back to article India’s Karbonn launches £26 Android phone

For the same amount of money as an Apple adapter plug, Indian mobile company Karbonn is selling a fully fledged Android smartphone. The Karbonn Smart A50S is on sale now at a starting price of 2,699 rupees, or twenty-six of your British pounds, SIM-free. It’s only 2G with EDGE support, in part because the IP royalties on 3G …

  1. James 51

    What's the price of a nokia 100 in India? I know it doesn't have a screen like this one but the battery is much better.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Its Android, so what would it cost without the m$ extortion fee?

      If you could somehow remove the only meaningful contribution microsoft make to the mobile industry, namely swiping a fiver or so off every Android device sold, this would be incredibly cheap indeed.

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Its Android, so what would it cost without the m$ extortion fee?

        The M$ tax on Android is mainly the FAT32 support on the microSD card... And we all know how much people complain when they are removed!

        I guess Kabonn just aren't that brave!

        1. Bob Vistakin

          Re: Its Android, so what would it cost without the m$ extortion fee?

          Yes, FAT32 is in there, but there are a few more which, when you read them, you can see why they wanted keep secret.

          I particularly like 7650431 - "SERVING LOCALLY RELEVANT ADVERTISEMENTS". I wonder who'd have an issue with that stunning innovation?

        2. RyokuMas Silver badge

          Re: Its Android, so what would it cost without the m$ extortion fee?

          "I guess Kabonn just aren't that brave!"

          Certainly not brave enough to do the right thing for their buyer's privacy and work off the back of their own pull of the AOSP... given the ratio of credit cards to population, I wonder how much relying on Google's operating billing API will cost them once they finish building the walls round their garden.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its Android, so what would it cost without the m$ extortion fee?

        At least when Microsoft apply their extortion tax, Bill Gates profits a day then uses it to find a cure for malaria...

        Perhaps he should also fund education for journalists to tech them the difference between memory and storage.

  2. ElReg!comments!Pierre


    "Disappointingly for a country where cricket reports and Bollywood films are so popular, the A50S is reported to have quite a poor speaker."

    You don't need a very good speaker for a cricket match report. As for Bollywood films, I think it is _necessary_ to have a bad one!

    1. Tiny Iota

      Re: Speakers...

      You sometimes don’t even need any speaker at all.

      When I was in India in 2006, I was sitting on the rooftop of a hotel overlooking the Taj Mahal on a day when England had done something impressive Vs the Indians in the Test Match. A local journalist and photographer was in the hotel interviewing people about the cricket (I don’t know why) and asked me to pose for a photo to go in the paper. I was asked to hold up my digital camera (in its case) to my ear, pretending I was listening to the match on a little radio, look happy and hold up a few fingers for the number of wickets just taken. I still have the paper as a cool if not somewhat random souvenir, although I have no idea what the article says as its all written in Hindi. I sometimes wonder if the first two words are “gullible tourist…”

      Anyway, nothing to do with the article, but I put it out there as a rival to it for your interest

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: Speakers...

      I think all mobiles should have a quiet, low volume speaker...

      Nothing worse than some idiot on the train/tube, playing his choice of muzak (well the bits of it that can be represented in a frequency range of 3Khz-8Khz).

      It's not big, and not clever... And worst of all, it's not new! Back in the day at least the portable HiFi unit with it's dozen D cell batteries, actually had a reasonable reproduction! Although the weak armed yoof of today might lack the ability to handle a portable device of its mass!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speakers...

        As annoying as it is the speakers are handy for when you're on a long boring conference call and you just drop the phone on the table and give your neck a rest.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I read it as ...

    Carbon Smart Ass

  4. ElNumbre
    Thumb Up

    Trickle Down

    The specs sound like my Galaxy Ace of about 3 years ago, which came in at about £100 at the time. It was a miserable user experience, but if the chaps and chapesses out there can make it work for them, when why not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trickle Down

      "It was a miserable user experience"

      It was indeed, but only against more expensive opposition. If you'd never used a capacitive screen smartphone before, a Galaxy Ace was a joy of capabilities. If you compared it to the then current Galaxy S2, it seemed awful.

      But thinking forward a couple of years, this "old spec" niche may be filled by something of similar spec to the Galaxy S3. As the S3 can still hold its head up against the latest S5 model, this sounds great for users, but, shall we say, "interesting" for phone makers. The days of £600 list prices are numbered (well, for people not in a particular walled garden, at any rate).

