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Qwerty phone line rides on mobile Internet, e-mail trends

Dual-SIM feature phones dominate the mainstream supply of QWERTY phones. Makers are eyeing multi-SIM, TV and Wi-Fi in forthcoming models.

The widening use of mobile communication systems that support Internet and e-mail functions is driving demand for QWERTY phones, which boast easier text input than regular keypad-based handsets. In China, the segment accounts for 30 percent of the total mobile phone output. The country’s production of such devices takes up about 60 percent of global supply.

QWERTY phone

The X23 model from T&T is a tri-SIM phone that supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

To address the requirements of the business and consumer sectors, China manufacturers of QWERTY phones are developing varieties with functions for professional and personal applications. The current selection includes GSM, CDMA and 3G models, most of which target the low-end and midrange markets.

GSM and CDMA types currently dominate China’s output in the line, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of total supply. Development of 3G versions remains slow because of the technology’s prohibitive cost and limited chipset options. The bulk of local companies in this segment are telecom carriers that have partnered with major mobile phone providers such as Nokia, Samsung, ZTE and Yulong to launch 3G handsets.

The majority of releases from China are feature phones with dual-SIM and TV functions. Tri- and quad-SIM versions also abound as the price difference between these and dual-SIM types continues to narrow.

T&T Industrial Development Ltd’s tri- and quad-SIM phones support quadband, TV and FM. The K180 model has a 2in screen, an FM radio, an MP3/MP4 player, a torch and a camera. It enables Bluetooth data transfer. The company will emphasize multi-SIM, TV and Wi-Fi connectivity in the next six months.

Several makers are optimistic sales of smartphones will grow rapidly in the next 12 months. Some offer versions with a touchscreen and sliding QWERTY keypad. Toyi International Co. Ltd plans to launch smartphones and quad-SIM Wi-Fi handsets within the year.

Product gallery

QWERTY phone

Toyi's model T010 quad-SIM/standby phone has dual camera, analog TV, FM radio, Bluetooth and Java functions.

QWERTY phone selections

Products from China support 900 or 1,800MHz GSM/CDMA or 3G, two to four SIMs and Bluetooth. These have a camera, an FM radio, an analog TV, an MP3/MP4 player, a video recorder and a memory card. Prices range from $20 to $200.

Low-end releases pack 1.5 to 2.4in LCDs, 1.3 or 2MP cameras, MP3/MP4 players, video recorders and FM radios. They support dual-SIM operation and Bluetooth.

Midrange variants incorporate a 2.4 to 3.5in touchscreen display, a 2 or 3MP camera, an MP3/MP4 player, a video recorder, an FM radio and an analog TV. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and G-sensor are enabled. Buyers likewise have the option to make these dual-, tri- or quad-SIM.

Upscale QWERTY phones exceed $100 and are often smartphone versions. Models adopt Android or Windows Mobile OS. Many have both touchscreens and sliding QWERTY keypads. Touchscreen sizes range from 2.8 to 4.3in, and camera resolution is either 3 or 5MP. The products also provide Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, TV, G-sensor and GPS functions.

China manufacturers employ chipsets from MediaTek and Spreadtrum. The QWERTY keypad does not have a significant impact on the final handset price as it costs almost the same as a regular one. Quotes differ based on the keypad material.

Makers expect rates of low-end and midrange phones to remain the same in the next six months, but those of upscale products will likely decrease.

QWERTY phone

The ST-W200 model from HK Sistel is a dual-mode/standby phone that operates on GSM and W-CDMA networks.

Exports & challenges in the QWERTY phone segment

China ships 80 percent of its QWERTY phones overseas, with South America and Southeast Asia as the major destinations. In the latter, Indonesia is the most active market.

Tightening competition is one of the main challenges China makers face. With the bulk of the 500 manufacturers in the line adopting the same chipsets, products are often similar in features and appearance. To break the homogeneity, some companies release models with value add-ons or target R&D efforts at a specific buying sector.

