Archive | July, 2010

Weekend Reading: Made in China, Made for India

31 Jul

Last week someone asked me how many cellphone models are available in India. After putting some thought, I realised I’m not even sure of the number of cellphone brands present in India, leave aside the number of models. I discussed this with a couple of analyst friends, who pegged the number of brands in the range of 70-100, with at least one new phone brand getting launched every fortnight. Well, that’s just the brand launches we come to know about, I’m sure there would be more brands selling their wares out there in the market.



But how do these brands make money? And most importantly, how do they compete with global giants? Here’s my two cents on this ‘homegrown cellphone brand’ phenomenon.



I will take the latter question first, how do they compete with global giants? After all, the likes of the Nokias and Samsungs of the world have much deeper pockets that translates into marketing muscle, they have been around for many more years and have become household names. So how is it that someone like a Micromax or a Karbonn is able to eat into their market share?



The answer lies in making phones that address the local population’s requirements rather than making phones for a global audience – something that a Nokia might not be able to do. Analyse the features that a typical ‘Made for India’ phone has – dual-SIM, louder speakers, flashlight and higher capacity batteries. Some of them might even offer a front facing camera, when clearly you cannot make a video call on a phone that does not support 3G or a TV receiver that picks up most Doordarshan channels. Would a Nokia provide such features? Never. (In fact, Nokia’s idea of Mobile TV was DVB-H, which would have provided it with an alternative revenue stream.)



But consumers, especially in smaller towns and villages love such ‘gimmicky’ features. It gives them bragging rights over users of ‘global phones’ that provide only regular features, while a ‘Made for India’ phone provides much more features at a fraction of the price. Yes, the durability of these phones is a big question mark, but youngsters who buy these phones rarely keep them for more than a year.



So how do these brands make money? This can be answered in four words – by keeping costs down. These companies do not have a battery of engineers, designers or developers that conceptualise devices. Neither do they have any sort of R&D facilities or manufacturing plants. All that they have is an efficient supply and distribution management system that minimises warehouse storage expenses.



Phones are imported in minimum numbers and are distributed through a network of micro-distributors (usually at district level) rather than having one national distributor who then sends it to sub-distributors from whom it eventually reaches the dealer. This reduces at least one middleman, which translates into a higher margin for the handset brand.



As phones are imported according to demand, these brands usually revamp their entire product portfolio once every quarter, which is much quicker than the industry norm of about nine months. This enables these brands to react more quickly to price variations as well as new feature requirements.



I believe that these handset brands are not just a lash in the pan and are here to stay, simply because it would be close to impossible for global brands to compete with them on their terms. It is not surprising that most of these brands now want to replicate their success in India in other countries, especially those in Easter Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. And there is a fairly high chance of them succeeding there as well.

Security experts release software that enables hackers to control Android smartphones

31 Jul

A security expert duo from Spider Labs have created a software that let’s hackers control Android phones on which it is installed, reports Reuters. The duo developed the tool to persuade handset manufacturers (more likely Google) to plug a security hole that lets hackers read the victims e-mails and text messages. They spent just two weeks to develop the root kit and distributed it on a DVD to the attendees of the Defcon hacker’s conference in Las Vegas.



SOURCE: Reuters

Nokia 5250 specs revealed in UA Profile

31 Jul

First spotted a couple of days ago at Nokia’s Ovi Store, the 5250 is getting closer to being announced. The Finnish handset vendor has uploaded the user agent profile (UA Profile) of the phone a few minutes ago that reveals some specs of the phone.



As expected, the 5250 will indeed be an entry-level touchscreen phone that might not even support 3G. According to the profile, it will have an nHD display (360×640 pixels) and a 3.2 MP camera. It would run on Symbian S60 5th edition platform. Normally, Nokia uploads the UA profile a few hours before announcing a new phone, which indicates that the 5250 might get official as early as today. We will keep our eyes peeled.

In case you were wondering, Motorola has the Milestone 2 too!

31 Jul

Motorola A953 Milestone 2With so many leaks related to Motorola’s Droid 2 taking place, we couldn’t help but wonder what about the Milestone 2 – the GSM version of the Droid 2, which will take over from the Milestone. It would seem but natural for Motorola to launch a GSM variant for markets other than the US but there is nothing that we have seen so far to indicate its existence. Until today, that is.



We have found the first ‘official’ mention of the Milestone 2 in the form of a Wi-Fi certification for the Motorola A953. If you’d remember, the Milestone was the A853 and the Droid 2 is the A955 (the Droid was the A855). The specs for the Milestone 2 should be similar to the Droid 2, so we can expect a 700 MHz processor (probably 720 MHz like the XT720), a 3.7 inch display, a 5.0 MP shooter and 8 GB of internal memory. Of course, the Milestone 2 should also be getting a revamped QWERTY keypad as well as a curvy look, as we have seen in the leaked Droid 2 photos as well as a video (embedded below).



The specs might look dated, especially when compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S. However, when it comes to performance, we still prefer using the Milestone as our workhorse. In all probability, the Milestone 2 will be launched with Android 2.2 (Froyo) on board.



