Last month I wrote about how Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt believes that only the privileged 1 billion in the world’s population have access to smartphones but due to rapidly decreasing technology costs, more people than ever before will have access to smartphones and information. He believes that, armed with information, these people will be able to “change the world.”

Now Google ironically built the Android OS as an open platform for other developers and device manufacturers to take advantage of. Currently they offer their own Galaxy Nexus smartphone. But like everything else Google inspired, Baidu has plans for their own low priced smartphone. Into Mobile has reported that Baidu is gearing up to launch its own custom 3.5 inch Android ROM smartphone running on an adapted OS called Baidu Yi for US$160 or 1,000 RMB. Like many other technology products including Apple, Guangzhou based Foxconn will manufacture the Baidu Yi Phone.  There has been no news of the release date.

Strangely, Baidu themselves are not the first to release their own Baidu Yi smartphone. We reported back in February, that the Dell Streak Pro D43 was the first. Note the picture above is this model and not the Baidu to be released model.

Although Google may have the vision to bring affordable smartphones to the masses to “change the world”, it is their Chinese counterpart, Baidu, who may really have the capability to execute it. As more than 1/5th of the world population lives in China, and as China still is a developing country that houses much of the world’s ‘under-privileged’; who better than a Chinse company with cost competitiveness to take on the task of delivering affordable smartphone’s to the masses?

Of course, this low end Android smartphone market is attracting many of the big boys in China technology. It definitely makes sense given the massive market size of China’s blue collar population, yearning for a taste of the smartphone revolution. In February, we reported about the potential merger between Aliyun, a cloud computing subsidiary of Alibaba to merge with K-Touch, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer. Xiaomi also launched their Android phone last October for 1,999RMB or US$313 or double what Baidu is set to sell for. In a more international approach, Huawei is targeting African countries like Kenya with US$80 smartphones. This could really be the new ‘smart-rush’.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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  1. Just FYI, $160 doesn’t really count as ‘low end’ for Android – not when you can buy handsets from the MTK ecosystem at $70 wholesale. 

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