Designwise, manufacturers have to work around the limitations of the QWERTY layout. Compared with the regular keypad, the first has smaller keys, making it difficult for users with large fingers to manipulate the phone. It also requires a bigger space, resulting in wider handset styles.

These problems are preventing QWERTY phones from growing as rapidly as touchscreen units. Nevertheless, the line is still ahead of regular keypad handsets, the global share of which dropped to only 13.5 percent in 1Q10 from 37.2 percent in 1Q09.

QWERTY phone

The T006 model from HK Dream-Tech is a dual-SIM quadband phone with Wi-Fi or GPRS. It supports up to 8GB of microSD memory.

Hong Kong: QWERTY phone suppliers emphasize ergonomics, external design

Hong Kong’s supply of QWERTY phones is not as extensive as its yield of touchscreen handsets. Manufacturers typically carry only two models of the former.

Despite the relatively smaller selection, products pack 2 to 2.6in displays, trackballs and optional touchscreens. Quadband and -SIM versions are among the latest releases. Both GSM and CDMA variants are available, as are dual GSM+CDMA types.

Most handsets imitate the appearance of popular smartphones such as the BlackBerry. Some companies are developing designs that pay particular attention to ergonomics. The sliding keypad is an alternative to the bar form factor. A few flip-style versions are also in the product catalogs of several suppliers.

For added value, makers incorporate an analog TV tuner, dual cameras, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, multimedia player, sound/video recorder, G-sensor, FM radio and games. A microSD slot has become a mainstream feature. TV program recording is supported in select models.

Besides the exterior designs, many QWERTY phones from Hong Kong have almost identical features. This is because products are based on the same MediaTek or Hisilicon platforms. Some suppliers undertake differentiation through useful add-ons such as a LED flashlight or large-capacity battery.

Most models target value-conscious business users. Varieties with fancier designs and colors, however, are steadily being introduced to cater to a wider market. Pastel hues, including apple green, pink, red and purple, are taking the place of the ubiquitous glossy black finish. Decorative patterns are also screen- or laser-printed on the back of some units.

QWERTY handsets are among JSR Ltd’s best-selling smartphones. The Q92C and Q96 models are GSM and CDMA variants that support GPRS, WAP, MSN, push mail, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Wi-Fi/EDGE. Both handsets can also receive analog TV broadcasts. The T006 model is an entry-level version with Wi-Fi and TV.

HK Dream-Tech Electronic Co. Ltd specializes in OEM/ODM services for mobile phones, tablet PCs, MP3/MP4 players and GPS navigation devices. Its QWERTY phones are available in both sliding and bar styles.

Talent Telecom Technology Ltd is a worldwide distributor of branded smartphones and QWERTY handsets. Its best-sellers include the latest models from HTC, BlackBerry and Samsung.

QWERTY phone

HTC's Chacha model adopts Android 2.3.3 OS with HTC Sense graphic user interface. It also has a G-sensor, digital compass, proximity and ambient light sensor.

Taiwan: 3G phones lead supply

QWERTY phones from Taiwan manufacturers are increasingly being designed to replace mobile PCs. They come with keyboards and adopt Windows Mobile OS to cater to professionals on-the-go. New models use either Windows Mobile 7 or Android. Products released this year have Android 2.3.

3G communication is mainstream in variants from Taiwan suppliers. These consist of W-CDMA types.

Most development initiatives are aimed at delivering 4G. Makers provide units supporting WiMAX and LTE. Many companies are stepping up to 3D displays and dual-core CPUs. Enhanced camera resolution can also be expected from new varieties this year.

There are some Taiwan suppliers offering 3D phones, but the segment is in its infancy. 3D display for mobile handsets is new and still expensive, and may take two to three years to penetrate the mainstream. For small 3D panels, companies employ auto-stereoscopic technology that can be viewed with the naked eye.

With dual-core CPUs, the processor speed surpasses 1GHz, enabling quick handling of complex and multiple applications.

