14 May 2014
For many years the smartphone market has been a highly competitive place to do business, with a variety of large global firms attempting to outdo one another with cutting-edge technology in flagship devices. Of course, these top-tier mobiles tend to cost a significant amount of money as a result of all the hardware that is under the bonnet, leaving those with smaller budgets to make do with more basic models. But today things have changed, because powerful components and upfront affordability are now being combined by a growing number of firms in order to appeal to consumers who want next-generation power without the stratospheric price tag. To achieve this there are a number of tactics in play, with companies such as Google and Amazon championing the cheap and powerful end of the tablet computer market first, with this ethos eventually trickling through to smartphones as well. The current king of powerful, price-conscious smartphones is the Google Nexus 5, manufactured by LG and containing most of the same hardware as its own-brand G2 handset but at a lower cost to consumers. It has a quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2GB of RAM and a full HD screen measuring just under five inches across the diagonal. By comparison, this is only a little bit less powerful than the Samsung Galaxy S5 but with an RRP that will not force consumers to raid their savings.
So how do Google and its manufacturing partner manage to get the price so low without causing themselves problems? Well, partly it is a power play, with the search giant deliberately taking a bit of a hit on the profit it makes from the Nexus 5 in order to establish itself in the market alongside better known rivals. The other bonus of making feature-rich smartphones so affordable is that more consumers will buy them and Google will end up making much more money from the sale of apps, games and other services over the lifetime of device ownership. So once you pay for a mobile, you will continue to help fund the company which is behind the operating system for a long time afterwards. This is why Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet range runs a heavily modified version of the Android OS, and it's why rumours of a potential Amazon smartphone are rife at the moment. For consumers in the UK, the prospect of an Amazon-branded smartphone may be intriguing, but this is not the only retailer looking to get into the hardware market. BBC News reported this month that Tesco is working on a handset of its own which will blend a budget price tag with powerful, Galaxy S5-matching hardware. Tesco, as with Amazon, first dipped its toe in the gadget industry with a tablet. The Hudl launched last year and has been a best seller for some time thanks to its £119 price tag. Chief executive Philip Clarke said that the Hudl 2 will be launching in September, ahead of a smartphone with an aggressively low price and high specs.
So what would Tesco have to offer on board its in-house smartphone in order to get consumers excited? Throwing around the Galaxy S5 name tag when talking about a device implies it has serious ambitions, at least on a technical level. People will want to see a quad-core processor, full HD screen and adequate amount of onboard storage to pique their interest. From a software standpoint, Android has already been identified as the OS of choice for the Tesco phone. And presumably it will come preloaded with a number of apps and services which are designed to help people use the retailer’s shopping platforms, making up for whatever cost-cutting that Tesco does to get its smartphone to sell. Tesco will no doubt have to think about adding a range of accessories, such as personalised phone cases, to help improve the consumer appeal of its handset. And with plenty of existing Android phone cases in the market, combined with the fact that it has a huge bricks and mortar presence in the UK, it could have the clout to get the phone off the ground without too much difficulty.
But what about people who are already looking to get a smartphone with a good amount of power that does not cost the earth? One impressive option on the market at the moment is the Motorola Moto G, which ticks plenty of the boxes mentioned above. It has a quad-core processor with a modest but acceptable 1.2GHz clock speed. It also has a high-definition screen, but with the 720p pixel count as opposed to the crisper 1080p seen on the Galaxy S5 and its ilk. The one thing which many manufacturers may not realise as they indulge in their technological arms race is that consumers care less about what is under the skin of a phone and more about how it all works together. The iPhone range from Apple has, for example, steered clear of leaping on the quad-core bandwagon for a couple of years and yet still manages to sell in huge numbers. The 5S and 5C are even lumbered with smaller, lower-resolution screens than the likes of the Galaxy S5, but this has not had a significant impact on sales. So what Tesco, or indeed Amazon, must do is get the price right and make sure that these budget smartphones are powerful enough to satisfy consumers’ needs today — not simply push the technological envelope for the sake of it.
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Kimberley Rogers on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 · Leave a Comment