Mobile World Congress: The affordable smartphone

HTC's gone low-cost; LG entered the smartphone game with two budget-friendly Android devices; and Samsung prefaced the announcement of its new operating system by saying it would 'democratise the smartphone era'.

It's been a definite theme at this year's Congress for manufacturers and operators alike to talk about making smartphones affordable to everyone. As vice president of Telefonica O2 Steve Alder said at a press conference today, the market for smartphones is as big as the number of people using mobile internet - and that's 450 million according to analysts at IDC.

It probably started in some convoluted way with the iPhone. The original iPhone wasn't particularly 'affordable' (industry slang for 'cheap') but it did make mobile internet accessible to everyone, simply by being fun and easy to use. The rise of social networking helped too - Facebook was confirmed to be the most accessed website on mobile, closely followed by Google - and where there's traffic, there's data charges to be collected. 

Of course, the popularity of mobile internet means these charges are much lower than ever before, with most smartphones being offered on unlimited data plans. Exclusive carrier O2 did not announce the tariffs available for HTC's new budget-friendly phone, the Smart, but did say it will be about half the price of other smartphones - but will offer many of the same features, most notably full HTML websites and rich web with Flash support.

LG's GT540 is an internet-friendly, budget-friendly Android 2.0 phone, while Samsung's new bada OS will come out on phones at several price brackets.

Of course, some manufacturers stuck to releasing traditionally high-end flagship handsets - for example, Motorola brought out the Android 2.0 Backflip with a fancy new back-bending QWERTY, and another biggie in the Quench, its first tablet-style Android phone.

But affordable smartphones were shown by four of the six major mobile manufacturers (not to mention existing ones by the likes of INQ and Huawei), and it looks like we'll only be seeing more.

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