Orange Says Customized Handsets Boost ARPU
By Carlo Longino, Thu Feb 12 17:30:00 GMT 2004

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Orange's Signature line of phones, handsets that meet a long list of the carrier's specifications, earn the company double the ARPU of standard handsets. Does this spell doom for major handset manufacturers?

Orange's signature line features advanced handsets customized for the carrier with a specific menu structure and certain applications. Orange says they earn an average of 100 euros per month from users with these devices, compared to the 50 euros a month from a typical user, which is quite a difference.

Orange and other carriers might try to shoehorn these figures to get some leverage with big handset makers that have been reticent to customize their products or promote the carrier's brand over their own, but is the ARPU jump down to the Orange customization alone?

Orange didn't provide specific figures for other handsets, though the WSJ adds that last June the carrier said users of the Nokia 7650, a smartphone that's not part of the signature line, generated 93 euros per month in revenue, which would reinforce the idea that users with advanced devices with additional features like MMS or XHTML will spend money on them, customization or no. And it's not necessarily a fair comparison between a signature device like a Treo 600 and a low-end, black and white, non-WAP device, is it?

Orange launched their Orange World content system in October, making the mobile Internet and content easier for their users, and they've also made a big push in user education -- and when people have access to data and content services, and are taught how to use them, it would follow that they'd then be more likely to generate revenue than someone with a handset that can't access the same stuff.

Rather than trumpeting the value of customized handsets, Orange's figures underline the value of making devices with advanced features available to the market, and supporting them with well-designed mobile content and decent user support.