Mobile World Congress opened today in Barcelona, and much of the attention was on the low end of the smartphone market. My colleague Kevin Tofel (among many journalists) covered the launch of Nokia X, the Finnish manufacturer’s lineup of Android-based handsets that start at roughly $120. Mozilla announced a partnership with the Chinese fabless semiconductor company Spreadtrum aimed at bringing Firefox OS handsets to market with a price point as low as $25. And Business Insider picked up on a tweeted photo of an Android smartphone from a Chinese vendor that is already selling for $35.
This isn’t a brand-new trend, of course: While the iPhone and Samsung have come to dominate the high end of the market, competition has been heating up for months in mature regions (like North America and Western Europe) as feature phone-owning holdouts finally move to more sophisticated handsets and as smartphone sales surge in emerging markets. Manufacturers will increasingly have to accept razor-thin margins in these ultra-competitive markets, but plenty of opportunity exists for vendors and OS providers whose top priority is simply grabbing market share.