The low-cost smartphone is the new feature phone, according to ABI Research.
Research data indicates that shipments of sub-US$250 low-cost smartphones will grow from 259 million in 2013 to 788 million in 2018.
"As the feature phone segment continues to lose its battle for relevance, the low-cost smartphone has become the tool for operators seeking to drive increased data revenues," said Michael Morgan, senior analyst, ABI Research.
The growth of smartphones in pre-paid and emerging markets will be the primary driver of low-cost smartphone growth.
Developed and subsidised markets are also finding that low-cost smartphones can capture the remaining consumers that have yet to convert to a smartphone while minimising the margin impacts stemming from subsidising high-cost smartphones.
Mid- and high-cost smartphones will continue to play an important role for operators looking to seed their customer base with the most advanced smartphones. Mid (sub-US$400) and high (US$400+) cost smartphone shipments are expected to grow from 635 million to 925 million over the same period.
Premium smartphones tend to carry the most advanced wireless connectivity and operators that are upgrading their network want to ensure that the handsets running on their network can deliver the best possible experience and customer satisfaction.
"As smartphone penetration moves from early adopters to mass-market and laggard consumer segments, the smartphone as a product will be less dependent on technical superiority, and more dependent on reliability and value," added ABI Research senior practice director Jeff Orr.
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