Research firms Gartner and CCS Insight think much of the mobile phone shipment growth that will occur in 2014 will be driven by low-cost smartphones, underlining a shift down market that vendors and platform companies have been keen to take advantage of in their search for growth.
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.
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.
Sprint is still backing the Tizen Association and just joined as a partner member, contrary to a recent report that the carrier had dropped its support for the fledgling operating system.
Mozilla joined with a wide range of partners to ensure that devices running the Firefox OS comply with open web standards, which sit at the heart of both Mozilla and the operating system.
Mozilla does not have current plans to bring commercial Firefox OS smartphones to the U.S. market, according to a senior Mozilla executive.