London - Chinese manufacturer Huawei Phone has launched the world's most affordable touchscreen phone running the Google Android operating system. At $150 (about R1 080), analysts say that the IDEOS is first of many cheaper smartphones to come.
The IDEOS, developed in partnership with Google, has a camera, WiFi, 3G and most of the other features one would except on a modern smartphone. It runs version 2.2 of the Android operating system and is able to run the thousands of applications in the Android Market Place application store.
Speaking at the launch of the device, Kevin Tao, CEO of Huawei Device, said that the IDEOS holds promise for developing markets.
"The popularity of the smartphone is one of the key tools to bringing people into the golden age of mobile broadband," he said.
"We are proud to have already achieved our goal from early 2010 of developing a $150 smartphone with an excellent user experience. The IDEOS is an affordable option, designed to lower barriers to entry to allow easy mobile internet access."
He added that this was linked to Google's mobile internet strategy. More to come
International telecommunications analyst John Strand said that making affordable smartphones is a current focus of telecommunications operators that are looking to unlock the growth in developing markets.
"During the next six to 12 months will there come tons of smartphones in that price range," he predicted.
"The development in chip technology will make that market explode. The problem with the Huawei phone, however, is that it is a 'no brand' phone - but it is a step in the right direction," continued Strand.
"The African smartphone future looks bright - tons of phones at affordable prices. We'll see phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG and others."
Managing director at independent research and consulting firm World Wide Worx Strategy Steven Ambrose said that rural businesses and entrepreneurs in underprivileged areas stand to benefit from more affordable smartphones, but there are other challenges besides just making devices cheaper.
"The bottom line is that the digital participation curve kicks in here," said Ambrose.
"What I mean is that rural business people cannot begin to use email and more advanced internet functions that smartphones enable until they have spent at least three to five years engaging with internet-type applications," he added.
"Also, you need 3G networks to run an effective Android phone."
Nevertheless, Ambrose believes that cheaper smartphones will have a meaningful impact and that current bottom-line cellphones will soon be entirely replaced by smartphones.