Nokia has long dominated the developing worlds like Asia and Africa with their cheap phones for sale, but as the world is moving to smartphones, and every phone is being replaced by a smartphone, Android is there to take that domination away from them, even at the very low end price ranges.
The smartphone prices are dropping about a third each year compared to the previous year (for the exact same hardware), and considering the low-end Android phones started selling at around $150 (unlocked) about a year ago, they should start dropping into the $100 range and below by the end of this year, and more than one manufacturers will offer them.
Huawei takes the lead
For now, it seems that Huawei has already beaten everyone else to it and they’ve already dropped the price of their IDEOS smartphone to $80 in Kenya, where they managed to sell over 350,000 of them, which is a large number considering 40% of Kenya’s population lives on under $2 a day. That is in huge contrast with the iPhone 4 which costs $800 there, or 10 times as much.
I’ve been watching Huawei for a while, and I’ve noticed that they are making better and better phones, and they will soon be able to rival some of the more known manufacturers with their high-end phones. In a way, they remind of HTC, who also was just an OEM for others at first, but then grew to their own recognized brand name in the smartphone industry. Huawei is quickly following the same path.
But Huawei is just the first one with a sub-$100 Android smartphone. There will be others very soon, like ZTE or LG, who will probably offer their own models by the end of the year. LG is already selling their LG Optimus V for $120 in USA, unlocked.
An age of growth for developing nations
The smartphone is an actual laptop killer in Africa, because there are very few who could afford a laptop for hundreds of dollars, so for many people there their first “computer” with access to Internet and apps will be an Android smartphone.
I can also imagine how 1-2 years from now there will also be Android tablets for a sub-$100 price, which should be more suited to provide education for the kids in Africa with their larger screens and better app and browsing experiences. The future of education in Africa through the traditional school system. That will be too expensive for them to build and would take decades to catch up with other developed parts of the world. They will need to educate their kids with the help of cheap ARM based devices, with access to Internet (which is the great equalizer), probably through 3G networks for the largest portions of the continent, because cable infrastructure will be too expensive to set-up across Africa, with little return to the ISP’s. Although, I’m sure there will still be cable based Internet in crowded cities.
Cheap ARM-based Android machines will help create a lot of jobs as well, by enabling companies to buy more of these machines for their workers that need only the Internet (the cloud computing trend helps here), but also by enabling self-made web entrepreneurs and freelancers, who will create their own small businesses, and earn enough money online to make a good living there.
Don’t underestimate the influence computers can have on a country and its economy. They have had a dramatic impact on our developed countries over the past 2 decades or so, and cheap ARM based Android devices, whether it’s smartphones, tablets, or even notebooks, will help these countries catch-up to the developed countries much quicker than if they had to pay the same amount of money we paid for our first computers, or smartphones.
This is why I believe Android will not stop at 550,000 activations per day. The volume will soon be much higher when sub-$100 Android phones start being sold en-mass all over the world.