SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Smartphones and tablets that cost $100 will be the next big wave in mobile clients, according to an executive for ARM, the company that provides most of the processor technology for the systems.
Cost is the big barrier to entry to the majority of people who still do not own smartphones, said Dipesh Patel, general manager of ARM’s physical IP division, in a talk at the Common Platform Technology Forum last week. “We need to build smartphones that are more affordable,” he told an audience of more than a thousand chip designers and makers.
Only five of the seven billion people in the world today have cellphones and only one billion are smartphones, Patel said. Even in the U.S. only 48 per cent of cellphone subscribers use smartphones.
Scanning the globe, the percentage of cellphone users with smartphones declines rapidly. In China 24 percent of cellular subscribers use smartphones, in Brazil 20 percent do, in Russia and Indonesia only nine percent and in India just four percent.
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"For many people a $100 smartphone would be means to access Net," Patel said. “We need the [smartphone] experience we are all accustomed to but in a $100 package,” he added, suggesting the design shown above using a quad-core A7.
He also discussed a $100 tablet based on a quad core processor, seven-inch display, 512 MB RAM, 16G flash and 802.11n—essentially the spec rolled out in a project by the Indian government. After his talk, Patel told EE Times
that some OEMs are building such low-cost smartphones and tablets today, in some cases using Cortex A5 processors, far below the A8 designs considered low end today.
Patel’s observations on low end smartphones echoed comments some market watchers
have been making over the last two years. China’s rising chip makers such as Spreadtrum have been aggressively pursuing
the space, typically with A8-based SoCs.
The sector poses risks, too. Nokia tried to differentiate itself with a focus on feature phones for developing markets as the smartphone trend was rising, a move that some argue caused it to miss the opportunity to become a major smartphone supplier.
Patel was quick to note the low-end is just one of several lucrative smartphone segments. He highlighted three areas in the foil below.
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