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Trickle Down

        Yep, incremental product transitions are necessary in any and every market and market segment. Consumers won't go directly from A to E. Interestingly, they won't go from A to E even if there is no significant price difference.

        If 'A' satisfies their needs they'll just keep using 'A'. If you give them 'E' you've just given them solutions to problems they didn't know they had and since they didn't have those problems when they had 'A' staying with 'A' means they won't have those problems (there's a lot of boring science behind all this, but a great contemporary example is WinXP, or 'A' for this discussion. It wouldn't have mattered if Win8, 'E', gave you a blowjob every time you used that disjointed menu screen. Taken as a whole 'E' created problems where none existed before. Doesn't matter what advantages it provided, the general consumer doesn't make decisions that way).

        In a land of Roman Numerals, the decimal point is God. You have to grow your markets at a pace and scale that meets their needs, not the needs of other markets or the needs of fringe users. It's tricky business and there are more than a few clever people and former executives who cry themselves to sleep every night on cheap cotton pillows instead of some hookers cocaine covered tits because they were 'ahead of their time'.

        1. Shaha Alam

          Re: Trickle Down

          "It wouldn't have mattered if Win8, 'E', gave you a blowjob every time you used that disjointed menu screen. Taken as a whole 'E' created problems where none existed before."

          i'd happily accept the disjointed menu system in exchange for a daily...

  5. Arachnoid


    They could have made the charge last longer than a day on such a low spec mobile....maybe they should reinvent the Nokia 3310 with a battery life of up to 260 h

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Shirley........

      Dont reinvent, just start making new 3310s as is. I'd buy one in a heartbeat

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Shirley........

      When you're delivering really low priced complex products, like a touchscreen smartphone for half the price of lunch, you don't make any money by designing efficiencies of any kind into the product. The idea is to get people into a product category. Once they're there it's on them to identify what they want from their next purchase and when the time comes you provide that, for just a little bit more money. Summarized, entry level products and 'better' products have vastly different goals and it's folly to mix them.

      Entry level consumer electronics also play a big role in the larger world of electronics manufacturing. A role that makes, among other things, your more electrically efficient phone less expensive. A role they couldn't fill if efficiencies were pursued. Entry level consumer electronics are often designed, engineered and manufactured using the unbelievable amount of excess component inventories and obsolete manufacturing equipment our society creates.

      Between rapid hardware versioning, insanely huge raw component orders, high priced transit warehouse space, underutilized cargo space on giant ships in perpetual motion, increasingly efficient component recycling and metals reclamation processes and all manner of e-waste regulations and complex incentive programs, it's possible to make enormous amounts of money in really counter intuitive ways.

      Done well, you get paid for taking excess off the hands of someone else, taking what you want from that excess then selling the remainder to someone else. Done only reasonably well, you still end up with shitloads of 'free' components. That leaves you with an R&D process that's really more of an undergrad electronics engineering final. All you've got to do is examine the possible configurations for your inventory, fill in any gaps by purchasing new components and dress it up nice.

      It's a pretty sweet deal, but the catch is in the fact the surplus repurposing model doesn't support feature level engineering. You're stuck with whatever you can squeeze out of the hardware you've got and can make function with the least amount of software development possible.

      Well, that got longer than I planned. My point, was that at the extreme end* of 'value product' manufacturing the 'standard' financial formulas aren't valid. As such, those extreme value products aren't developed using the 'standard' product design principles which are suited to 'standard' financial models. The nature of that beast demands you make choices that would be terminal in more expensive products.

      The upshots include the aforementioned cost reductions to your consumer electronics. Also advantageous, is the fact that manufacturing surplus and excess are now worth more repurposed than tossed in a big hole. It wasn't really all that long ago when nobody screwed around with millions of $.02 parts. You bought a warehouse in Iowa, shipped your excess there and never looked in there again. This new way is better.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    .. or like the iPhone 3GS

    an Ace of an obsolete misery.

  7. DuncanL

    Misreading of the title made me think of Marvin The Martian...

    "There's supposed to be an Earth shattering Kaboom!"

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: Misreading of the title made me think of Marvin The Martian...

      Marvin from Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

    2. Marvin the Martian

      Re: Misreading of the title made me think of Marvin The Martian...

      You're talking about that imposter, Marvin The Paranoid Android?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It runs jellybean"

    Wow Samsung take note. You've charged in some cases a lot more than 10X the amount and struggle to get Jellybean on your devices...

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: "It runs jellybean"

      Let me finish the sentence...

      It runs Jellybean... Like a dog!

