An anonymous reader writes "Just when people got used to good smartphones costing $200 with a 2-year contract, they also started to realize that those 2-year contracts were bad news. Still, it's often more palatable than fronting $600 for good, new hardware. But that's starting to change. Cell phone internals are getting cheap enough that prices for capable devices have been creeping downward below $200 without a contract. We ran into something similar with the PC industry some years back — previous-gen chips had no trouble running next-gen software (excluding games with bleeding-edge graphics), and so the impetus to keep getting the latest-and-greatest hardware disappeared for a lot of people. That revolution is underway now for smartphones, and it's going to shake things up for everybody, including Apple and Samsung. But the biggest effects will be felt in the developing world: '[F]or a vast number of people in a vast number of countries, the cheap handset will be the first screen, and the only screen. Their primary interface with the world. A way of connecting to the Internet where there are no telephone lines or coaxial cables or even electricity. In nations without subsidized cell phone contracts or access to consumer credit, the $50-and-you-own-it handset is going to be transformative.'"
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