The feature phones are not going away anytime soon. Earlier there were reports about Reliance Jio working on a low-cost 4G VoLTE feature phone, but now, Spreadtrum Communications, a Shanghai-based semiconductor company popular for its mobile chipsets has announced its plans that will make low-cost 4G feature phones a reality.
Spreadtrum has disclosed that it is working on reducing the starting prices of its 4G capable chipsets by at least 50% to make 4G feature phones priced around Rs. 1,500 a viable proposition. Currently, entry-level feature phones from Lava and Micromax are priced at Rs. 3,000.
Spreadtrum has already started the promotion of this concept among its partners so no time is wasted in selling the upcoming low-cost chip to handset manufacturers. The company said that it takes 6 months between a technology reaching readiness and devices hitting the market.
“We are working on a technology that makes a Rs 1,500 4G feature phone viable. We have already started concept promotions to our partners,” Spreadtrum Communications’ country head Neeraj Sharma told ET.”
The voice segment is getting stagnant in the Indian telecom sector and it would be interesting to note how the telcos fine-tune their strategy as the market gets skewed towards data, expressed Sharma.
“The market has completely shifted from 3G to 4G in the last six months and with a disruptive technology, vendors should attune their go-to-market strategies,” he added.
Reliance Jio Is Also Expected To Bring 4G VoLTE Feature Phones Soon
Reliance Jio, the latest entrant in the immensely competitive Indian telecom market, is also planning to launch low-cost 4G VoLTE-supported feature phones to tap the rural market, along with the first time data users and voice focussed subscribers.
Jio is planning to launch 4G VoLTE feature phones priced around Rs. 1,000 – Rs. 1,500 through its retail arm. The company is also working with Google to bring a $30 Android-based smartphone soon.
Leading Mobile Chipset Makers And The Indian Feature Phone Market
When Spreadtrum launches such low-cost chipsets the Indian smartphone market will take a huge hit as many wanna-be 4G users and those in the rural market will opt for the affordable 4G VoLTE feature phones offering all the basic features like support for social networking, email, internet browsing, music, camera, etc.
The mobile chipset giant, Qualcomm, has already launched its new chip for 4G VoLTE feature phones as 205 Mobile Platform which will be available to handset makers in the second quarter 2017. Qualcomm has not disclosed its pricing as of now, but we expect it to be on the lower side.
Now that the two major mobile chipset makers have announced their plans to enter the entry-level 4G VoLTE feature phone market, we are expecting MediaTek, another leading mobile chipmaker, to announce its plans for VoLTE feature phones soon.
MediaTek is losing market share in the smartphone market so a little diversification and expansion into the 4G VoLTE feature phone market might help.