Juniper Research: Cheap Phones Are Big Business

A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that by 2014, annual sales of low-budget mobile devices will rise to north of 700 million units, up 22% from this year. The report goes into the various schemes that have been implemented to help ‘connect the unconnected’, or the estimated 3 billion people on the planet that do not own mobile phones.

That number include people who live in areas where wireless networks offer coverage, something that is not always the case because operators tend to shy away from underdeveloped markets because of limited chances of financial return on investments. Apparently, the key to be able to tap into this vast pool of potential customers in these so-called ’emerging markets’ lies in drastically reducing the cost of handsets that can be used by low-income users.

Mobile handset juggernaut Nokia is a big believer in this, as we’ve talked about in the past when the company released a series of devices and services specifically targeting these emerging markets and the debut of its Mail on Ovi service on some 35 different Series 40 handsets.

According to Juniper’s report, of which you’ll find a summary in this free whitepaper, entry-level devices (Nokia’s definition for phones that sell for less than $60) accounted for 45% of total global shipments in 2008, which translates to 535 million units. However, Juniper also says ULC devices (ultra low-cost or devices selling for $5 on average) were only a fraction of those but growing in importance quickly. By 2014, Juniper forecasts low-cost devices to account for over 50% of all devices sold worldwide each year. Of the 700 million low-cost handsets expected to be sold in 2014, Juniper Research believes around 24% will be sold in Africa and the Middle East.