CAPE TOWN--The cost of smartphones in Africa remains a barrier to bringing more people online in many countries even though unit prices have come down, in large part due to the high taxes levied on devices by some governments.
Mozilla said phones running its web-based Firefox OS will soon launch in Africa, expanding into a major smartphone growth region at a time when competing smartphone platforms are targeting the entry-level market. Meanwhile, Mozilla said it is partnering with the GSMA to help consumers in emerging markets develop locally relevant, non-English Web content.
As expected, Google announced the first phones as part of its Android One program, and the software giant is teaming up with local device makers in India to produce smartphones that cost around $105 without subsidies. The Android One initiative is Google's boldest attempt yet to increase smartphone penetration in emerging markets and ensure that Android maintains its firm grip on the low-cost smartphone market.
Google sent out invitations for a media event in India on Sept. 15, according to gadget website NDTV, where it is expected to formally announce the first low-cost smartphones as part of its Android One initiative.
Mozilla's announcement that it would bring to market a smartphone costing around $25 running the Firefox OS is coming to fruition. Intex Technologies released the Cloud FX smartphone as the first Firefox OS smartphone available in India, costing 1,999 rupees, or around $33.
Strategy Analytics added its voice to warnings that smart device shipment growth is slowing, noting that increases in smartphone shipments in the current quarter are at their lowest level for five years.
Microsoft, Mozilla, the Tizen Association and others are moving to lower-cost hardware in an effort to gain share in emerging markets. However, Google's Android One software and hardware reference design program could undercut those efforts by enhancing the Android experience on cheap devices in the developing world.
One of the major themes I'm hearing here at the Mobile World Congress trade show is that handset makers across the board are focusing on affordable smartphones.
Mozilla is partnering with Shanghai-based Spreadtrum to help drive down the costs of chipsets for smartphones and make the $25 price point a reality. In addition, the company announced that its Firefox OS will expand to 12 more markets (on top of the existing 15 markets). Those new markets initially include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina and Ecuador.
In the run-up to every Mobile World Congress, media and analysts spend much time speculating on what is likely to feature at the event, indicating the importance of these four days as a bellwether for the mobile industry. Already there are signs that this is shaping up to be an eventful show--certainly if Huawei's recent video teaser is anything to go by.