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Emerging markets drive smartphone uptake but handsets still not cheap enough

What will the device of the future look like?

Smartphone users in emerging markets will help drive data usage up by more than tenfold by 2015, according to Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs. Around four billion smartphones will be sold in that same timeline and most of those will be in the sub-$300 segment, Jacobs, said.

Speaking at the company’s annual Innovation conference in Istanbul, Jacobs said he expects the number of 3G capable smartphone users to rise from 1.4 billion in 2011 to two billion by 2015. He identified emerging markets as a major source of growth in the smartphone and feature phone user segments, with Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s product manager adding that developments in system on a chip (SoC) techniques – specifically Qualcomm’s Snapdragon offering – would put the price of smartphones down to the $110 mark.

Informa analyst Dario Talmesio said that that the development is remarkable for the mobile industry at large, especially growing markets; but Talmesio pointed out that, in a developing economy, a smartphone pitched at $110 is the same price as one pitched at £3,000 in the UK. “Yes there are wealthy parts of the demographic in emerging markets too, but to really drive growth in that sector you have to be looking at sub-$50, maybe even $20 handsets,” he said.

And if Qualcomm’s expectations about data growth come through, it won’t be 4G technologies carrying the weight of the traffic. “HSPA+ remains the technology of choice,” said Jacobs, “and developments in dual carrier (DC) are very strong.”

According to Jacobs, it is these efficiencies in multi carrier HSPA developments that will keep the 3G technology installed as the industry leader for some time to come, although LTE will still have its place for high data density deployments in urban areas.

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