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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs