back to article Voda goes ultra-cheap with handsets for the developing world

In rich countries, the consumer buzz around mobile phones is all about iPhones and data and internet. But for cellcos, rich countries equal saturated markets, fierce competition and stand-still sales. They rely on the developing world for just about all their growth. That means cheap phones, cheap enough pre-paid plans and …


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  1. Neil Hoskins

    Not overblown at all

    Imagine being able to call a mate in town to check on the prices at the market, without having to go and check for yourself. Or being able to use Mpesa to transfer some money to your Granny on the other side of the country so she can afford to go out and buy food. Mobile technology is a real life-changer in the developing world: some of us have been saying it for years. In actual fact, an iPhone would be useless to them as most useful third-world apps are written in Java.

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Great points but...

      Great points but the cynic in me feels while mobile payments are indeed jolly handy, similar payment systems we have in the west are often used to penalise poorer people. I'm talking about things like pre-pay phones, pre-pay utility metres and pre-pay debit/credit cards. I'd imagine mobile payment systems used in developing countries use a similar pre-pay method due to a lot of customers lacking banking facilities. Is this, or will this, just be another case of companies skimming off extra profits from those who can ill afford it? I guess if it dose mean it saves a twenty mile hike to the market to pay a bill it could be good value for money though.

      I'm not saying its bad, I just think its important to remember that often poorer people get the sharp end of the tech stick when it comes to payment systems.

      1. Rob Davis

        It's expensive being poor, this initiative by Vodafone might help

        It's expensive being poor - because being poor means:

        1) restricted communication options, including lack of internet - which means people can't afford things or save money because they can't surf for the cheapest deals often found online

        2) because credit is expensive, poor credit rate hikes up the interest rates

        Looks like Vodafone might help on both of these with this initiative:

        - for 1) as the original poster "Not overblown at all" said being able to call a friend for best deals gets the user more opportunities to afford things and get cheaper deals, OK it's not internet but its slightly closer to it, and internet may come.

        I believe basic internet/WAP has taken off in some developing countries already, as the first means to internet access they experienced, even though it was a flop in the UK - because we already had full access to compare it against.

        - for 2) the micropayments system Vodafone are providing might enable more financial options

        I like Vodafone for what they are doing here and for their SureSignal Femtocell system.

        No, I don't work for them but I am a subscriber.

        I know there may be other socially useful initiatives going on elsewhere, but I'll shrug off the archetypal, dour, cynical, sneering geek persona not uncommon here on the Reg, and embrace this article: would you rather be happy than clever?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not overblown at all

      >Imagine being able to call a mate in town to check on the prices at the market

      I saw somtheing similar to this taken to an extreme last night. In a further attempt to find useless things to do with a mobile phone someone was demonstrating an application that reads the bar code of a product using the camera's phone then tells you where you can buy said product. The demonstration was in a supermarket and the product was on the shelf.

      As far as I'm concerned mobile phones should all be like this, simple, no frills, the cheaper the better.

      Oh, and in developing countries granny is more likely to be at home as a member of an extended family.

      1. Richard 23

        Granny at home, but not the breadwinner

        In developing countries mobility of labour is high, with the breadwinner often having to relocate just to get a survival wage, so an economical means of sending money home is vital. The amounts involved are only a few pounds per month, but they are essential for the family. Many of these people will have no access to any sort of banking facilities, and could not afford the transfer fees charged even if they had access.

        A couple of years ago it was reported that in some parts of Africa mobile phone top-up vouchers were being used as currency - because the activation number could be sent as a txt message.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "They retail at under $15 and $20, unsubsidised "

    When will they be available in the UK ?

    Ideal for people who want a very simple phone - big buttons (looks like, though scale not known). Lose it ? another...

    $20 for a phone with a colour screen. Amazing. I assume that includes the battery and charger!

    1. Paul RND*1000

      Can we add the US to that as well please?

      Seriously. Can we have some of these too?

      I don't want a high-priced jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none device which combines a crappy phone with a crappy camera and half-assed attempt at being a full-featured computer and requires charging twice a day even when you don't make a call.

