So, do we really need a cheap 4G phone? This question has been bugging me ever since reports started coming out that companies are trying their best to achieve price points between Rs 999 and Rs 2,000. Some are apparently making a 4G feature phone. Why, I have no clue.
Yes, the question is what will we achieve with a cheap phone with 4G, a technology that is meant to improve your experience at every level. Most smartphone makers have had to upgrade to cope up with the requirements of 4G when it comes to call quality and high speed data. But if you are going to create a phone that will strip out most of the features so as to reach a certain price point it will be defeating the purpose of the technology. Worse, it will be cheating the buyers.
4G LTE offers high-speed internet on smartphones and this has resulted in a jump in video consumption across the world, where these networks are available. Of course, browsing is faster but the bigger impact is clearly on video. It can also improve call quality by bringing in HD audio. But buyers will benefit from 4G only if they have a good, and large screen to consume video and a handset that is capable of HD audio calls. I doubt a phone that is priced under Rs 2,000 will be able to offer either.
Anyway, who are we targeting with such a device? If this is a first time user, then the device has to be good enough to make him consume the content he needs and enjoy the experience. It can’t be an apology of a smartphone, a 4G SIM card holder. Like what are we trying to achieve by offering a 4G feature phone? It is not as if the user can speak faster on 4G or finish a conversation 25 per cent quicker.
There is also a big issue in smartphone makers taking the call that entry level users can do with low-end devices that are not really up to the mark. The first time users, for whom a smartphone will be their first and maybe only computing device, will need the rich video experience and not the stripped down textual experience that a low specifications phone will offer. As we have seen with the consumption patterns from Google’s free Wi-Fi hotspots at railway stations, people who cross the device and affordability threshold will end up consuming more data in the form of video.
With some of these conversations, technology companies need to start thinking about usability and user experience instead of just trying to tick the cheapest option box. The latter might actually end up impacting their industry negatively in the long run. If they do want to offer affordability, it should be without cutting corners too much.