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Android and Microsoft compete to build the cheapest smartphone money can buy

Apple is just going to go ahead and sit this one out. 


Imad Khan


Posted on Sep 17, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 2:06 pm CDT

Google recently announced a $100 Android phone. Microsoft was ready: It introduced its $40 Windows Phone shortly thereafter.

One of the largest and most difficult smartphone markets to penetrate has been the low income crowd. This competition has been heating up for awhile, but now the phones being marketed are cheaper, and better. Google has been trying to create a build of Android that could run on inexpensive hardware. Although there are manufacturers like Alcatel and Blu that make low budget Android handsets, it’s a “you get what you pay for” kind of thing.

It all comes back to Google’s efficiency in coding for Android. Its Java-like infrastructure just demands more power, and in-turn, more expensive hardware. The engineers at Google had to find a way to rebuild the OS so that it was still functionally powerful but used less battery.

To this end, it created the Android One Initiative. Google’s largest rival in the low budget race has surprisingly been Microsoft. Since Apple is content with selling four million iPhone 6s in 24 hours at prices of $600-$900 dollars, it really doesn’t see the need to create an affordable phone. Apple does like to tote the iPhone 5C as cute and affordable, but the phone still runs $500 dollars retail and is only free with an expensive two year contract.

Microsoft, coming late to the smartphone market, had the advantage of learning from its competitors mistakes. One: The company didn’t want to create an operating system from the get-go that would require expensive hardware. Google, for all intents and purposes, is playing catchup. Microsoft has largely owned the sub-$100 smartphone space. In countries like Mexico, Vietnam, and India, many people choose to go with a Windows Phone due to its attractive price point.

It seems that India will be the battleground for budget dominance. It’s 1.2 billion population has only 200 million smartphone users. That’s a lot of potential customers.

For the price of the Lumia 520 ($60) , it’s pretty incredible what the phone can do. Will it compare to Microsoft’s other offerings, like the Lumia 830 in terms of screen quality and camera quality? No, but the user interface is still a smooth 60 frames per second, and most apps can still run on its 1GHz dual core snapdragon processor with 512MB of RAM.

If you talk to anyone living in India, the prospect of a ₹2,400 rupee, or $40 dollar, phone is a pretty absurd proposal. The only other smartphone to beat that price point has been the ₹2,299 rupee Firefox Phone, which runs $38 dollars.

It may be the best alternative Indian Nokia fans can get. After Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia earlier this year, the company has dropped the popular Nokia Asha line of feature phones. Microsoft, while in the process of firing Nokia employees, also may have decided to drop the name Nokia altogether.

As Google and Microsoft battle it out in India, here’s hoping the two companies bring some affordable options to the western world.

H/T WinBeta | Photo via Dave Center (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Sep 17, 2014, 10:30 am CDT