Although smartphones get all the attention, many consumers still continue to purchase less-expensive feature phones, according to ABI Research, which provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies.
Consumers, ABI says, purchase feature phones for a variety of reasons including the need for a device that is optimised for a specific application, such as messaging. The popularity of feature phones can be gauged from the fact that these devices comprised more than 75 per cent of the handset market in 2010, according to ABI.
“Mobile phones for messaging will encompass an increasing percentage of feature phone shipments, growing to almost a third of the category by 2015,” says ABI Research senior analyst Victoria Fodale.
ABI defines feature phones as devices enhanced for messaging services including SMS, MMS, mobile email, and mobile IM. These devices have a Qwerty keyboard and other capabilities at a price that usually makes them more affordable than smartphones.
Practice director of ABI, Kevin Burden, adds, “Mobile phones optimised for messaging are targeted to specific markets including consumers in developing regions who need affordable solutions for messaging and mobile internet services.”
The research firm also said that handset makers are gradually extending the mobile internet to feature phones.
“In the developing regions of Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, access to mobile broadband often outstrips fixed-line broadband access,” says Fodale. “For many users in those regions, their only internet experience may be via a mobile phone.”
Notably, for about half the mobile internet users in India a cellphone is their only mode of accessing the world wide web.