Samsung unleashes REX phones, targets emerging markets

South Korean giant unveils four new REX-branded handsets in India, as it hopes to corner a portion of the 653 million entry-level mobile phones expected to ship this year.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Samsung Electronics on Thursday revealed its REX line of "smart" feature phones in India, as it looks to corner a section of the "price-constrained" emerging market consumer demographic. This pits it directly with rival Nokia, which has seen positive sales of its low-cost Asha mobile phones.

The REX 90 comes with dual SIM and preinstalled social networking services to cater to local consumer needs. (Credit: Samsung)

In a statement Thursday, the South Korean electronics manufacturer revealed four new phones--the REX 60, REX 70, REX 80, and REX 90--and touted them as a series of "smart" feature phones which "combine intelligence and capability to deliver an accessible, next-generation mobile experience". Screen sizes range from 2.8 inches to 3.5 inches with QVGA touch-screen capability, and cameras ranging from 1.3 megapixels to 3.2 megapixels, it added.

"REX devices are designed to seamlessly prioritize and consolidate essential mobile functions that matter most to customers across diverse markets. The result is an extraordinary end-to-end mobile experience with the best value for money," said JK Shin, president and head of IT & mobile communications division at Samsung Electronics, in the statement.

A separate report by The Hindu Thursday noted the prices for the four phones are between INR 4,280 (US$79.37) and INR 6,490 (US$120.35). Unlike its Galaxy series smartphones, however, the REX series phones run on Java and supports the company's TouchWiz user interface (UI) and access to its app store. None of the handsets support 3G connectivity either, it noted.

It said the mobile phones will be available across India from February and is targeted at the country's youth and first-time job holders. It will be launched next in other emerging markets such as China and South America, the report added.

The latest move by Samsung is likely to have been partly motivated by the strong sales of its rival Nokia's low-end feature phones. In terms of pricing, the REX phones play in the same range with the Finnish phonemaker's Asha series, which costs between INR 3,500 (US$64.91) and INR 8,500 (US$157.63), The Hindu noted.

According to Nokia's fourth quarter 2012 financial report, its Asha handsets outsold its flagship Lumia smartphones by almost 2 to 1. Some 9.3 million Asha phones were sold, compared with 6.6 million Lumias in the same quarter, the company stated.

Ian Fogg, senior principal analyst of mobile and communications research at IHS, said in the Samsung statement Thursday that feature phones continue to present a "large opportunity" for handset manufacturers, especially in price-constrained emerging markets. He added the research firm estimated there will be 653 million feature and entry-level mobile phones shipped globally in 2013.

"Entry-level smatphones must compete with ever smarter touch-screen feature phones that offer many of the same social network, games and mobile Internet benefits as smartphones but at an even more compelling price," Fogg said.

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