With news that LG’s first Android smartphone is a pretty basic gizmo, and recalling the recent debut of the Motorola Cliq, an interesting thought’s just occurred: Could the upstart Google OS corner the whole entry-level-smartphone market?
But then along stumbles LG, joining the Android fray with the excitingly named LG-GW620. It’s a slider, with full QWERTY keypad “to meet the growing needs of consumers who rely on their mobile phones for more than just making calls,” HSDPA 3G capabilities, what’s expected to be a 5-megapixel cam and a stock-installed Android OS. Thus far through the description you’d easily mistake it for many other Android phones, but then check out its touchscreen–a titchy 3-inch unit. Wire into this two more phrases from the press release–“lives up to LG’s consumer-friendly design philosophy by making the smartphone experience more accessible for typical users” and “The LG-GW620 will appeal to first-time smartphone customers by offering a new and different kind of user experience” and you’re suddenly looking at a phone that’s very definitely been earmarked as an entry-level device.
Add this all up and you get: Is Android quietly assuming position to dominate the entry-level smartphone world? All of these devices are likely to sell for much less than the top-end iPhone, Pre, HTC devices, and the other LG, Samsung, and Sony-Ericsson smartphones we all know about. Some will likely get a zero-dollar price-tag when sold on contract thanks to carrier subsidies. They’ll be even cheaper than Apple’s attempt at entry-level smartphones, the 8GB iPhone 3G currently on sale, and they’ll compete with Palm’s recently-revealed Pixi.
If you think about it, it all makes sense–Android is free and works out-of-the-box, requiring no customization. It’s certainly a cheaper option for manufacturers than licensing Microsoft’s aging Windows Mobile platform, or developing your own OS. Including it in a smartphone–even a basic one–also earns your device all the App Store, live social-networking and YouTube-interactivity cachet of a smartphone, without needing any industry-leading design. And as Nokia knows well, capturing the entry-level market can be lucrative.
Google’s strategy begins to become a little clearer now, doesn’t it?