Orange preparing cut-price smartphone assault

With the smartphone market continuing to grow rapidly, Orange has revealed plans to launch up to four own-branded handsets this year aimed at smartphone first-timers.

Mobile with coins

Orange is to launch its own line of affordable Android-powered smartphones costing as little as 15 per month or 100 contract-free.

The mobile provider has already launched one such device the Orange Boston in Spain, where first-time Orange customers can pick one up for as little as 59.

Now Patrick Remy, head of Orange's devices arm, has confirmed that the move is part of a wider strategy to develop a range of affordable Orange-branded smartphones. And the first UK model isn't far away.

"We have seen a dramatic growth in smartphones," Remy told Mobile. "In 2009, 15 per cent of all [our] devices were smartphones and this will double in 2010 to one third of devices. We expect this figure to grow to 50 per cent by 2013."

Remy said key to maximising the potential of this growth was developing products at the lower end of the smartphone market that provided genuine appeal for those who would normally opt for a feature phone for cost reasons. "One of the key elements for success is we have not compromised on the quality. We are working on a handset for the UK this will launch in summer," Remy confirmed.

The Boston runs Android version 1.6, and features a 3.2in touch screen and smartphone staples such as Wi-Fi and GPS, a 5-megapixel camera, 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card slot.

It's not clear how similar the handset poised for release in the UK will be to the Boston, only that it will be made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei. However, it's not likely to differ greatly, and will also be powered by Android 1.6. The device is expected to go for around 15 per month on contract, or about 100 up front.

Remy added that a second Orange-branded Android handset made by ZTE would follow around August, with "up to four" devices in total penciled in for UK launch by the end of the year.

"We're really targeting the entry-level pay monthly contract customers," Remy said.

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