Android to Leapfrog iPhone, Nokia, Windows Phone 7 with $50 Smartphones

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 month.

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 market.

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.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...