developing countries

The $150 Android smartphone might kill the feature phone

October 8, 2010: 10:06 AM ET

Just because it's a smartphone doesn't mean you need to buy a data plan.

There is a line between those willing to pay for mobile data and those people who "just want a phone".  I'm always trying to convince my friends and family members who still use feature phones to jump on the smartphone bandwagon.  Just look at the compelling "free" offers combined with a two-year data smartphone plan.    By and large, the biggest inhibitor to buying a smartphone isn't its complexity,  it is the initial cost and the added $30 or so per month in data costs.

As the price to manufacture smartphones comes down and WiFi nears ubiquity, a new breed of device may convert those remaining feature phone users.

Engadget posted a $150 (w/o plan) Huawei Ascend (pictured, right) yesterday.  It is a full-featured Android 2.1 (shame on you Dell and Sony!) phone with typical Android smartphone phone features.  Engadget notes:

... It's got physical buttons in all the right places (including a bendy metal Send / Menu / Back / End panel on the bottom) and a surprisingly responsive Android 2.1 UI with a few neat quirks -- like a nine-panel home screen -- so we could honestly see this EV-DO Rev. A pretty fantastic handset for first-time  Android users.

We'd choose it over the Motorola Citrus in a heartbeat, that's for sure, especially when Cricket gets its Sprint roaming agreement later this year.

What strikes me is that this Android smartphone costs about the same as a good feature phone.

This isn't the only example of $150 outright Android smartphones.  The Orange San Francisco (which is actually a higher-end HTC phone with 480-800 pixel display) is selling in the UK for nearly the same currency-adjusted price on a pay as you go plan (meaning no subsidies).

There is something important happening here ... More

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