      I want a phone which works properly as a phone and has a decent interface for texting, is rugged enough to survive being generally abused over its 2-3 year lifespan, and if I do happen to accidentally drop it in the toilet/drive over it/lose it down a ravine it's going to cost the same to replace as a couple of months of cellphone insurance would anyway.

    2. Andy 97

      Better than a mains charger:

      A dynamo

      A solar charger

      A phone that is more efficient and a network that requires a phone to poll less.

    3. HollyX
      Thumb Up

      We're already there

      In front of me now I have a Nokia, it cost £17 in Netto and replaced my work phone a couple of years back. It came with a T-mobile pre-pay sim (which never got used) but wasn't network locked either.

      I don't fancy a smart phone either, the charge on this thing lasts 5 days and it's small and light :-) It has a colour screen, to boot!

  3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    What is best in life?

    To charge your cellphone, see that you have reception, and to hear the darn thing when it's ringing!

    Can you hear me now?

  4. David Gosnell

    Alternative, for the UK

    No idea what these are like in practice, but saw them in Tesco the other day:

    Looked a bit cheaper than the photo implies, but under £20 SIM-free...

    1. SirTainleyBarking
      Thumb Up

      Bluechip VX1

      I bought one of those with my own money and ordered a free PAYG SIM to go with it.

      They work well, they're nice and small, and they do what they say on the tin. A basic phone thats unlocked. Tesco could probably sell 'em for half that if they wanted to.

      If they did a bigger version with easy to hit keys it would be a must have for elderly rellies

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Nokia 1100, 20quid on PAYG, available for a tenner in every cashconverter.

    B+W screen so it runs for a week, rubber keyboard that is almost waterproof and the only gadget is an LED torch in the end.

    Only pain is they don't make a quadband, the US version is CDMA on Virgin PAYG

    1. frank ly

      @ Yet Another Anonymous Coward

      Where do you all come from ?!

    2. David Beck

      Tracfone used 1100's

      I have a few old Tracfone branded GSM Nokia 1100s that I bought for $20 each including 60 minutes air time. I use a couple for US trips, buy a one year card each year and get about 600 minutes with it for $99. This is in preference to the £2/min for use of my UK phone. Tracfone provide for UK calling via a dial through number or up to 10 international numbers tied to 800 numbers to do it automatically. Tracfone took a lot of hassle initially with a totally trash CS but now seems okay (and I've used it). No 1100's any more though.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Samsung Solid

    Get a Samsung M110 (also named Solid), it's cheap and pretty rugged. Battery lasts for a week, has a browser for checking mail (GPRS only), 0.3 camera, a LED flashlight, and that's about it. Ideal gadget for me, right next to my G-Shock Mudman.

  7. thomas newton

    very handy

    in a lot of respects, the best phone I've had up to now was my Motorola Graphite from 1997 - built like a tank, made calls when I wanted to, and had a ringer that sounded like a phone and not some silly bloody tune or something (are you listening Nokia??) and the menu's and choices made absolute sense.

    I'[d definitely have one of these as a spare if they flogged them in the UK.

  8. Jerome 0

    Cry me a river

    "But for cellcos, rich countries equal saturated markets, fierce competition and stand-still sales."

    Is it really so terrible for the cellcos when "stand-still sales" equals bleeding most customers for £20-£30 every month because they're so desperate to replace their "obsolete" handset every couple of years?

  9. Fihart

    If only they had Asda in the 3rd World

    Seen recently, Asda offering Samsung (or some such) cheapo for £10 including a £5 top up (I think you had to send for a voucher) but a whole working phone for £5.

    Presumably subsidised.

    1. SirTainleyBarking

      Presumably at cost

      which is repaid by the PAYG charges.

      In the same way that printer manufacturers flog cheap inkjets and horrendously priced carts

  10. Stephen 2


    As Fihart said, there are already many phones being sold in the UK for the same kind of price. I bought some old school nokia from the voda store for £10 with a £5 topup voucher..

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