Thursday, February 2, 2012

Smartphone Usage Expands in Emerging Markets

There is a trend in the technology and telecommunications spaces that has gone almost completely unnoticed by U.S. investors. That trend is the rapid expansion of entry-level smartphone usage in emerging markets.

Low-cost semiconductor technology has pushed down the price of a basic smartphone to below $100 in emerging markets over the past year.

In emerging markets such as India, high prices have been the main reason there has not been widespread use of smartphones. High prices have slowed the adoption of smartphones such as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and phones using Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system in these markets.

The new microchip design changing the smartphone market in developing countries was developed by the British company, ARM Holdings ADR (Nasdaq: ARMH).

The company has another microchip, the Cortex A7 processor, in the works by 2013 that will further advance the use of low-cost smartphones. It will be one-fifth the size of those used in other smartphones and five times more efficient. Arm says it will enable entry level smartphones below $100 which will be equivalent to a high-end $500 smartphone in 2010.

This is an important breakthrough. The CEO of Arm, Warren East, said “The sub-$100 price point is when we can start to talk about connecting the next billion people to internet content and services over mobile devices.”

The base of smartphones costing less than $100 is already estimated to be about 200 million, with the majority of those phones have been bought in the past year.

Now research from the consulting firm Deloitte says adoption of these cheap smartphones is expected to be even more rapid. Deloitte forecasts take-up of these low-cost smartphones to more than double in 2012 to above 500 million!

This development will help Arm Holdings to maintain its dominance in the mobile phone and tablet market. Chips, using its designs, are already in on the most popular products like Apple's iPhone and iPad devices.

Needless to say, it will also raise demand for connected devices, applications and the spectrum needed to carry vast amounts of data in the emerging world.

Deloitte predicts, for instance, the number of applications available on smartphones to double in 2012 to more than 2 million as a result of the popularity of $100 smartphones in emerging nations.

It will also obviously help the manufacturers of these low-cost smartphones such as Nokia ADR (NYSE: NOK), which remains a leader in mobile phone sales in emerging markets. Nokia was expected to have sold over 400 million phones in 2011, of which more than 300 million were sold in emerging markets.

The worry here for Nokia and others is whether players like Korea's Samsung and Apple will come out with low-cost versions of their successful smartphones. These two companies have surpassed Nokia as the biggest global manufacturers of smartphones last year.

No doubt Apple and Samsung will do so – Samsung is already pushing $200 versions of its Galaxy smartphone in emerging markets.

So the window for Nokia to regain its dominant position in emerging markets may be a narrow one.

This artciel was originally written for the Motley Fool Blog Network. To read all of my daily article for the Motley Fool, please go


  1. Majority of mobile developers have tested and tried the iPad operating system so it is comparatively well know platform for many.
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  2. Yes, number of people that using smartphone still increase, though smartphone has several usage not only for personal issue but also for business and work.

  3. Its amazing how far phone technology has come in just 10 years.