Indian firm Karbonn has launched a new smartphone which Britons can
order online for just �26 � should Apple and Samsung be concerned? And
should shoppers in the UK seriously consider such a low-cost option?
Officially, the A50S is only on sale in India, but Britons can buy it
online and have it shipped to the UK for a small charge. And, because
it's so cheap, it attracts no duty charges.
It's far from the most powerful smartphone on the market, with a 1.2
GHz dual-core processor from MediaTek and 256MB RAM, but that
specification can easily handle most modern apps. It would cope
perfectly well with email, Twitter, Facebook and mobile games - which
make up the vast majority of most people's smartphone use.
In terms of storage you get 512MB on an internal chip and support for
SD cards up to 32GB, which these days can be bought for just a couple
of pounds. That cheap upgrade would make it able to store thousands of
MP3s or dozens of films, although they may not look particularly
cinematic on the 480 by 320 pixel screen.
Disappointingly there is only a 2mp camera on the rear, which will not
produce the sort of high-quality images that we have come to depend
upon from our modern smartphones, and there is no camera on the front
of the case at all, which rules out video chats.
And, while most people are starting to think of migrating over to
speedy 4G networks, the A50S is not even capable of latching-on to 3G
signals, so your internet connection will plod along unless you're
connected to a Wi-Fi signal.
But the real draw of the handset is its unprecedentedly low cost � at
just �26 you could buy 21 of them for the cost of even the cheapest
iPhone 5S from Apple. That makes its shortcomings seem rather
Recent research from IDC showed that the Indian smartphone market saw
186 per cent growth in the year to June, and more than three quarters
of those were for low-end devices costing less than $200 (�120). A
similar picture is emerging in other developing countries, and
companies are quickly waking up to that potential.
At its developer conference earlier this year Google announced Android
One, a project designed to ensure that it was the operating system of
choice for a new generation of cheap devices to be snapped-up in their
millions by new customers in the developing world.
Rather than a new technology, it was more a list of supported minimum
hardware that device manufacturers could refer to and be reassured
that their products would run Android without problem. Google called
it �a comprehensive solution to address the mobile computing needs of
those in emerging markets.�
The standard also ensures that there is no software bloat added on top
of Android with compatible devices, which could cripple performance,
and offers automatic updates to boost security.
Google already offers a range of low-cost smartphones such as the �135
Moto G which scored 4.5 stars out of five in the Telegraph�s review.
Head of Technology Matt Warman said: �This price means, of course, you
get none of the bells and whistles such as Samsung�s eye-tracking or
Apple�s fingerprint sensor. But you�re not paying for them either.�
But the A50S and other Android One phones look set to lower prices
even further, bringing smartphones to millions of new customers - and
potentially causing a low-end price war in Europe and the US into the
Although devices like the A50S are designed to appeal to developing
markets, they will also offer a tempting choice for users in the UK
who want a smartphone but have no need for high-end specifications.
And, to be honest, not many of us actually have use for the latest and
greatest smartphone features. Some of us are just happy to save a few