Cheap Phone: The Vodafone 135

This weekend I bought a Vodafone 135 for ZAR 179 (24 USD).  The Feb 2009 press release for the 135 had this to say:

The Vodafone 135 is a candy bar style mobile designed to make mobile communications affordable in developing markets thanks to a short two line black and white display suitable for calls and texts. Its design makes it the most affordable phone of its kind on the market. It will be available in the summer in black in developing markets on pre-pay.

I bought it after hearing about the announce of the Vodafone 150 at the Mobile World Conference.  The 150 is currently the "cheapest mobile phone in the world", with an unsubsidised price of under 15 USD (111 ZAR), soon to be available in India, Turkey and parts of Africa, including South Africa.   Nokia, in one-upmanship will shortly be announcing a 10 USD phone to launch in rural India.  I think the 135 is a better-looking phone than the 150 - I like the flat buttons.  It does everything you expect from a 1999 Nokia "blockia", but refined by 10 years of hindsight in designing phone interfaces.
The commercial mission of the cheapest phone in the world is to bring in the next 500 million subscribers, win-win for the people who will at last have a means of communication... and banking - since the phones support mobile payments.  Watch for the M-Pesa mobile payment system to become the  bank with the most customers in the world.

The phones are going to be great for lot of people who never could afford them before.   But there's also tiny market for them as a backup phone for the few who live in one of the developing nations but own a smartphone.  Smartphones tend to have a short lifespan on the beach, in the mountains, at backpacker hostels, in the rear pocket of jeans, and at large events frequented by pickpockets.  Hence, I have bought myself a Vodafone 135 in lieu of paying much the same every month to insure my iPhone.

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