It's Time for the CloudFone

POSTED Oct 10, 2013 08:35

We live in interesting times. Just a few years ago, having a qwerty keyboard on your cel was all the rage. That time became the era of the smartphone – device that acts almost like your own personal digital assistant storing schedules, appointments, music, video and a few social networking tools. Feature phones that could do only voice calls and text messages via SMS still had an audience and in a way, these two types of consumer products co-existed side-by-side despite looking like the days of the numeric keypad were, well, numbered.

Then the iPhone entered the scene. With its clear glass touchscreen surface and minimal physical buttons, it was basically just an interface. And an expensive one at that. Rival companies scrambled to replicate that device's huge success. Similar touchscreen smartphones started to appear, taking advantage of the networking data services that telcos desperately wanted people to use. The only problem was, everything was still too expensive. You couldn't get a decent touchscreen phone for less than P15k. Less costing qwerty smartphones and feature phones still had their audience.

Then something happened. Just a little under a year ago, touchscreen smartphones from smaller companies began to appear. Affordable ones being sold under the P10k mark. Suddenly you couldn't turn around anywhere without seeing people sliding their fingers across a glass surface as they chose their music, posted to Facebook and Twitter, surfed the internet, watched a movie in their seats or played a game of Angry Birds. The touchscreen smartphone was quickly becoming the standard for everyone across all markets.

How did it come to this?

One word: Data. According to Eric Yu, president of PhoneCo Mobile Technologies Inc., an affordable touchscreen smartphone with the right data services to encourage and excite customers to use them is the key. And as the phone or handset changes, so do the people who will move on to the device that can satisfy their data service needs.

"Consumer usage of mobile phones is shifting,” says Yu. “Voice and SMS usage has gone down and data usage has gone up. This is happening around the world because of the messaging platform, better user experience and all the things a smartphone can do."

Because of low usage, local data rates were still a bit expensive. Yu already knew, for that to come down, something had to change to make telcos embrace lower priced data services for their customers. He explains, "Last year when we started, data was really, really expensive. One of the most expensive data rates in South East Asia is the Philippines. Looking forward, we knew data prices would eventually come down. In Indonesia, competition eventually drove the data prices down. Therefore, usage went up. The thing was, there was no point for the telcos to reduce data rates last year because there weren’t enough phones in the market to take advantage of the data."

The challenge became how to convert feature phone users to use data services and have qwerty phone users to ditch their handsets in favor of touchscreen smartphones. Lowering the cost of a touchscreen smartphone was the solution.

Enter the CloudFone Thrill 430x. At a retail price of P7,777, this is an affordable-priced touchscreen smartphone making full use of the powerful Android 4.0 (ICS) operating system. A few bullet points to consider about this phone is its 4.3” IPS qHD capacitive touchscreen which delivers amazing image quality on the display. Another is its 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash at the back. More importantly, you should take notice of its battery – a 4160mAh polymer battery beast that can power the phone for, at most, three days. Yu adds, “It is the biggest battery in the world for a smartphone.”

Including the Thrill 430x, there are eight different CloudFone touchscreen phones made available by PhoneCo in two series. All affordable and all under the P10k range. There's the Excite lineup with phones such as the 320e, 350e, 350g and 350i with a price range from P2,999 to P3,999. In the Thrill series is the 400g, 430g, 430x and 500g ranging in price from P4,999 to P7,777. All are Android phones. “The Excite series is for the budget conscious. Meanwhile the Thrill is where the screen size gets bigger, the specs get higher and that’s for the more sophisticated user,” Yu explains. Before the year ends he promises that his company will bring in an additional five new models to the series all still priced under P10k.

Another special feature to the CloudFone devices is that all of them are dual-sim. You can have two different networks residing inside the phone on dual-standby mode. You'll never miss a call again. The Thrill 430x benefits from a 1.2GHz Snapdragon Dual Core processor and 4 gigabytes of ROM plus 768 megabytes of RAM. All this means is virtually all apps run fast and smooth on the 430x without a hitch. Surf and download using the WiFi or your network connection using the many data services now made easily accessible. Storage can be upgraded to 32 gigabytes to store all your videos, music and other important data.

Yu says that having the polymer battery was highly important, "The reason why we came up with the 430x is, we looked at the user and said, 'Yes, it is a smartphone but your battery dies after three or four hours.' What do the consumers do? They turn off the GPS, WiFi, data connection, everything. So, it becomes a smartphone-looking feature phone. Our goal is to say, ‘Turn on everything, watch a movie – watch three movies – and you'll still be OK with the battery.' We went the extra mile in having a polymer battery to make sure it’s of good quality that, even if you charge with 50 or 30 percent usage it would still keep the battery good for a long time. The battery is useful for tethering because you can keep it on for a long time."

The era of the touchscreen phone is here. What's more important, though, is that the technology is made available to the mass market, no longer confined to high-end users and the privileged. The CloudFone Thrill 430x is a shining example of that. These are interesting times, indeed.

CloudFone currently has sales exhibits and pop stores at the Glorietta activity center, SM Cebu and SM Clark and is also available at Office Warehouse in Rockwell. CloudFones are also available at kiosks located in Starmall Mandaluyong and Central Mall, Binan, Laguna.

Nationwide, the CloudFone 430x is available at – GMA: Anson's Hello, Bluelite, Jr. MX, Officewarehouse; North Luzon: Wow Mobile, G2 mobile Mountain Studio; Central Luzon: Savers Appliance, Cellshoppe; South Luzon: Presnet, Viewers, Avicom; Visayas: RC goldline, Save n Earn; and in Mindanao at: Mobile Networks, Ytelcom, Touch n Send, Country Phone, Cell Exchange, BCS, Citiexpress, and iHop.