LG’s KS360 hits the high street in the UK this month with a price tag that I think will ignite sales of qwerty phones to consumers. The phone (pictured on the left) comes in a choice of three finishes — blue, pink and black — that will appeal to younger users. The phone packs in a tremendous number of features, including a touch screen, two-megapixel camera and a full qwerty keypad. Orange is offering all this for less than £60 plus a £10 top-up.
The KS360’s touch screen makes it seem like a much more expensive device, akin to the iPhone (which costs £350 on a prepaid tariff in the UK). Its qwerty keypad gives it an advantage over phones with only touch screens or numeric keypads. It makes typing quicker, especially when it comes to the colloquial phrases of young users, which generally aren’t in predictive dictionaries. All in all, I think the KS360 provides a lot of bang for your buck.
But it’s the phone’s social networking features that I think will catch people’s eye and really set the phone apart from rival handsets. LG is using social networking as a sales hook — Web access to Facebook, Bebo and MySpace is included in monthly top-ups on Orange. Social networking is now as essential to some people as a cup of tea in the morning. People regularly check up on their friends and contacts, dipping in and out to kill time. So a phone that combines social networking with an easy way to enter text might be a winner.
Other manufacturers, such as RIM, have already made major inroads in the consumer qwerty market. We think the BlackBerry Pearl may become the company’s first prepaid phone. RIM has already used social networking to boost its appeal, registering over 2.5 million downloads of its Facebook application since October 2007. Facebook has also proved popular on the iPhone, with 1 million downloads in 15 days via Apple’s App Store. And Nokia’s E71 has been positioned as a consumer device by many European mobile network operators because its e-mail features give it mass-market appeal.
I predict we’ll see a lot more qwerty phones for consumers in the run-up to Christmas. This might be an area where original design manufacturers do well with low-priced alternatives to their high-tier competitors. As we’ve said before, it’s social networking that will grab people’s attention and create demand for what used to be niche phones.
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