A Windows 10 'superphone' is coming from an unexpected source

Known for its budget phones, Alcatel OneTouch now intends to compete against the likes of Apple and Samsung, an Alcatel executive tells CNET.

It's been a rough time if you're one of the few fans of Windows 10 smartphones.

For those of you out there, it's been slim pickings. Microsoft has its two flagship products, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, but sometimes seems as though it doesn't care that much about them. Both were an afterthought at an October event dominated by the Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book laptop. In her review, CNET editor Jessica Dolcourt called the Lumia 950 a "disappointing flagship."

Now the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas brings another option: the Fierce XL with Windows 10, a budget phone from Alcatel OneTouch for $140.

The phone marks a start to Alcatel's push into Windows 10. The company is planning to build multiple Windows 10 phones this year, including a "superphone," which could potentially compete against high-end phones from Apple and Samsung, said Steve Cistulli, senior vice president of the North America region for Alcatel.

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The Fierce XL with Windows 10 is Alcatel's first Windows 10 phone, but it won't be its last.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That would be a shift for Alcatel OneTouch, the low-profile phone maker owned by China-based TCL, the world's fifth-largest television maker with budget sets you've probably never heard of. Alcatel has carved out a reputation for affordable, but not flashy, products. Its commitment to Windows means that you will have an alternative to Apple's iPhone or phones running Google's Android software, which together command almost 93 percent of the mobile phone market, according to NetMarketshare. Windows holds just 2.6 percent.

"We're going to have the leading specs to take on the best smartphones," Cistulli said in an interview at the company's briefing room in the Encore Las Vegas ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show. "We're committed to Windows 10."

No phone in Alcatel's current lineup would qualify as a superphone, according to Cistulli. He declined to say when one would become available, beyond a cryptic later this year. The follow-up question, of course, is why even build a Windows 10 phone?

One reason could be the benefits of Windows 10, which runs the same apps across devices, no matter if they're tablets, phones or PCs. In October, Microsoft said more than 110 million people had installed the software in the first 10 weeks after its release at the end of July.

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