Samsung's Galaxy Ace 3 underscores LTE's burgeoning move to simpler phones

LTE smartphone prices are expected to come down in price faster than 3G models did, according to analyst

Though Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Ace 3 is a fairly basic smartphone, it nevertheless includes LTE, highlighting how the technology is making its way to simpler and cheaper devices.

Users generally have to pay a high price to get an LTE smartphone or tablet, but costs are coming down thanks in part to growing volume, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at market research company Strategy Analytics.

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The Galaxy Ace 3 is an example of how LTE is spreading from the high-end segment of the smartphone market. Buyers of its predecessor, the Galaxy Ace 2, had to make do with HSDPA. But this time Samsung will release two different versions -- 3G or LTE and 3G.

The LTE implementation works on the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz bands.

The 3G version is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor while the LTE version's processor has the same number of cores, but working at 1.2GHz. The latter also has more storage -- 8GB compared to 4GB, of which 5GB and 1.77GB will be available to users. The storage can on both devices be expanded with a microSD card.

They run Android 4.2, which can be viewed on a 4-inch screen with a 800 x 480 pixel resolution. The shared part of the spec sheet also includes a 5-megapixel camera and a number of Samsung's own software features, including Smart Stay. The feature recognizes when a user is looking at the phone and saves battery life by dimming the screen when a user looks away.

Samsung is not saying what the two versions will cost, but the specs hint at low price tags. The 3G Galaxy Ace 2 could on Monday be purchased for about £160 ($250) without a contract on Amazon.co.uk. No date has been given for the Ace 3 release.

LTE smartphone prices are expected to come down in price faster than 3G devices did, thanks to operators that are really keen to push LTE right now, according to Marina Koytcheva, director of forecasting at CCS Insight.

CCS estimates that 48 million LTE-enabled phones were shipped to Western Europe and North America in 2012. That number will jump to 168 million in 2013, it said in a new forecast on Monday.

Mawston expects that wholesale prices for the cheapest LTE smartphones will drop to below $200 by the end of the year, with Korean and Chinese vendors competing.

At the beginning of May there were 175 LTE networks around the world, and that number is expected to increase to 248 by the end of the year, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com.

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