In 2016, the cheapest smartphone in history was prepared for release in India.
The Freedom 251 promised to offer acceptable performance for as low as $4 – unfortunately for the thousands of interested customers, it never made it to the shelves. A South African startup called “ONYX Connect” has a much more realistic goal, though – last year, the company announced that it plans to release a $30 smartphone with a 4″ screen, front and rear cameras, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, running Android 7.0 And this is not such a far-fetched idea, especially in the light of Google’s new operating system, Android Oreo – Go Edition, designed with low-end smartphones in mind.
Android phones might soon make it on the list of the 5 must-have tech accessories under $20 and still be on par with their more expensive counterparts when it comes to functions and security. But just how cheap smartphones can get?
As the high interest for India’s Freedom 251 shows, there is a lot of interest for smartphones in countries like India, Africa, and some South American nations. Africa is almost like a virgin market with smartphone shipments lagging far behind other areas – according to the IDC, 95.4 million smartphones were shipped in Africa while almost 1.5 billion units were sold in the rest of the world. But Africa represents a major growth market for smartphone makers with a high demand for affordable phones – and they will also deliver.
The most expensive parts of a smartphone are the screen, the SoC, the camera, the memory, the sensors, and the battery. And these have become cheaper in the last couple of years. Qualcomm was, for quite some time, the only viable option for smartphone makers, but now we have more affordable options like MediaTek, for example. The screens market was also dominated by major manufacturers like LG and Samsung, but their competitors are catching up. Flash memories are also becoming cheaper as we speak, and so do cameras.
Some (less-known) Chinese manufacturers already sell their smartphones at prices around $50. Homtom’s HT16 3G Smartphone, for example, can be purchased at online stores like Gearbest and Aliexpress for as low as $50, and comes with a decent set of specs, too – it has a quad-core MediaTek SoC paired with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and Android 6.0. It’s not anyone’s dream phone but it’s dirt cheap, and it connects to 3G networks, so it’s better than nothing. So, if you ask how cheap smartphones can become, here’s your answer: cheaper than you might think if you don’t want insane specs and lightning-fast internet.
Under these conditions, not even a $20 smartphone seems unrealistic.