News Analysis: Verizon and T-Mobile are breaking the price barrier with Android smartphones that cost less than $50, making them affordable by millions more people.
Verizon Wireless's announcement that it's releasing a new
Android smartphone that will sell for less than $50 ups the competition in ways
that Apple can't meet. As Clint Boulton points out in his story, the low
price point will bring these devices to customers
who would never before
have been iPhone buyers. But Verizon isn't the only carrier bringing out new
low-priced Android phones.
On November 1, T-Mobile announced four Android phones
from three manufacturers, including two from Motorola, which also cost less
than $50. One of them, the T-Mobile Comet, will sell for under $10 with a
two-year contract after a rebate.
When Android phones start selling for $10, the market is
opened up to a whole new set of users. These are people who might never have
considered a smartphone before because they believed they were priced so that
only the well-to-do could afford them.
Now, however, Android devices are creating
a great democratization
-anyone who wants a smartphone can afford one, and
they can afford most of the thousands of free or low-cost apps that are offered
on the Android Market. Of course, these devices all require a data plan, but
T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are also creating new low-cost data plans for
people that buy these phones-some of which start as low as $10 a
This is a whole new
market for smartphones
, and, so far, it's strictly an Android market. While
there are plenty of cell phones out there in this price range, some even with
smartphone-like features, this is a whole new approach to the smartphone
It means that, while the buyers of these devices might
not get the latest version of the Android OS, and they probably won't get the
high-speed processors and large quantities of application memory, they'll still
have an Android phone that can do most of the things that any other Android
device can do.
Contrarily, the iPhone is aimed primarily at the elite
users who can afford its high price and the expensive (and no longer unlimited)
AT&T data plans. While there's no question that the iPhone hardware is
technically superior to these new low-cost Android devices-at least as long as
you're not counting the antenna-the new devices are reaching vast numbers of
people that the iPhone will never reach.