Thursday, July 11, 2013

Android phone prices hit new low

The march of technology keeps driving the price of low-end Android phones ever lower.

Economics is a strange beast at the best of times, and all the more so when it comes to the price of mobile phone handsets as various subsidies can reduce the price substantially.

The result is that the cheapest countries to buy mobile phones are those where the carriers are willing to offer the deepest subsidies, and it isn't always obvious which countries those are.

My anecdotal experience suggests that the two cheapest countries, with prices generally similar, are Kenya, which makes sense since GDP-per-capita is relatively low, and Australia, where, well, to be honest I don't really know.

We have previously bought Android phones like the Huawei IDEOS U8180 for AUD$50 - AUD$70.

Then the other day I noticed that the local supermarket is selling an Android phone for AUD$40, and I thought that was cheap:

But then the local Post Office catalogue arrived offering the Huawei Y100 (U8185) for AUD$29 including a 2GB microSD card and $2 starter SIM card with Vodafone:

This $29 wonder includes GPS, Bluetooth, an 800MHz processor and a screen so small it almost hurts. Basically they are a 50% faster version of the U8180's we are so familiar with.  The extra speed makes a noticeable difference.

We had the latest version of the Serval Mesh running on it within a few minutes:

Sure, both of these phones are also benefit from discounting through the retail chain, in much the same way that all the Android phones around the $50 mark were a year ago.  History suggests that Android phones at this kind of price-point will become regularly available over the coming year.


  1. Still not exactly clear how Serval any central hardware required, or does it just need to be running? Does it Just Work™ right out of the box if you fire it up on a couple devices? Would be handy for places like Oklacon, which has a few thousand people trying to communicate without phone service...

    1. Hello,
      So the idea is that It Just Works™, without depending on any extra hardware at all. However, for that to work, the phones need to be rooted and not have other silly road-blocks to peer-to-peer communications in place. That is why we have been working on the Mesh Extenders. Phones + mesh extenders = functioning network, with no central gear at all. All devices self-allocate network addresses and all protocols are fully distributed. Of course, we haven't tested it at scale, and expect substantial work to make it scale to thousands (or even hundreds) of devices. But for us the first step is getting it working at the small scale, and then work our way up from there.


  2. Hi Paul,

    That is brilliant! I'm seriously contemplating going down to my local Post outlet to grab a few of these for playing with Serval. One question - did you get Ad-Hoc mode to work on these devices, or are you running Serval via an AP in infrastructure mode?

    1. We used a prototype mesh extender only -- didn't root them or try ad-hoc mode.
      As they are Android 2.3, and similar hardware to the U8180 they should do adhoc fine if rooted, but we simply haven't tried.

  3. Well this is very true that android smartphones comes in cheaper prices with small brands like Micromax,Lava and there are many mores. And the people who can not purchase high budget phone enjoy android phones through these brands