      I thought it looked interesting, and having contacts in that part of the world, was thinking of getting one posted over... Until I saw the RAM... 256Meg... Sorry, not a chance! I've got an old HTC with more RAM than that, and even with a custom jellybean ROM and much tuning, it still struggles to do more than one thing at a time.

      Such a pity... With 512Meg it might have been worth a second look... With 1Gig I would have grabbed one on spec.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It may be cheap but

    Won't it have a direct feed of everything you do that end up in the Indian equivalent of the NSA?

    Getting a phone/sim card in india is a real PITA. IT can take a whole day and if you are a foreigner you need to nave an Indian citizen (from that state) to vouch for you. IMHO, This is all because of their paranoia of phones after the Mumbai railway bombings that were triggered by a phone. Therefore, it make sense that the Indian NSa/GCHQ will be instening in on all your calls just in case you are a terrorist.

    Anon because I'm off to Mumbai tomorrow. (I hate Mumbai airport but that's another story)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Available from China for a long time

    I'm not sure why this is a story. Go on ebay and you can buy pretty much identical specced phones for the same kind of money from China and that's been the case for a longgggg time.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Available from China for a long time

      You believe Chinese specs?

      I remember looking at a mobile battery a friend bought from ebay... It had a rated capacity of 2600mAh in the advert... When it arrived the label said 2400mAh... When it died shortly afterwards I pealed the labels off (I'm nosy like that), and underneath it had the original manufacturers spec... 1800mAh.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Available from China for a long time

        "original manufacturers spec... 1800mAh"

        So believe the Chinese manufacturer but not the resellers?

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: Available from China for a long time

          You think that two layers of reseller had undersold? ;-)

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge

      Re: Available from China for a long time

      Ah, but how much of the memory on these ebay special is actually free, and how much is taken up with preloaded spyware?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what would a non-smartphone cost?

    If it is possible to make a smartphone for £26, I'd like to know how much an ordinary phone would cost. GSM, voice only, no GPS tagging, some support for SMS, but simple, maybe with a swappable battery. Hell, not even dual SIM.

    I'd be very much interested where I could get one for less than that £26..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      £12 including delivery cheap enough for you?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2G + Edge?

    I read that as 2.5G (though some refer to edge as 2.75G.

  13. Greg 16

    Even cheaper

    Thats the price after tax, delivery, online seller fees and retailers profit!

    Kabonn is presumably making a profit too, so manufacturing cost is probably almost half the £26!

  14. Raj

    Kabonn... Karbonn... make up your mind which one to use. One of them is right, the other is wrong. If you get it wrong everywhere, it looks like you don't know. When you use both the right and wrong spellings, it looks like you're both clueless and lazy, which is worse.

  15. ian_from_oz

    The Chinese have had such phones for a while

    Earlier this year, I bought a Chinese 2G smart phone with a 4.7" touch screen for US $38. Being 2G, web surfing was really only practical on WLAN. Still, these phones have been around for a while. That being said, the relatively poor voice quality and the lack of 3G/4G means that the major players have nothing to fear in the short term.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Advertising Budget and Super profits.

    Read somewhere that Samsung have allocated $ 14 Billion (Yes 14 BBEEEEELLLION Dollars) for its advertising budget worldwide this year. Bulk of which will go to promote these shiny shiny portable thingies.

    Apple budget would also be running into billions.

    Where do you think they recover these very funds from ?

    You guessed right. By selling them at £ 600 plus to you and me. Or at an insane £ 35 to £ 45 deals per month. Rip off (sorry shakedown) to be repeated every six month with a very small incremental feature upgrade. You want a 16 gb version? That will be £ 100 more. Want one with replaceable battery ? Sorry, you will have to do it at our workshop for £ 50. Or better still, buy our new version. Upgrade fee, £ 100 plus.

    Lets check the sums.£ 600/ £26= £ 24. Do these big boys give you 24 times the phone ? Or experience? Didn't think so. It doesn't even give you a once in a lifetime blowjob.

    Don Jefe's posting up here sums it very succinctly.

    Well done Karbonn. Doing the right thing at the right pace ( and price), in India.

    Just too much is made out of the cliché "Customer Experience". Which is often dreadful. The term "screwing you twice over" comes to mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Advertising Budget and Super profits.

      Just wait till Samsung have made enough money and the price drops suddenly before the new model comes out. For instance, a Galaxy S4 Mini at full list price was poor value for money; at the £200 or less you can buy it for now, it's a bargain.

      Don't be an early adopter, and all is well.

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