Smartphones during the third quarter of 2014 reigned the mobile phone sales accounting for more than 70% of the stat. While shipment stays flat compared to the last quarter, prices were pushed down further mostly to grab even more consumers from emerging markets in Asia and Africa. The cheapest smartphone you can get is around 35$ but Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, thinks that the wholesale price should drop down to 20$ to attract people with low income. Unfortunately, getting to that targeted price won’t be easy, at least in our days. “In the short term, the component cost, IPR costs and the software costs are too high to compete at the very bottom end of the market, so feature phones aren’t going away,” Mawston said.
Connecting another billion to the digital world is always a juicy target for companies but BoM and lots of other factors as mentioned above are tackling the idea. However, all those restrictions aren’t holding the giants back from squeezing the materials in order to get something cheaper. Awh, No, the newly materialized Android (lollipop if I may) won’t be making its way to 20$ smartphones. Android One? Maybe.
But, there’s a serious contender to Android One which is surprisingly more capable to be fitted in much lower price smartphones. The whole browser-making prowess all by which Mozilla gained throughout the past years is translated into an HTML5-friendly OS – FireFox OS. The very prominent milestone of FireFox OS early life was ZTE and some local phone manufacturers making FireFox powered smartphones at an unbelievable 35$ price tag (that phone is named CloudFX from India). The point is, unlike Android, iOS and Windows (if you feel charitable) that are fighting for the upper end of the market, there are, however, plenty of new-born Operating Systems that are fighting for survival at the very bottom end of the market. Yet Sailfish OS by Jolla is getting into emerging markets but with a different approach as it offers a whole new way of thinking, as Jolla says, in a modern form factor. As Ubunto fails to reach smartphones and C-OS (China Operating System) remains constricted to China, the only actively operating platforms are FireFox and Sailfish OS. Android is not a niche OS so it’s not a horse in the bottom end of the market.
To put it in context, when phone makers are trying to absorb marketshare and become even more visible, inevitably they find themselves competing in emerging markets. Sailfish and FireFox OS are new to markets and they need to conquer the market from bottom to top in order to sell more phones and services. Since persuading people to convert from other platforms to, say, Sailfish OS is light years more difficult than selling the phone to newcomers; companies do their best in countries with big populations and low GDP and PPP (Purchase Power Parity). To that end, it comes as no surprise to see both Sailfish and FireFox OS racing in the same markets like India, Europe and … Africa.
Sailfish OS successfully entered Asia thanks to Three Operator which made it possible for Jolla to sell its phones in Hong Kong. Not to mention that Jolla is making a presence in Kazakhstan and India. The Finnish phone maker isn’t just done with their achievements though. As the dried dehydrated trees in the vast desert of Africa suggest (see this picture right at Jolla homepage) Jolla is at Africa’s horizon.There is an ongoing deal between Jolla and Namibian operator/retailers but Finnish mobile maker still keeps curtain on the details.
The news of the day is that Sailfish OS’ rival, FireFox OS, is gearing up to enter African market backed by MTN South Africa, Tigo (owned by Millicom) and Airtel (owned by Bharti Airtel) operators.
Sailfish OS has its roots in MeeGo Harmattan which proved to be flawlessly dynamic on not-so-hot hardware, but could it be that flexible to compete head-to-head with FireFox OS especially in a not-so-wealthy market like Africa? Or is it that Jolla wants to bring an affordable flagship to African consumers leaving Mozilla alone with lower end smartphones.