the first 1,000 UK residents with the name of William or Kate who sign up for a prepaid SIM card. ALK, maker of the CoPilot navigation app, has announced a 20 percent discount on its iPhone and Android apps to tie in with the royal wedding during this month.

This isn’t the first time Alcatel has released a limited-edition handset. Last year it sold the England Phone during the World Cup. While the actual tournament turned out to be a disappointment for England, retailer Carphone Warehouse scored a big hit as the England Phone become one of the fastest-selling prepaid device ever sold in stores.

The England phone was promoted in association with the Sun newspaper and was available with £10 of air time for just £9.50 plus coupons collected from the paper. This time it’s slightly different. The Royal Wedding Phone is being sold in Carphone Warehouse like any other device. There’s no special offer or cross-promotions. It costs £14.95 plus a £10 top-up, or £19.95 for a SIM-free version.

Alcatel’s Royal Wedding Phone is a reworked OT-209. Interestingly, the original OT-209 attracted a lot of interest in November 2010, when it was launched for just £0.99 plus a top-up. It still retails for £2.95 on the Virgin Mobile network.

So what’s the reason for this difference in price? After all, the OT-209 and the Royal Wedding Phone are the same device and offer the same set of specifications. I guess there’s no straight answer to that, other than the significance of the royal event. Alcatel has produced a commemorative item by adding a new case and some nifty features; it’ll be hoping this will be enough to lure people looking to celebrate the special day with a special phone.

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of the Royal Wedding Phone. That has nothing to do with the actual ceremony itself. I wasn’t too keen on the England Phone either. I’m just not really interested in limited-edition handsets that celebrate national events. I would prefer to invest in a phone for the long term — at least 12 months. What am I supposed to do with the Royal Wedding Phone after the event is over? (If you’re a die-hard fan, the Royal Wedding Phone is also available on a 24-month contract with Talk Mobile, starting at £5.10 a month.)

But that’s not to say there isn’t a market for this type of product. There definitely is, and the England Phone demonstrated that. So despite my personal taste, I do admire Alcatel’s business strategy. It makes sense to focus at the low end of the market, and this coincides with where Alcatel’s strongest. People caught up in the hype of a particular event are more likely to spend their money on a cheaper item they can discard when everything’s over.

What’s more, any publicity for Alcatel can only be a good thing. It’s using a national event as an opportunity to further enhance its brand. It’s still early days for the Royal Wedding Phone. It was only released a couple of weeks ago and there are still another few weeks until the ceremony. Until then I expect the device to sell well. And afterward, who knows? It might even become a collectors’ item.