News / Science & Technology

Low-End High-Tech Mobile Phones to Reach World Markets

Ralph Jennings
The iPhone has become a status symbol in much of the developing world. But smartphones and their next of kin, media tablets, are falling in price as low-cost Chinese developers gain ground. That means cheaper mobile devices in countries that find the high end too expensive.

Smartphones such as the iPhone, the Blackberry and Samsung’s Galaxy series have sold handily for years in developed markets. Another 875 million are expected to ship this year.

Consumers in developed countries may pay more than $500 for each touchscreen handset. But prices are slipping as global shipments of smartphones and tablets grow, motivating new manufacturers to test the market. That trend means easier access for consumers in developing countries.

Wilson Mao, an analyst with market research firm TrendForce in Taipei, said smartphones eventually may sell for less than $100. He said they would be made in China.

Mao said the lowest priced smartphones will sell for $65 to $70. He said companies such as Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE, among China’s first-tier smartphone makers, will provide these handsets and that they already have experience in selling overseas.

Figures from the tech market research firm Gartner show that Chinese brands Huawei, TCL and ZTE have all seen sales grow. They shipped a combined 150 million smartphones last year, up about 15 percent over 2011. Gartner data also shows that last year smartphones cut into the market for less technically advanced feature phones, which were once the staple for developing countries.

Silicon Valley market research firm IHS iSuppli forecasts that low-end smartphone shipments will reach 559 million in 2016, more than twice last year’s figure. The cheaper units, led by China, are largely bound for the nearby developing markets of India and Indonesia.

Consumers will preview the newest smartphones and tablets in Taiwan next week. Smartphones big enough to look like tablets and tablets small enough to rival phones, for example, are forecast to go on display from Tuesday at the buzzing Computex Taipei tech show. Computex is one of the world’s largest annual tech shows and will bring together at least 1,700 exhibitors through its final day June 8.

Smartphones and slightly larger media tablets have fallen in price partly because components cost less. For example, Silicon Valley’s iconic chipmaker Intel has worked with mobile carriers in the emerging markets of Africa, India and Russia to develop obscure smartphone brands by offering them the key component, its Atom mobile device processor.

This year Intel plans to unveil a line of mobile device chips under the Silvermont series name. The company says these processors, designed for better smartphone photos and stronger Internet identity protection, will be affordable to producers of low-end smartphones. Intel controls 83 percent of the world processor market.
Competition also has increased as mobile device makers scramble to fill a void left by declining PC sales.

In the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same time a year ago, shipments of the traditional home and office computers dropped nearly 14 percent. Shipments are forecast to fall again for full year 2013 as the popularity of tablets has slowed replacements of PCs.

C.K. Lu, a smartphone analyst with Gartner in Taipei, says price pressure will mainly hit middle-end smartphone makers over the next two years as they struggle to differentiate themselves from the low end.

Taiwan’s HTC is one middle-end smartphone maker, and it reported a squeeze in profits over the past six months.

Lu said smartphones selling for $150 or less lack the screen quality and speed of their pricier peers, but still perform. “It does put price pressure especially on the middle end, it makes the middle end player more and more difficult to differentiate prods from low end because even the low-end spec is very attractive, or another term which is good enough to use,” he said.

Some analysts said top mobile device designers such as Apple eventually will release new devices to follow the low-price trend. Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics in Britain, said Apple must release a small iPad within three years for hundreds of millions of cash-strapped, prepaid users.

Apple currently sells its iPad mini for as little as $329, down from about $400 for the larger iPad 2.

You May Like

Taiwan President Sounds Warning on Future of China Ties

Current Taiwan government has eased once dangerously tough relations with Beijing since 2008, but next year’s presidential election could change that course More

US Presidential Candidates Woo Hispanic Voters

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton reached out to Hispanic voters this past week in a bid to boost their voter support More

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Documentary is a close-up and personal view of young woman who has become of global symbol of courage and inspiration More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs