Todayâ€™s smartphones are more like handheld computers with elegant touch screens: Internet-connected devices that allow consumers to do things like share photos and stream videos, get directions and play games.
But under the hood, complex pieces of hardware power a robust software system to make such a seamless experience possible. This hardware-software combination is the result of years of research, development, design and assembly work â€“ and a lot of money, making the devices cost a small fortune when they hit store shelves.
According to research firm Canalys, half of the smartphones that will be shipped globally this year will cost more than $500 â€“ thatâ€™s before discounts and subsidies from wireless carriers. More than 30 percent of them will top $600.
With Broadcom’s help, thatâ€™s starting to change. Broadcom has been developing technology designed to reduce the cost of entry for smartphone-hungry consumers in emerging markets such as India, Africa and Latin America.
More Affordable Smartphones
In February, Broadcom announced three smartphone platforms optimized to offer native support for Googleâ€™s Android 4.0 operating system, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich. The platforms support top-notch graphics, video and application processing, which allows device-makers to build smartphones that provide the best in graphics, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more in one integrated platform. That, in turn, lowers the overall manufacturing costs for savings that can be passed on to consumers.
Last month, British mobile telecom magnate Vodafone launched the Smart II, a mass market smartphone that averages about $130, depending on the region. That device features Broadcomâ€™s BCM21553 832 mHz processor, which has twice the computing power of the high-end smartphones of four years ago, at a fraction of the price. Vodafone serves about 150 million customers in India and 57 million in Southern Africa, through its majority ownership of Vodacom.
Adoption on the Rise
The availability of lower-cost smartphones like the Smart II is expected to bring rapid growth to the overall market as more people adopt them. Already, Canalys projects that the global smartphone market will reach 1.1 billion devices by the end of the year, a 43 percent upswing from 2011. By 2016, that number is expected to jump to 2.5 billion â€“ and nearly half of those phones will ring in under $300.
Some regions â€“ notably, the U.S. and China â€“ already make up a significant segment of the smartphone market, with the two countries neck-and-neck in consumer adoption.
In the coming years, China is expected to leapfrog the U.S.
Driving the adoption rate in China are mainstream Internet companies such as Baidu and Alibaba looking to enter the low-cost smartphone market. Itâ€™s similar to how Google entered the market with Android-powered devices in developed countries. India and Brazil are also on tap to see growth in demand for affordable smartphones.
In many countries, smartphones will become the first â€“ and only â€“ connected device for a large segment of the population, providing them with access to the Web, social networking and a mighty ecosystem of mobile apps. For Broadcom, that means that a greater number of people will experience a â€śconnectedâ€ť lifestyle that empowers them to discover information, entertainment and more from a robust computing device that fits into the palm of their hands.
â€˘ Vodafone Launches Smart II, an Affordable Smartphone for the Masses
â€˘ Executive Perspective: Broadcomâ€™s Bob Rango
â€˘ Smartphone Growth Just Beginning as Focus Shifts to Emerging Markets
â€˘ Broadcomâ€™s Smartphone Platforms Optimized for Android Ice Cream Sandwich
â€˘ Broadcom Corp.: â€śAdding Flavor to Ice Cream Sandwichâ€ť (pdf)
â€˘ AllThingsD Interview: Broadcom CEO Touts Gains in Low-End Android Market
â€˘ WSJ: Nokia, Samsung Compete With Low-Cost Smartphones
â€˘ Reuters: Chipmakers Ride Low-End Smartphone Demand in China