Orange is planning on getting the ordinary phone user to jump onto the smartphone bandwagon by introducing a range of budget-friendly smartphone handsets and tariffs to go with them.
Patrick Remy of the Orange group devices team told Pocket-lint that in 2009 only one in ten of Orange's mobile customer base was using their phone for anything other than calling and texting and that this year it was up to one in four. He wants to see this multimedia mobile usage grow even further.
He also spoke of the rise in smartphone penetration within Orange's customer base. "By 2013", he said, "we should be around the 50 per cent penetration mark". Remy said that there was a gap in the market for mid-range smartphones because, at the moment, the market offered just high-end smartphone devices like the iPhone.
Orange plans to exploit that gap by releasing a range of smartphones, bundled with fairly cheap tariffs, that are being manufactured by various Chinese partners. We were given a demo of the Orange Boston handset, which has been produced by Chinese developer Gigabyte. The Boston isn't going to be released in the UK, but Orange will be launching one device from Huawei in June and one device from ZTE in August with more following later in the year, that we're told will be very similar.
Like the Orange Boston, these phones will run Android 1.6. Remy said that they would be even better than the Boston, however, which we have to admit wasn't half bad for a device which retails for about £100. The capacitive 3.2-inch, HVGA touchscreen was pretty responsive, and browsing and YouTube video playback were fairly decent as well.
Remy stated that the aim of the range was to produce a series of handsets that will cost 120 euros or under, and will also be available free on cheaper contracts. UK price details still need to be finalised, although in Spain, the Boston is free on a 20 euros contract which includes 100MB of data. Prices for the UK are likely to be very similar to that. "We're really targeting the entry-level pay monthly contract customers", admitted Remy.
Take a look at the pictures for an example of the sort of handset that you'll be able to get as part of Orange's budget smartphone range. It's a market place which is heating up quite nicely, especially with the arrivals of the Samsung Galaxy 5 and the HTC Wildfire which, incidentally, Orange told us it would not be supplying. So take your time and shop around, there's definitely a deal to be had.