Author(s): Peter Bryer
Canadian-based maker of smartphones and tablets DataWind launched a family of basic Android phones in India, sold under the PocketSurfer sub-brand. The phones include a year's worth of basic Web browsing in their hardware cost, with prices starting at $32 for a 2G Android device and $48 for a 3G version. Subscribers can get unlimited surfing privileges for the price of some feature phones.
DataWind's smartphones are basic, but the hardware alone offers good value. The $32 smartphone has a 3.5-inch display, is dual-SIM, runs Android 4.0 Jelly Bean and provides 2G data access. The $48 phone has a four-inch display, runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and supports 3G.
The PocketSurfer phones will run on operator Reliance's network. Users won't be able to download apps or stream video or audio content under the basic plan, but can use top-ups to access richer content.
Providing free or subsidised cellular data in developing markets is a growing trend, with Internet brands like Facebook and Google sponsoring connections through the use of zero-rate access. It allows companies to expand their reach with the hopes of returns in the long run. Orange announced a similar initiative at Mobile World Congress 2015 — its Klif device is bundled with voice, SMS and data usage up to 500MB per month for six months and is targeted at its African and Middle Eastern markets.
The provision of unlimited Internet access directly out of the box could see DataWind's devices attract the attention of India's millions of disconnected users. The company's volumes are relatively small, but more manufacturers could offer similar hardware–service bundles if the concept of included data spreads.