Entry-level smartphones may not have all the bells and whistles of the mightiest flagships, but such devices have made it more affordable than ever for users to get online around the world. But even handsets like the incredibly capable Nokia Lumia 520 (and the less impressive ZTE Open with Firefox OS) are still out of the reach of the most price-sensitive buyers, especially those in emerging markets.
Smartphones like the ZTE Open are available at ultra-low cost, but even cheaper devices are on the way
Efforts to help ‘the next billion’ people to get online are being fuelled by falling hardware costs, with manufacturers eager to give new users their first taste of the web. Devices like the Nokia 105 already sell for around $20, but lack smartphone capabilities.
But ARM predicts that that will soon change – and not a few years down the line, but in the next few months. Mozilla said in February that it was working on launching $25 Firefox OS handsets but, as AnandTech reports, ARM predicts that before the end of this year, the first $20 smartphones will be launched.
Such devices will be far from the pocket powerhouses that many of us know and love, though; ARM suggests that an Android device at that price range would only have a single-core Cortex-A5 processors. Don’t expect 4G LTE at that price, either – a $20 phone is unlikely to offer anything faster than 2.5G/EDGE connectivity for now.
But even with such modest specs, demand for such devices is likely to be massive, especially in developing markets. While around 500 million entry-level smartphones/tablets (costing $150 or less) were shipped last year, figures jointly compiled by ARM and industry analysts Gartner estimate that that figure will double to a billion by 2018.
ARM says that “advanced mobile computers are becoming affordable to all”, but adds that handsets are unlikely to be priced much below $20 for the foreseeable future due to ‘manufacturing limits’.