Intel, who has been trying to become a serious player in the mobile industry for what feels like forever, has just announced that they’re launching a smartphone in Africa called the Yolo. The device will be sold by Safaricom for roughly $125, so don’t expect this thing to be bleeding edge. It has a 3.5 inch 480 x 320 pixel display, it’s powered by a single core Atom processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, and it even has HSPA+ support. What interests us is who actually made the device? By that we mean who did the manufacturing? Did Intel call up a Chinese OEM and ask them to make a bunch of Yolos for Africa? Did Intel themselves make the Yolo and customize it for Safaricom?
These are important questions since the answers might give us a clue as to how Intel plans to make themselves relevant in Western markets. Maybe the only way for Intel smartphones to become popular in places like the United States and Europe is for Intel to actually make the phones themselves instead of just focusing on the chips that go inside the phones. Think about the ramifications of that for a second.
On the flip side, there are two notable companies who have shown interest in working with Intel: Motorola and Lenovo. Motorola is now owned by Google, so it’s not too difficult to imagine that Google would want to differentiate themselves from Samsung and Apple by launching Intel powered smartphones. And then there’s Lenovo, who may not be big outside of China, but in China they’re a massive player. When Lenovo does decide to start playing in the West, maybe they’ll ask for help from Intel?
It’s early days for Intel, which is good, because smartphone sales are still a fraction of phone sales overall, so there’s room left to innovate. Qualcomm and NVIDIA should definitely be scared too, because when Intel wants something, they usually get it.