A couple of days ago news emerged that Nokia was planning a Rs. 500 mobile phone to reach the rural masses in India. At MWC in Barcelona Nokia didn't announce any new phones let alone Rs. 500 ones, but Vodafone it seems has seen potential in the rural sections of emerging markets and has announced two ultra low cost handsets.
The phones will be launched first in India, Turkey and 8 markets in Africa – The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar, South Africa and Tanzania.
To maximize the availability of the handsets across countries with sizeable and isolated rural populations, the launches will be supported by an extensive logistics infrastructure, reaching deep rural segments where mobile penetration typically remains low. In India, it is expected that device availability will reach 60% of the population.
Patrick Chomet, Vodafone's Group Director of Terminals, said, “The cost of mobile handsets can be one of the most significant barriers for people in accessing and benefiting from the growing number of socially valuable mobile services. The lives of people who use these phones – the Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250 – will be changed and improved as they become part of the mobile society. I am proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in this critical area of customer empowerment.”
The Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250 will offer voice and SMS services, as well as support for mobile payment services. The two devices share most specification features, the main differences between them being that the Vodafone 250’s screen is both colour and slightly larger, and it has an FM radio.
By focusing on a custom-built feature set and packaging design Vodafone and handset manufacturer TCL have been able to significantly reduce the usual manufacturing costs and, therefore, the retail price.
The Vodafone 150 will retail unsubsidised at below $15 USD and the Vodafone 250 will retail unsubsidised at below $20 USD, depending on the local market.