Over 70% of Indians are still on Java-powered feature-phones. But the rate at which this extra-large underbelly of the Indian mobile market upgrades to a smartphone might have got a big boost this week with the launch of the Firefox mobile OS in India. The two phones announced on this platform are well within the price range of feature-phones and at least 15% cheaper than the nearest Android competitor. A lot of feature-phone users who have been aspiring for smartphones that let them access the internet on larger touchscreens will soon start queuing up for these new devices. But, a lot of them will not, as well. That is because of the lack of confidence in smartphones, as far as their battery life and longevity are concerned. Feature-phone users generally stick on longer with their devices, often up to four years. That might not really be possible with a smartphone. They also have to consider the long-term cost of ownership, which will be higher for any smartphone, given that you will need an extra data plan to use it well.
This is why a lot of manufacturers and service providers will try and woo the first-time user with free data at least for the initial few months of their smartphone journey. The idea would be to get them hooked to the convenience of a connected smartphone as well as services like Google and WhatsApp to make them upgrade to a paid data plan when the freebies end. The manufacturers will all live with minute margins on these phones in the hope that when the time to upgrade comes a year or two down the lane, these users would choose to buy a costlier device, preferably from the same brand. While the ruse is that everyone is in the market to bring the next billion people online, there is of course the added advantage that these people will end up being the data hogging, service buying user of the future.