Smartphone makers hope budget handsets will open up untapped markets in 2017

Samsung, LG and Huawei among others want to realise the untapped potential of developing countries like India, and will release budget phones that cost as little as US$100 in 2017

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 10:08am

South Korean and Chinese smartphone makers plan to release more inexpensive models globally this year to attract budget-sensitive consumers in developing countries.

Samsung Electronics is expected to market the inexpensive A series models, with the Galaxy A5 taking the lead with a price tag around US$400.

Even though the device’s price is substantially lower than the premium Galaxy S phones, it will still be equipped with fingerprint recognition. The Galaxy A3 and A7 are expected to follow suit.

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The world’s largest smartphone maker has targeted low-end markets with the A series over the past two years.

“We will market the new A series models in January,” a Samsung representative said. “Details will be disclosed soon.”

However, he refused to confirm whether and when the much cheaper J series, whose price will be half that of the A series, will hit shelves in 2017.

On top of the A and J series, Samsung has introduced the cheapest Z series to markets such as India and Bangladesh. Based on its own Tizen operating system, the models are priced at around US$100.

Another South Korean firm, LG Electronics, will counter with the K series that has four models – the K3, K4, K8 and K10. The stylus-equipped handset will sell for less than US$300.

LG said the models have rich features comparable with high-end phones. The company is scheduled to take the wraps off the gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 this month at Las Vegas in the United States.

“Various functions of top-end phones will be applied to the K series,” an LG official said.

Other players, including the fast-rising Chinese duo of Huawei and Xiaomi, also plan to compete with the low-cost devices.

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The challenge for Samsung and LG’s budget lines is that some Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Meizu offer low-priced phones in the US$300 to US$400 range that pack the same punch as Samsung and LG’s top-priced flagship lines. OnePlus, another Chinese company, has a phone out that is actually more powerful than Samsung’s S flagship phone, but at half the price.

Experts say with many developing countries new to smartphones, there is a market for budget devices.