(1 Mar 2017) LEAD-IN:
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) technology show is the place for major smartphone makers like Samsung, Huawei and LG to shine.
But nestled in the great halls of the Barcelona convention centre are a number of minor smartphone makers hoping to find a niche.
This is the Fairphone.
Never heard of it? You are not alone.
For a minor smartphone maker it has actually sold pretty well, in total about 125,000 units shipped according to the Amsterdam based company.
But that is still a minuscule number compared to Apple, Samsung and even LG.
The 5-inch screen, 4G Android phone with 32 megabytes of internal memory costs 524 euros in Europe.
A pretty standard price for a pretty standard phone.
But it does have a few selling points. Firstly it is fully modular.
All the parts of the phone can be taken out and replaced.
The 8 megapixel camera that the phone currently ships with will soon be updated, so all owners will be given the chance to buy a better camera module.
The company says this reduces the need to constantly buy new smartphones, something that is environmentally unsustainable.
The company also claims to put extra effort into using the highest level of sustainable production methods, and that it is working towards better conditions for the workers assembling the phone.
However, you do have to take their word on it as there isn’t much as far as sustainable ratings for smartphones.
The Fairphone is one of several minor smartphone manufacturers trying to build up some momentum at the Mobile World Congress (/MWC) show in Barcelona.
But don’t expect many of them to succeed.
“This is a business that requires billions of dollars of marketing and research and development and just sort of putting out a product that a mass amount of customers would actually want,” says Roger Chen, Executive editor of the CNET technology news website.
“In terms of these smaller guys, I can imagine them being niche, you know, selling a couple of thousands of units. That’s fine for them. But you know, these are phones that most people are not really going to see.”
Another minor manufacturer, at least in the western world, is Vernee from the Chinese tech hub Sichuan.
The company has released two phones at the MWC, the Thor 2 and the Thor plus.
However the Thor 2, said to have 8 Megabytes of RAM, does not actually have the processors installed yet.
The Thor Plus on the other hand is fully functioning.
The selling point is the extremely large battery. With 6000 milliamp hours it is three times larger than the battery in the iPhone 7 Plus.
The second selling point is the price.
The device is available worldwide for 115 US dollars, a fraction of what many higher end devices costs.
“Second or third tier Chinese smartphone manufacturers are always going to be a part of the eco-system. Because we need those phones that populate the lower price points,” says Nicole Scott, editor of the Mobilegeeks website.
“But are they going to make it big time and become mainstream? Absolutely not. People need to feel that they know the brand and trust their device. There needs to be a sense of mutual trust. And random Chinese smartphone companies in general don’t inspire that,” she adds.
From China to Croatia.
Hangar 18, a Koprivnica-based smartphone manufacturer has released the NOA H10le smartphone at the MWC.
It was the first time a Croatian company has shown a smartphone at the MWC show.
The NOA H10le comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, 64 GB of internal memory, a 13 megapixel camera both at the front and back and a processor from MediaTek that the company says is the best in its class.
But the biggest selling point seems to be the intense red colour and the relatively affordable price of 350 euro.
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