Qualcomm Debuts New Platform for Affordable Feature Phones

Qualcomm is rolling out its 205 Mobile Platform, designed for basic feature phones that will operate on faster 4G networks. Aimed at consumers in markets such as India, Latin America and Southeast Asia who cannot afford higher-end smartphones, the platform includes the Qualcomm 205 SoC in addition to feature phone hardware components and software, and offers longer battery life and faster access to social media and other content. Unlike feature phones for 2G and 3G networks, usually priced between $15 and $50, feature phones with Qualcomm’s new chip will cost about $50.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Gartner research director Jon Erensen as saying that, with the smartphone market at a plateau, Qualcomm is now “looking for growth in adjacent markets.”

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The feature phone segment is actually “growing quickly” in emerging markets; IDC reports that feature phones make up 56 percent of the phone shipments in India, 62 percent in Indonesia and 49 percent in Vietnam. At the same time, India is upgrading its network to 4G. Qualcomm’s competitors in 4G-enabled feature phones include Indian company Lava International and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc.

Although the phones won’t be able to access app stores, they will come with some preloaded apps, and compete against low-end smartphones that, says Erensen, can cost about the same. Telecoms will also have to provide incentives and subsidies to move 2G/3G customers into the higher-end 4G phones, he adds.

Ars Technica reports that Qualcomm’s new mobile platform will provide a 150Mbps theoretical download speed and 50Mbps upload speed, support for Voice over LTE and Voice over Wi-Fi, and dual-SIM support. Basic wireless connectivity will be via 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1; the display is 480p, with camera support at 3 megapixels.

The new phones will “support Linux-based operating systems,” which includes but is not limited to Android. Battery life is 45 days of standby time, 20 hours of talk time and 86 hours of music playback. A Qualcomm release provides more specs.