Samsung launches Rex handset line for emerging markets, challenging Nokia

Samsung Electronics is launching a new handset line called Rex that is aimed at emerging markets. The move could be the beginning of a battle between Samsung and Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) touchscreen Asha line, which is focused on young people in emerging markets and bridges the gap between feature phones and smartphones.

Samsung Rex 60

Samsung's Rex 60 is one of a line of new phones from Samsung. Click here for the rest.

Samsung calls Rex "a new series of smart feature phones" and the company is rolling out four devices: the Rex 90, 80, 70 and 60. The first three sport capacitive touchscreens while the 60 supports a resistive touchscreen display. All of the phones are dual-SIM phones, an important feature for emerging markets such as India. The phones run on a Java-based OS and feature Samsung's TouchWiz user interface.

"We are committed to developing the best possible mobile solutions to suit all lifestyles and budgets, which is why we are so excited to launch the Rex series across a number of the world's fastest growing markets," said JK Shin, president of the IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the matter, Samsung's Rex phones will likely be sold for between $50 and $100 each.

The most direct competitor to the Rex line will be Nokia's Asha phones; Nokia is relying on Asha sales to stem the decline of its Symbian line while it generates traction with its Lumia phones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone software. In the fourth quarter Nokia sold 9.3 million Asha phones, more than twice the 4.4 million Lumias it sold. During the second half of 2012 Nokia shipped 15.8 million Asha phones, compared with 7.3 million Lumias.

Earlier this week Nokia introduced the Asha 310, a new, dual-SIM phone with Wi-Fi support. Nokia said the device will be available in Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and Brazil starting this quarter for a suggested price of $102 before taxes and subsidies.

The battle for the low end of the smartphone market and the high end of the feature phone market is certainly going to be fierce during the next several years as more customers migrate from feature phones to smartphones and as smartphone prices drop. According to a recent Nielsen report, China is the only country among the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) where smartphones are predominant, leaving plenty of room for growth in the region. Further, according to a recent study from Informa Telecoms & Media, smartphones costing less than $150 will make up 52 percent of all smartphones sales in 2017.

For more:
- see this release
- see this The Verge article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see ZDNet article

Related Articles:
Analysts: Samsung maintains handset lead in Q4, but slowdown may be coming
Nokia's N. American handset sales jump to 700,000 in Q4, firm posts profit
Report: Smartphones still have room to grow in Brazil, India and Russia
Apple CEO Tim Cook sees China as company's largest future market
Report: Most smartphones to cost under $150 in 2017