They're here: Cheap Android smartphones

New low-cost smartphones running Google's Android software have been launched in Taiwan recently and the good news is they should start showing up just about everywhere soon.

A new group of companies, electronics contract manufacturers, are starting to make high-end mobile phones, including smartphones, for mobile network operators around the world, and these are companies adept at slashing prices.

Taiwan Mobile's TWM T1
Taiwan Mobile's TWM T1.

These manufacturers are companies many people in the West have never heard of, such as Quanta Computer, which makes laptop PCs for global giants including Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Quanta made an Android smartphone for network operator Taiwan Mobile, which launched on Tuesday. Another company, Commtiva Technology, a subsidiary of the world's largest electronics contract manufacturing company, Hon Hai Precision Industry, built an Android handset for Far EasTone Telecommunications, another Taiwanese network operator.

Taiwan has traditionally led the way with cost cutting in everything from PCs to game consoles and mobile phones, through low cost manufacturing on the island and in China. The prices of the two new smartphones are around half that of comparable models from major handset vendors. Taiwan Mobile next week will start selling the TWM T1 smartphone for NT$8,990 (US$280) with no service contract.

With a contract, the TWM T1 is still about half the price of comparable Android smartphones from major vendors, such as Samsung Electronics and High Tech Computer (HTC).

Taiwan Mobile offers the TWM T1 for NT$4,880 with a minimum monthly handset payment of NT$401 added to a user's phone bill over 12 months, which compares to a Samsung Galaxy i7500 for NT$11,100 with the same monthly payment, and the HTC Tattoo for NT$8,190 with the NT$401 monthly payment.

The price difference is partly caused by specifications on the phones. The TWM T1 sports a 3.2-inch touchscreen and a 3-megapixel camera, while the Samsung Galaxy has a better 3.2-inch AMOLED (active matrix organic light emitting diode) touchscreen and a 5-megapixel camera. The HTC Tattoo comes with a 2.8-inch touchscreen and 3.2-megapixel camera.

One example of the price of a full-featured Android smartphone is Google's Nexus One, which retails at US$530 without a contract.

Far EasTone unveiled the Commtiva T1 earlier this month for NT$9,990 (US$311) with no contract, billed as the first Android smartphone available in Taiwan for under NT$10,000. The device has a 3.2-inch touchscreen and 5-megapixel camera.

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