NEW DELHI: A 4G feature phone, or basic mobile phone, costing as little as Rs 1,500 may soon be a reality. Chinese mobile chip maker Spreadtrum Communications has said it is working on reducing starting prices by at least half from the current levels, a development experts said may deter many consumers from shifting to smartphones.
“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.
Prices of 4G feature phones from home-grown manufacturers such as Lava andMicromax start at about Rs 3,000. Both these handset makers, besides Karbonn, plan to reduce prices of such phones further. Reliance Jio Infocomm, a pure-play 4G operator, is also planning to bring in affordable 4G VoLTE feature phones through its sister retail firm that may be priced under Rs 1,500, according to industry executives aware of the matter.
Shanghai-based Spreadtrum Communications, which has seen a steady growth in baseband chip segment, competes with mobile chip makers such as MediaTek and Qualcomm. Chipset is an integral part of a mobile handset that accounts for a major price share of a device.
Spreadtrum Communications has a two-year old partnership with Reliance Industries and has powered its affordable LYF Flame 5 smartphone. It has also powered Lava M14G-enabled feature phone, which is priced at Rs 3,599. The company said that it takes nearly six months between a technology reaching readiness and devices hitting the market shelves.
Financial services firm JP Morgan in its recent finding said that feature phones with 4G capabilities will remain popular in India in 2017, in part due to the boost from faster-than-expected 4G network roll-outs. Sharma said it will be interesting to see how the operators fine-tune their strategy at a time when the market is skewed towards data play as voice segment has become stagnant.