There was a lot of talk, especially from the telecom operators on low-cost 3G feature phones and smart phones being the catalysts to the mobile internet revolution in the country, at the Qualcomm IndiaOn event held at New Delhi. And it seems they are doing something about it too – MTS launched Android based budget smart phones at the event, and Vodafone India – while no one spoke about it on stage – was promoting its soon to be launched low-cost Android phone, Vodafone Smart.
At the event, Vodafone demonstrated its recently launched Internet access device, Webbox, and was also distributing pamphlets talking about an Android 2.2 phone, dubbed Vodafone Smart. The Vodafone representative manning the kiosk informed us that the phone will be launched in September and will be priced around Rs 7,000. It features a 528Mhz Qualcomm processor, Aderno GPU Form, a 2 Mega-pixel camera, 2.8″ QVGA TFT display and 3G HSDPA 3.6Mbps connectivity.
Vodafone had earlier launched the Smart in the UK, Germany and Italy for a price point of €90 (roughly Rs.6,000). It is a re-branded Huawei device. We do not know if the handset will be locked to Vodafone’s network, but the company has been using bundled offerings and contracts to lock in customers, in a bid to avoid port-outs using mobile number portability.
MTS India officially unveiled two sub-Rs 5,000 Android handsets from Huawei and ZTE, the MTS MTAG 3.1 and MTS Livewire. The CDMA EV-DO Rev A capable handsets feature Android 2.2 Froyo and also come with the MTS TV application allowing users on the go access to Live TV and On demand video playback. The MTAG 3.1 from Huawei also sports a 3.2 megapixel camera. The handsets will be available September onwards, however, the exact price of the handsets has not been announced.
While lowering the price barrier of smartphones is definitely a step towards increasing their penetration in India, operators also need to make 3G data tariffs more affordable. At present tariffs, even urban subscribers are hesitant to adopt 3G, leave alone the tier-2 and tier-3 segment. Also, educating subscribers about the benefits of using a smartphone is essential, before flooding the market.