February 28, 2013, 2:02 PM — This year's MWC may have been lacking in high-end smartphone launches, but the "W" stands for "world" and lower-cost models shown this week are needed to open up the mobile-phone market to more people globally.
Here are some of the trends that indicate where the smartphone market is headed.
Mozilla's smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, got the most attention, but the Tizen camp led by Samsung Electronics and Intel, Jolla and its Sailfish, as well as Canonical, which is hard at work on Ubuntu for smartphones and tablets, were all in Barcelona.
Alcatel One Touch, LG Electronics and ZTE are all developing smartphones based on Firefox OS with prices expected to be below US$100 without subsidies. Huawei Technologies also said it will come out with products later this year and Sony has voiced its support, but hasn't made a final decision on whether it will develop commercial products.
Smartphones using the other three platforms are also likely to arrive before Dec. 31.
Even though they are doing more to improve the smartphone-user experience, Canonical and Jolla are in for an uphill struggle. The advantage they have is that their size means they don't have to sell as many phones as a company like BlackBerry to make a go of it.
HD Voice spreads to the low end
According to the latest research from GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association), 160 products with support for HD Voice have been announced in the market, which is 120 percent more than a year ago. Showing it is a technology for phones in all price ranges, Nokia introduced the HD Voice-compatible 301, a feature phone that costs ¬65 (US$85) without taxes and subsidies.
The improved quality HD Voice offers is possible thanks to the use of AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate - Wideband), a speech-compression algorithm that doubles the range of voice frequencies transmitted (50 to 7000Hz versus 300 to 3400Hz).
Investment in mobile networks and devices with HD Voice is a worldwide trend and will accelerate in 2013. All manufacturers are urged to ship their feature phones and smartphones with W-AMR activated by default, according to Alan Hadden, president of the GSA.
For HD Voice, both the caller and the receiver need a compatible phone, and the network also needs to support the technology. In the beginning of the year, 61 mobile networks had implemented the technology.
LTE smartphone price drop
As 4G technology continues to be rolled out across the world, there is a growing need for LTE-capable smartphones in lower price ranges.
Smartphones that cost around $200 wholesale will emerge toward year's end, starting with midtier phones from Huawei Technologies, LG Electronics, Samsung and operator Orange.