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Why Cheap Smartphones Are Going To Upset the Industry 234

An anonymous reader writes "Just when people got used to good smartphones costing $200 with a 2-year contract, they also started to realize that those 2-year contracts were bad news. Still, it's often more palatable than fronting $600 for good, new hardware. But that's starting to change. Cell phone internals are getting cheap enough that prices for capable devices have been creeping downward below $200 without a contract. We ran into something similar with the PC industry some years back — previous-gen chips had no trouble running next-gen software (excluding games with bleeding-edge graphics), and so the impetus to keep getting the latest-and-greatest hardware disappeared for a lot of people. That revolution is underway now for smartphones, and it's going to shake things up for everybody, including Apple and Samsung. But the biggest effects will be felt in the developing world: '[F]or a vast number of people in a vast number of countries, the cheap handset will be the first screen, and the only screen. Their primary interface with the world. A way of connecting to the Internet where there are no telephone lines or coaxial cables or even electricity. In nations without subsidized cell phone contracts or access to consumer credit, the $50-and-you-own-it handset is going to be transformative.'"
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Why Cheap Smartphones Are Going To Upset the Industry

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  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @05:49AM (#47030459) Journal
    While I can't comment on the third world in general, I saw a lot of solar cell setups for charging cell phones in South Sudan - people even ran solar charging as a business; a solar panel, some car batteries, a black box of electronics and 3 to 5 South Sudanese pound for a full charge.
    Also saw plenty of cell towers with solar panels and battery banks, with diesel generators for backup. Not as clean or tidy as plugging into the grid, granted... but it works. Was a life line for me for a year spent down there, and twice so for the people who lives their whole life there.
    Just because you can't plug something into a national grid, don't mean you can't get power... often cheaper and more reliable than the grid too - at least in Juba.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2014 @05:50AM (#47030467)

    Who needs a cellphone carrier if they have access to the internet?

    To acually get to the Inernet when there is not any WiFi around?

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @07:25AM (#47030667)

    In the US anyway, Google/Motorola has been raising the bar on what's possible with inexpensive smartphones. I have a Moto G targeted to the Boost no-contract plan for which I paid $80, out the door. It has a decent (if non-removable) battery, excellent screen of a decent size, runs KitKat/Dual-Core/1GB RAM, and is even waterproof (plenty of YouTube videos showing the phone functioning in a bowl of water.) The next version (coming out soon) will add a much-needed MicroSD slot and LTE. The only significant con is the camera, which is pretty mediocre (but what do you expect for that price?)

    The CDMA one I bought was easily flashed over to PagePlus/Verizon (Boost inexplicably did not request Moto permanently lock the bootloader; you can obtain a bootloader unlock code for free from Moto.) The GSM version is sold unlocked directly by Google for all of $180; the 4G will be $220.

    And they just announced the Moto E; a slightly lower-spec phone for only a puny $130.

    There's rampant speculation if Lenovo will continue this trend of well-spec'd cheap phones. The consensus seems to be no, given how Lenovo actually wants to make money on the purchase, and nobody thinks Google has any kind of usable margin on these superb value-priced phones.

  • by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @08:21AM (#47030769)

    The Moto G is actually a quad-core. I have a Nexus 4, but I envy Moto G owners mostly because the phone is undistinguishably speedy, its battery lasts longer and it's unbelievably cheaper. Lenovo would be crazy not to continue the trend, because what Moto needs now is market and mind share. They attempted to make good phones with good margins (I'm thinking of the RAZRs) and they were doing way, way worse than with the Moto G/E.

    And what Google did with Moto was so simple it's laughable. Just remove the cruft (stop wasting resources with kevlar backs or MotoBlur), simplify and optimize the software and you can actually surpass the competition while using cheaper components. They could sell the Moto G for $300 and it would still be a good value if you compared it with the competition. LG's G2 Mini is pretty much the same phone, but priced at $400.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @11:06AM (#47031627)

    You know in the dark ages of Europe people were dying of plague.

    The "dark ages"? Nobody who knows anything about history has used that absurd term in at least 50 years. It referred to the early middle ages, roughly 500-100 A.D. If you're referring to the Black Death, that happened about 350 years later. And as to your notion that trade so improved Europe, trade was precisely what caused that epidemic. Italian traders brought it over from the Black Sea, and additional trade spread it throughout Europe. Exception: Poland, because they were smart enough to cut of all trade when it happened, and had very few deaths as a result.

    You know what changed the future of Europe? Trade

    Long distance trade, that brought spices and silks to the rich, and the plague to Europe? Or are you talking about the post-Columbus trade with the Americas, which brought metals of no practical value to the rich, caused rampant inflation as a result instead of any material benefit, and resulted in up to 90% of the Amerindian population dying from Old World diseases.

    the printing press

    Hmm, maybe that explains my advocacy of books.

    not changes in political systems

    You mean the changes in the British political system that allowed for competitive markets, which was a key factor in the Industrial Revolution? The thing that lifted the majority of people out of the poverty that they'd been living in for many centuries was the Industrial Revolution, and its necessary precursors, like the British Agricultural Revolution, and less heralded things like 17th-18th century improvements in smelting metals.

Information is the inverse of entropy.