100 euros smartphones this year: Symbian

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The smartphone market will continue to boom this year as handset vendors roll out new, cheaper models and cut prices of the older phones -- making them more attractive to a mass-market audience.

A'Nokia N97' phone is pictured during the 'Nokia World 08' congress in Barcelona December 2, 2008. REUTERS/Albert Gea

First Symbian smartphones with unsubsidized prices of 100 euros ($137) will reach the market this year, the chief of the world’s most widely used smartphone platform told Reuters in an interview at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

“This year we will see a few products hitting that point,” Lee Williams, head of the Symbian Foundation said.

The cheapest of Nokia’s Symbian phones sells now for 120-130 euros, without operator subsidies.

Component makers like Qualcomm and Infineon are expected to play a key role in enabling cheaper smartphones by driving down costs through manufacturing scale and technical innovation.

“Operators are crying out for lower-cost smartphones to reduce their subsidy burden and to seed the mass-market with more advanced data devices,” said analyst Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics.

“Lower-cost smartphones will drive up vendors’ shipments, but they will simultaneously push down average selling prices and profit margins,” he said.

Prices of smartphones are falling fast as cellphone vendors battle aggressively for a larger share of the more lucrative part of the handset market.

Top hardware makers plan to roll out increasingly cheaper smartphones in 2010 to compete with new rivals. Operators see an opportunity to sell data packages to the fast growing part of the market.

Earlier this month Samsung unveiled a plan to treble smartphone shipments in 2010 and promote its own bada software platform. Samsung said bada would expand the target market for smartphones significantly in emerging markets.

“Symbian is well placed to dominate the entry-level smartphone market because of its close ties with Nokia and a huge presence in emerging markets such as China,” Mawston said.

($1=.7326 Euro)

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter