Mobile Computing, VR World

Microsoft’s Most Affordable Lumia Smartphones: On to the Next Billion?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced the Lumia 435 and 532, two sub-$100 smartphones aimed at enabling Internet access for first-time smartphone users, especially in the emerging markets. The two devices will be powered by the latest Windows Phone 8.1 Denim, promising decent performance even at low price points.

Both devices will have a 4-inch 800×480 pixel screen, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. While similar in form factor and in some specs, the two devices have their differences.  The Lumia 435 will feature a dual-core Snapdragon 201 chip and 2 megapixel camera and. The 532 will have a quad-core version of the same SoC, a 5 megapixel camera and support for the famed Glance screen feature. Both devices will come in single-SIM and dual-SIM configurations, with the latter being a popular feature in emerging markets.

The Lumia 435 will be priced at around $80, while the 532 will be around $95. According to Microsoft, the devices will be available in key markets in Europe, APAC and EMEA in February. As with most of Microsoft’s latest entry-level offerings, the devices are not likely to be marketed in the U.S.

This is not the first time Microsoft has announced a device meant to be accessible to the masses. The first Microsoft-branded Lumia — after its acquisition of Nokia’s mobile and services division — was the Lumia 535, a $120 device that touted as offering a “5-5-5” experience: 5 megapixel main camera, 5 megapixel wide-angle selfie-friendly front camera, and a 5-inch screen. Microsoft also announced the Nokia 215, a sub-$30 Internet-capable feature phone.

A smartphone in every home

In its early days, Microsoft’s vision was to “a computer on every desk and in every home.” While the company has succeeded in making the desktop accessible to the masses, mobile devices are more dominant today. The Redmond company’s focus has shifted quite drastically: “to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.” While this might be a mouthful, the company’s strategy for mobile devices is quite simple. It wants to focus on “connecting the next billion people to the Internet.”

This strategy is evident with how Microsoft has started focusing on low-end Internet-capable devices. While flagship devices have highlighted the Lumia platform especially in Nokia’s heyday, Microsoft is adamant at releasing devices priced within reach of the masses. While the market has been flooded with likewise cheaply-priced Android devices, the advantage of Windows Phone would be the platform’s focus on providing an almost consistent level of usability, with even low-spec’d devices offering decent performance. Windows Phones also come rich with Microsoft’s productivity offerings like Office, OneDrive and Skype.

The question now is whether Microsoft will be successful in this strategy, especially with developer and app support being the main concern with the Windows Phone platform. A rich app ecosystem has made Android a runaway success for Google. Apple touts the quality of apps on its own ecosystem, as well as tight hardware-software integration as among its main selling points. Windows Phone does have its own fanbase, but at about 3.5% market share, Microsoft will, indeed, have to focus on the next billion, in order to shore up numbers for the platform.