The year 2014 proved to be a big one for Cricket Wireless. Not only did its parent company, Leap Wireless, get purchased by AT&T, but it also made the switch from a CDMA network to a GSM one. To find out more about how the change has been going and what 2015 looks like for Cricket, I sat down with Jake Mullins, Cricket’s Head of Consumer Operations.
AW: The new Cricket launched back in May, and obviously there was a big change involved in the move from CDMA to GSM. How has that move been going over with employees and customers?
JM: It’s going really great. When we relaunched in May, we really set out to redefine the no-contract space and the value that you could get from that space, and so far it’s been going great.
There’s a couple of things that I’d point you to. First of all, you look at the migration. You’ve got customers that are migrating from the CDMA network from the GSM network, and we’re seeing lots of momentum that really picked up towards the end of the year. We feel really good about that.
We also set up a new headquarters in Atlanta and launched a remodeled headquarters building, and our employees love it. We’ve got a lot of momentum right now and we’ve launched a lot of products that’ve helped us to redefine the no-contract proposition.
AW: How is the distribution of the Cricket brand going?
JM: There’s been a ton of activity since May. In 2014 we opened over 700 new stores and they’re all our new look and feel and they offer a consistent experience. We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback from customers on them. We launched in almost 3,000 GameStop stores and we relaunched our product in Walmart to be GSM, and that’s in about 1,000 stores. Right now the Cricket brand is available in almost 3,200 retail branded Cricket stores and almost 4,000 retail outlets.
AW: And the new Cricket advertising is very different from the one used by the CDMA carrier.
JM: If you look at the advertising campaign, the recall rate on it is very good. Everyone I talk to, they see the ads and say, “Man, I really love the look and feel of the ads.”
AW: Moving on to devices, I’ve noticed a lot of love for ZTE in your lineup lately, including the recent launch of the ZTE Grand X Max+. What made Cricket and ZTE want to work together so much?
JM: ZTE’s been a great partner for Cricket. If you look back, we’ve launched a lot of devices with ZTE, and the newest one — the ZTE Grand X Max+ — is just really another example of how Cricket is looking to redefine value in this space. It’s our third 4G LTE device with ZTE. The last — the ZTE Grand X Max — flew off the shelves. We loved it.
And the new one is a great value. For $199.99 you get a super phablet with a 6-inch screen that’s HD, and the specs don’t do it justice. When you look at the screen, it’s just a really nice screen to look at. It’s a really nice phone to hold. The camera specs are awesome, it’s got a 13-megapixel shooter in the back, you’ve got your 5-megapixel wide-angle in the front. Big battery with Quick Charge 1.0. It’s just a really solid device, and the value proposition, along with Cricket’s pricing, is a no compromise value. It’s got everything that our customers are asking for and we feel really good about this one.
And if you look back, ZTE’s been a great partner for Cricket. We’ve had a little bit of a unique relationship with them where we have strategically aligned ourselves with them and we’ve launched several products that’ve been just phenomenal. They’ve been a good partner to work with and their devices seem to fit the bill with what our customers are looking for: good value and specs at a reasonable price point.
AW: I’ve noticed that ZTE has been working really hard to make a bigger name for itself in the U.S. market, so this seems like a good relationship because they’re offering Cricket more affordable phablet products and then you’ve helping to give them a way into the U.S. market.
JM: And they’ve committed to Cricket too. If you look at the Grand X Max+, it’s a Cricket exclusive, and so we’ve committed to them and they’ve committed to us, and together I think that we’re going to accomplish a lot of great things in 2015 just like we did in 2014.
AW: One other device question for you. You guys are doing a lot with Windows Phone, especially compared to some of the major U.S. carriers like Sprint and Verizon. Do you plan to continue pushing hard on Windows Phone in the future?
JM: So it’s really interesting when you look at our Windows Phone momentum over the past year. If you look at the overall industry numbers for Microsoft’s operating system, we seem to be completely bucking that trend, and if you look at some months, we end up with 10 times over what the market rate is.
We’ve done really well with Windows Phone, and what we hear from our customers is that they like it because it’s easy. So if they’re not sure if they’re fully invested in an ecosystem and they’re looking to break in to a new smartphone, it’s a really great ecosystem for them to break in to. And if you look back over our portfolio, we’ve had some really aggressive prices and some really good value on Windows Phone. It’s been win-win for our consumers and our vendor partners.
AW: What can you tell me about Cricket’s deal with Deezer? How do you think consumers will react to Deezer replacing Muve Music?
JM: We actually feel really good about this, and it’s a big deal for the indutry. As I said before, Cricket’s been working to redefine the value proposition for the no-contract space, so what you do now is you take the largest music library in the world — Deezer has 35 million songs — and you combine it with the no-contract carrier with the most LTE coverage, and what you’ve got is a really good value.
And we feel really good about our current Muve Music customers as well. If you look at what a Muve Music customer had before, the lowest price point that they could get was $45. In this new offering, for $41 per month taxes and fees included, they can have access to over 35 million songs, which is 15 million more than what Muve had.
So we feel really good about this, and we feel that this is an unmatched value in the no-contract space. And our customers have been demanding more of their music services and of wireless carriers, so we’ve been really trying to push the boundaries of what we think value is in this space.
AW: Are there any big plans for Cricket in 2015 that you can share?
JM: There is so much coming in 2015. What I can tell you is that the main theme that you’re going to hear from Cricket over the next year is going to be growth. You’re going to see a lot of growth, not only in expansion and distribution and customers, but also in functionality and products.
There’s a lot happening and there’s a lot of things that I wish I could share but I can’t. It’s going to be a very exciting year for Cricket. We ended 2014 with a lot of momentum from customers moving from the CDMA network to the GSM network and also with general industry growth. We had a great quarter in the fourth quarter and we’re looking to piggyback off of that momentum and have a bang-up 2015. We think it’s going to be a really good year for Cricket and a really great year for the consumer, because this is a great time to be a wireless consumer, and we’re excited to be in front of the pack.