Unknown LG T325 touchscreen phone spotted at Bluetooth SIG site

31 Jul

The Bluetooth SIG, the group responsible for setting Bluetooth standards and notorious for releasing information about unannounced phones, has revealed the existence of an LG T325. Destined for Europe in August, there is very little information available about this touchscreen phone apart from the fact that it supports Bluetooth, is 3G-enabled and well, has a touchscreen. From the looks of it, we’d reckon it has a 3.2 inch display and in all probability falls under the brands Cookie range. We are fairly certain it won’t be long before LG officially announces this phone.

Updated BlackBerry App World to tie apps to users and not phones

31 Jul

Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of BlackBerry handhelds, will release an update for its application store called App World that will provide users with a BlackBerry ID to enable them to retain their downloaded apps (both free and paid) when they shift to another BlackBerry smartphone.



The update, currently in beta and available to users in USA and Canada from http://www.blackberry.com/beta, will also enable users to pay for apps using their Visa or Mastercard credit cards. Till now, PayPal was the only option to pay for apps. RIM is also working with carriers to integrate app purchase payments with the user’s monthly subscription bill.



The update will also streamline app discovery by showing the top and new apps across categories. Users will also be able to download apps by clicking pictures of QR codes that will be translated into links to the app on App World.

RIM’s App World is currently available in more than 65 countries and has been downloaded by over 30 million users. On an average, a million apps are downloaded from App World everyday.

Fly DS160 claims to provide 16 hours of talktime

31 Jul

Fly Mobile has launched the DS160 in India, a phone with 16 hours of talktime and 30 days of standby time. Priced at Rs 2,153, the DS160 has a massive 1800 mAh battery, which even smartphones do not provide.



Notable among its features is a VGA camera, FM radio with recording and FM alarm, call blacklisting and call reject with SMS, call background sound and a 3.5 mm audio jack. It even has a memory card slot that supports memory cards up to 8 GB. It has a phonebook that can store up to 1,000 contacts and users can take a backup of their phonebook on a memory card. Of course, like all other ‘made for India’ phones, it too is a dual-SIM phone.

Spice launches M6 sports phone in India

31 Jul

Spice Mobile has launched a new phone in India aimed at sporty youngsters. The Spice M6 comes pre-embedded with a ‘Sports Zone’ that keeps track of latest news from the world of sports via feeds from Yahoo! Sports properties like Yahoo! Cricket, Yahoo! Tennis and Yahoo! F1. For online social networking, the M6 comes pre-installed with Nimbuzz IM client as well as a video sharing app from Vuclip.



Like all ‘made for India’ phones, the M6 is a dual-SIM handset and comes with Opera Mini browser pre-embedded. On the features front, it has a 1.3 MP camera, FM radio with recording, a memory card slot that supports microSD cards up to 4 GB and stereo Bluetooth. The M6 has a 1000 mAh battery that the company claims will provide up to 5 hours of talktime.



The Spice M6 is priced at Rs 4,499, which we believe is slightly expensive for a phone with these specifications.

Huawei to sell Android phones starting at Rs 8k in India (live shots)

30 Jul

huawei u8300 Android smartphoneHuawei, the Chinese telecom infrastructure vendor, has announced the launch of 20 new phones that it will retail under its own brand in India. The phones, based on Qualcomm’s chipsets, have been classified under two sub-brands – Hang Out and Android. The Hang Out series will have phones in the entry and mid-level segment in GSM, 3G and CDMA varieties. Huawei will retail these phones across India from August 1. The vendor already manufactures cellphones and USB modems for carriers in India.



Huawei will start selling its Android range of smartphones around Diwali, which is like the Christmas holiday season in India. The company has a handful of Android smartphones, which will start from Rs 8,000 and go up to Rs 15,000. Most of the phones will run on Android 2.1 (at the time of launch).



We liked the build quality of most of these Android phones, which were much more refined than most of the stuff these ‘homegrown handset brands’ serve from their Chinese OEM partners. However, Huawei is just another ‘new’ Chinese brand for Indian consumers and it will be challenging for Huawei to project itself as a consumer-centric handset brand in India, which is already bubbling with close to a hundred cellphone brands.



We believe Huawei’s best bet lies in bundling its Android smartphones with carriers with 3G spectrum, who are expected to launch their 3G networks in key cities around Diwali.



Huawei U8230Huawei U8300 Android phonehuawei u8500 android phonehuawei c8500 android phone

Exclusive: Indian government to enforce SAR rating regulations for phones sold in the country

29 Jul

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) of the Indian government is set to enforce a regulation regarding Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) ratings of cellphones sold in India, according to a notification sent to all handset vendors in the country. The regulation will apply to phones whether they are imported or manufactured in India.



DoT has decided to adopt the International Commission on Non-Iodizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines in the telcom sector (both handsets and carrier base stations) for “limiting exposure to time varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields.” The document, which is in CellPassion’s possession, states that cellphones manufactured in India or imported to India should comply with basic restrictions in terms of SAR value limited to 2W/kg localised for head and trunk in the frequency range of 10 MHz to 10 GHz.



Further, handsets imported to India will have to bear self-certification from the handset manufacturer that they meet the required standards. We learn that the regulation has not been enforced, yet.



What is SAR? SAR rating, in simple terms, denotes the amount of radiation that is absorbed by the human tissue while using a mobile phone. It is calculated by the amount of energy absorbed by a unit mass of tissue.