AT&T invests in white-label device maker Emblem for devices in 2019

People on the mobile cell phone (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)
Carriers continue to focus on white-label devices that they can affix with their brand. (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)

AT&T invested in a new white-label device manufacturer that will start supplying exclusive AT&T-branded phones to the carrier by the end of 2019.

Emblem Solutions, a new device maker, secured an investment from AT&T in exchange for two board seats and an exclusive agreement for devices to be sold by AT&T and its prepaid channels, including Cricket Wireless.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, including the amount that AT&T invested in the new company.

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Carrier-branded devices are not new—Verizon began selling self-branded devices under the Ellipsis brand in 2013, and T-Mobile released its first Revvl-branded phone in 2017—but the level of success and popularity attributed to these low- to mid-range devices is unclear.

Typically, operators’ self-branded devices are sold at a deep discount compared with flagship devices from Apple, Samsung and others. By rounding out their portfolios with lower-end devices, carriers can attract more cost-conscious consumers and widen the reach of their prepaid offering, all while keeping customers locked into one single brand that spans both a device and a service.

“AT&T remains focused on providing the industry’s leading mobile device portfolio,” Kevin Petersen, SVP of wireless product marketing at AT&T, said in a prepared statement. “Emblem Solutions will make it possible to offer customers the device features they already know and expect, and at a price tag they’ll love.”

Although Emblem’s devices won’t be available to purchase for about a year, AT&T’s Cricket Wireless brand is still bringing other white-label devices into its portfolio.

For example, a new Android-powered smartphone called Cricket Vision was recently released for $59.99, as initially noted by Wave7 Research. For all intents and purposes, Cricket is the sole provider of the device—owning the product name, brand and carrier. Emblem’s forthcoming devices will follow that same model.

“We’re looking to bring balance to wireless device pricing at a time when the costs of components, tariffs and manufacturing continue to increase with no relief in sight for customers,” Lew Palumbo, CEO at Emblem Solutions, said in a prepared statement. “AT&T’s scale and commitment to customers makes them the perfect provider to make this vision a reality.”

Emblem Solutions is a new venture, formally launching today following the investment and agreement with AT&T. The company said it will supply smartphones, tablets and feature phones to AT&T, AT&T Prepaid and Cricket Wireless beginning in late 2019.

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