Social networking site connectivity is increasingly enabled in QWERTY phones from Taiwan. HTC’s ChaCha model has a Facebook button to link to the site with just one touch. Photo and video sharing is likewise enabled via a single button.

Digital TV reception is likewise enabled in most Taiwan-made handsets. This is complemented by MP3/MP4 playback, Facebook and YouTube, FM radio and Java games.

Entry-level models are equipped with a 1.3 or 2MP camera and sub-3in display. Dual-SIM and -standby versions are available.

High-end varieties support dual cameras for both video conferencing and digital camera functions. The resolutions are 5 to 8MP for still photo and video playback, and up to 720p for HD video recording.

The latest upscale releases are designed with multimedia features and multitouch screens to follow current trends. A few touchscreen variants boast 3in or larger displays to match HTC Desire Z’s 3.7in screen.

Models with 2.6in and smaller LCDs, and 2MP still camera resolution start at $30. Such units have dual- or tri-SIM operation, touchscreens, TVs, FM radios, stereo speakers, MP3/MP4 players, dual cameras and Bluetooth.

Variants with dual-mode 3G and GSM exceed $70. Those with Wi-Fi connectivity are more expensive. Products in the high end are equipped with 5MP cameras.

QWERTY phone

Product gallery

HK Sistel Technology Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: ST-X9
Description: Dual-SIM, -standby; MTK6253 IC; 900/1,800MHz GSM; 2.2in LCD, QCIF; AVI, 3GP, MID, WAV, AAC; maximum 2GB TransFlash; MP3/MP4 player, analog TV, dual cameras, flashlight, motion sensor, speaker

QWERTY phone

HK Sistel Technology Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: ST-X8
Description: Tri-SIM, -standby; MTK6253 IC; 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM; 2.2in LCD, QCIF, nine square icons; MP3, MPEG-4, AVI, 3GP, MID, WAV, AAC; up to 2GB TransFlash; dual cameras with flashlight, analog TV, FM radio, MP3/MP4 player; WAP, STK, Bluetooth

QWERTY phone

MobilMax Technology Inc.

Model: C726
MOQ: 3,000 units
Description: 800/1,900MHz CDMA; 2in TFT LCD; microSD memory extension; 300,000-pixel camera, speaker, MP3/MP4 player; Bluetooth; WAP, SMS, MMS, Facebook/MSN, FM, Java; 3.5mm jack; 1,000mAh battery; multilanguage; 114x58x12.9mm; red, black

QWERTY phone

T&T Industrial Development Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: K180
MOQ: 100 units
Price: $28
Description: Tri-SIM, quadband; ZXL solution; 850/900MHz GSM, 1,800MHz DCS, 1,900MHz PCS; 2in screen; up to 4GB TransFlash; TV, FM radio, MP3/MP4 player, torch, camera; Bluetooth, GPRS, WAP; 4-language support; 110x58x13.8mm; 65g; in black, white, red, pink, purple or blue

QWERTY phone

Toyi International Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: T012
Description: Quad-SIM, -standby;
MTK6253 IC; 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM; 2.31in widescreen display, QVGA; 128+64MB built-in memory, TransFlash card; FM radio, analog TV, dual cameras with flashlight, MP3/MP4 player, torch; Bluetooth, WAP, GPRS; USB; 400min talk, up to 500hr standby time; multilanguage support; loudspeaker; 109x60x12.9mm

QWERTY phone

Vanprasth Corp.

Model: WG702
Description: Dual-SIM; MTK6268 CPU; W-CDMA+GSM dual-mode, 2,100MHz UMTS, 900/1,800 or 850/1,900MHz GSM; 2.4in display, QVGA, optional touchscreen; TransFlash card; MP3/MP4 player, FM radio, 3D stereo speaker, e-book reader, voice recorder, photo display, calendar, alarm, note, stopwatch, games; dual Bluetooth; 106.8x60.8x11.9mm; 90g

Note: This article "Qwerty phone line rides on mobile Internet, e-mail trends" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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