There are many interesting new products that get released to the masses at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but few of them are as cheap as the Vodafone 150. Being dubbed the most affordable ultra low cost handset from Vodafone ever, the 150 is intended for those emerging markets where low cost devices can have the most significant and positive of social impacts, namely India, Turkey and across Africa. The intention being to enable millions of people in these markets to have the opportunity of sharing in the benefits of mobile technology for the very first time.
And how low cost is low cost? In the case of the Vodafone 150 I am told it will "retail unsubsidised at below $15" which is, by any metric, pretty damn low. Of course, low cost handsets are nothing new to the developed markets of the West where more often than not the networks make their money from the contracts which tie customers in for 18 months or more and the handsets come for free. But things are very different in these emerging markets where a different approach is needed. Some might argue that low cost handsets alone are not enough, and Vodafone has taken that on board. It reckons that to maximise the availability of the handsets in areas with sizeable and isolated rural populations, the launches will be supported by an extensive logistics infrastructure, reaching deep rural segments where mobile penetration typically remains low. In India, it is expected that device availability will reach 60% of the population.
Patrick Chomet, Vodafone’s Group Director of Terminals, says "the cost of mobile handsets can be one of the most significant barriers for people in accessing and benefiting from the growing number of socially valuable mobile services. The lives of people who use these phones - the Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250 – will be changed and improved as they become part of the mobile society. I am proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in this critical area of customer empowerment".