Monday, February 18, 2013

Samsung announces new hybrid smart feature phone line, Rex, for emerging markets

As news swirls about a lower-cost iPhone, designed for emerging markets and other locales that cannot afford the iPhone as it is currently priced, Samsung isn't blind to those markets either. Apple's biggest cell phone rival announced on Friday that it was launching a new handset line called "Rex," targeting emerging markets.

The Rex line, Samsung says, is sort of a hybrid. The Korean giant calls Rex "a new series of smart feature phones," meaning it blends so-called feature phones -- the lower tier set of devices below smartphones -- with smartphones, such as the Galaxy S III. Smartphones are increasingly taking market share away from feature phones.

The company's Rex line will debut with four devices, running the gamut from the Rex 60 through the Rex 90. The 70, 80, and 90 will all sport capacitive touchscreens, the type seen on most smartphones. The 60 will have a resistive touchscreen display. All of them are dual-SIM phones, which is an important feature for emerging markets such as India.

The phones do not run Android, which is Google's open-source platform that Samsung has levered to a lead in the global smartphone market. Nor will they feature Tezin, the new platform that Samsung is backing. Instead, they will sport a Java-based OS, but will still feature Samsung's TouchWiz layer, which it puts on most of its Android devices (except those Google-branded, such as Nexus devices).

Don't expect Galaxy Note II sized screens, though. The Rex line starts with a 2.8-inch screen for the 60, 3-inches for the middle two devices, with the Rex 90 sporting a 3.5-inch screen, which would be equivalent to all iPhones prior to the iPhone 5. Compare those sizes to the firm's flagship Galaxy S III, which has a 4.8-inch screen.

According to reports, Samsung is going to price its Rex phones for between $50 and $100 each. Although Apple is rumored to be planning a lower-cost iPhone, for now it seems that Nokia is the most direct competitor to the Rex line. Nokia recently introduced the Asha 310, which is a dual-SIM phone with wi-fi support. Nokia said the device will be available in Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and Brazil starting this quarter for a suggested price of $102 before taxes and subsidies.

As with the Rex line, Nokia is eschewing its top-of-the-line Windows Phone platform for the device. The Asha 310 runs on Series 40.

The battle for emerging markets is just beginning, and these sorts of prices may be pre-eminent, even in smartphones, later. According to a recent study from Informa Telecoms and Media, smartphones costing less than $150 will make up 52 percent of all smartphones sales in 2017.

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