Emerging markets want feature-packed phones

Phone manufacturers must find ways to squeeze more features ontp lower-priced phones to capture tech-savvy consumers in emerging nations, says NXP Semiconductors
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

With saturated mobile markets in developed nations, phone manufacturers are having to find ways to squeeze more features into lower-priced phones to capture the tech-savvy consumers in emerging markets.

Chia Yong Choon, regional marketing director (Asia-Pacific and Korea) at NXP Semiconductors, said at an NXP briefing on Friday that with mobile markets in Europe and the US growing saturated, the next great opportunity lies in emerging nations such as the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

However, consumers in these markets are "just as demanding and discerning" as those in the developed nations, where they are aware of advanced features, but are more price-sensitive in their purchases, said Chia.

As a result, phone manufacturers cannot bring to market features wrapped in high-end, expensive models; they need to 'mix-and-match' features and place them within low-end phones in order to strike the balance between differentiating and still keeping phones affordable, he added.

Chia was announcing the release of a mobile TV-out processor targeted at emerging markets, which he claimed is more suitable for low-end devices than current similar processors because of its low-power consumption and ability to optimise low-resolution mobile display content for larger screens.

He said: "There is a lot of demand in countries like India for sharing content. We expect the TV-out feature to take off well in these places."

And the cost of such components is set to continue plunging. According to IDC, semiconductor manufacturers are scrambling to pack more components within chips, which help drive costs down by lowering supply chain complexity and saving on phone real estate, making the chips more attractive to device manufacturers who place a premium on space within the devices.

Explaining the apparent appetite for technology in these countries, Chia said it is a result of there being no legacy technology to "hold these countries back, allowing them to embrace new technology".

Raising the example of NFC (near field communications) phones, Chia said he expects its take-off to be "Asia-centric". He cited Singapore's NFC trials last year with the EZ-Link-StarHub and NETS-SingTel tie-ups, and a recent announcement by Indian company ALW that it will work with six banks in the country to trial NFC payments in India.

"With little legacy in Asia, the people are leapfrogging the technology... You wouldn't get many corded phones in India, but mobiles. On the other hand, you can still find cassette tapes in the US," he said.

Service providers stand to gain from sophisticated devices, too. While there has been focus on increasing mobile traffic bandwidth in these countries, devices need to complete the picture.

"What's the point of getting a movie over a fast 3G or 3.5G connection if you don't have the screen resolution to display it?" he said.

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