Posted by Matt Egan 04 March 2014
Cheap is cheerful: why everything must go in the world of smartphones
Get ready for an influx of cheap smartphones, aimed at first-time buyers and second-handset owners.
Last week saw MWC 2014 and the most important, scene-setting week of 2014 in terms of the smarthone market. Trawl the web and you'll find a bunch of articles talking about trends in the mobile world as evidenced by MWC. Some of these inlude ultra HD tablets and phones, wearable tech and improved audio for smartphones and tablets. These all speak to the same thing: the requirement to get wealthy western punters to shell out for newer, more expensive tech. (I do think smartwatches could be great, however.)
We saw multiple HD+ tablets, capable of showing off super-HD content, and plenty of phones with better quality speakers and audio compression. They offer marginal improvement to the mobile experience, and greater profits for manufacturers. Meanwhile no-one needs a smartwatch but the big guys are all betting the farm that you'll buy one.
Cheap smartphones: what's going on
These trends relate to-, but are separate from what's really going on in the smartphone world: the rise of the budget smartphone (aka: the lowering of the price of good-quality smartphones).
In essence, in the developed world everyone who wants a smartphone likely has one, so any growth to be found in the UK is in sub-£150 phones for those who use email, internet and Facebook, and could be persuaded to upgrade. There's also a market for second smartphones - rough-and-ready connected devices for those times when you need to be connected but you don't want to risk your £600 phone.
More critical yet is the rest of the world: in developing nations mobile phone connectivity is better than is fixed-line broadband, and there is going to be an explosion in smartphone use. The major players are all jostling for this market, and it is likely that UK smartphone buyers will benefit.
The rise of the sub-£100 smartphones
Take a trip down to the high street and look into Carphone Warehouse, Phones4U or any of the other phone stores. You'll see the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia and Sony Xperia handsets, and literally dozens of cheap smartphones and feature phones. Ask any salesperson working in those stores and they'll tell you that the £100 Lumia 520 walks out of the door at a rate of knotts. Meanwhile crappy Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace proliferate, and the major phone makers have cottoned on.
At MWC we saw multiple phones in the sub-£100 sphere. Nokia announced five of them, then there's the Firefox phone and the Acer Liquid Z4. These follow hard on the heels of such budget bargains as the staggeringly good value Moto G, a snip at around £130. Meanwhile Lenovo has purchased Motorola with the intention of targetting global markets with cheap, quality smartphones.
Not all of these will make it to lucrative western markets such as the UK, none of them are entirely aimed in our direction. But some if not most of them will be on sale over here, aimed at attracting first-time smartphone- and second handset buyers. (See also: why you should buy a Windows phone.)