We have seen how new Iphone shakes the market. How about low tech phones and how much a handset cab be cheap? Last year, I saw Bunnie’s blog post about a cheap $12 Gongkai handset from Mingtong Digital Mall in Shenzhen. Gongkai means “Open” in Chinese and it’s the term alternative of “Open Source”. Mingtong Digital Mall is one of the famous digital gadget’s malls from Shenzhen especially cheap and copy items. I wondered how these cheap handset could be sold in this low price when I saw his blog post.
I lived in Myanmar, yes a green land opened it’s door recently. The government released telecom sector and has given the two new operators, Telenor and Ooredoo. Just a clarification, some may don’t know how Myanmar telecom sector is squeezed before 2000. I bet you will wonder how much it will cost for a mobile SIM card before 2000. It was cost about $5000 (Please up your jaw, I am not kidding :D). In last decade, owning a mobile phone was a trade mark of being a “boss” in Myanmar. Most people used a public pay land lines phone booth in every sight of cites. Seem these will soon be a history. But for now, news operators are moving and it costs about only $1.5.
Have you ever seen people queuing for a cheap SIM card?
Yesterday, one of my colleagues showed me a GSM handset with a surprised price tag, 10000 MMK. It is about $10 (1$ = 986 MMK). I quickly checked specs and my curiosity leaded me to bought one. It is a normal low price GSM handset with basic functions. I saw many cheap China handset but non are not lower than $20. This is the cheapest handset I have ever seen. Note that Bunnie’s Gongkai Phone is $12 at China, main land but I bought my $10 phone from local retail shop from Mandalay, Myanmar. More surprising fact is that my friend told me wholesale price is >$9. If this is right, how much it will be the ground cost of these handset in it’ts origin, China!! Unbelievable. Here is my cheapo handset. It is just ordinary phone but specs are even a little higher than Bunnie’s phone come with a box, handset, a battery, charger and a hands free earpiece.
The spec and functions listed on the box,
- FM Radio
- Music Player
- Video player, recorder
- Multi languages
- 1.8″ Display
- Dual SIM (Dual standby) , Stereo Speaker (Really, only one Speaker), Games
The brand is Soloking and model is T176. I quickly searched google and searched more info. superfone.en.alibaba.com/product/1807438912-215027443/T176_1_8inch_soloking_china_mobile_phone_cheap_price_celulares.html
- Platform : coolsand 8851
- Operation System : Mstar
- Build in memory : 32+16 Mbt
- Frequency : GSM 900/1800 optional 850/9001800/1900
- Multi Media : MP3/MP4/3GP/FM Radio / Bluetooth Camera 0.3 Mega Pixels
- Multi Function Torch : Alarm ,Calendar ,Calculator ,Audio recorder ,Video recorder
- Flash Card Support : T-Flash Card Max support to 8GB
- Languages Multi language : Arabic,French,Turkish, Thai,Vietnam,Russian, English, Hindi, Indonesian, Spanish etc
I installed battery, SIM and power up the phone.
- It supports Java.
It even include Myanmar language support. Changed and tested it but some menu were not properly show :) .
Finally, I teared down to check how these cheapo was made.
Just removed 4 x small screws, everything disassembled.
Other are usual parts such as speaker, mic, SIM holder, SD slot, small camera, FM antenna and 2 x LEDs for torch. The phone is controlled by all in one chip. The back side Speaker housing is attached with multi-band antenna.
- LCD, this must be a friendly 1.8″ SPI TFT, LCD (ST7735 controller ) from hobby shop around the world. I even ordered these LCD from elecfreaks last a few months ago.
- There is a EMI shield which covered the chip but google infos and some partially label can able to guess me the main chip. It is RDA8851 from RDA Microelectronics, one of chip manufacturer from China. In short, it’s all in one chip which doo everything for phone such as baseband, interface, Bluetooth, FM, camera, Flash (32Mb build in), UART, SPI, I2C etc. Here is the links to chip datasheet.
- Firmware is Mstar from MStar Semiconductor, Taiwan . From Wiki , MStar is often referred as “Little-M” in Chinese community, as a contrary part of the bigger company “Big-M”, MediaTek.
- The only weakness of this phone (in comparable this price) is it’s charger. I also opened and checked the charger design. It voids all of safety rules. Manufacturer should include a more safe charger with a buck. The stock charger is one of the simplest and reduced version without any protection of it’s line. The design includes 13001 NPN Epitaxial Silicon Transistor, 1 IN4001 diode rectifier, small SMPS transformer, 5V zener, 3 capacitors and some resistors, that’s all. The output voltage is about 6V.
- First, I don’t expect much from this phone but the price is really amazed for me. It is a bare phone without no contract and unlocked. It exported from china to Myanmar. What will be local retail price and how much it can be lower?
- The cost of the phone is the parts and production costs plus a little export costs. There will be absolutely NO licensing, copy cats fee :) and seem no certification.
- Everybody talks about SAR. But I think the RDA chip can take care of this in a basic level. The package label state that SAR Head : 0.342 W/Kg(1g) and body : 0.429 W/Kg (1g).
- I know that designing a mobile phone is not that hard. I designed my own DIY mobile phone recently with a basic functions like this phone with the same LCD. Even LCD it self costs about $6.4 in some ebay retail shops. What will be the lowest bargain price of this LCD? (I believe the LCD must be the most value part in this phone. Any idea?)
- For the chip, I don’t know how much cost for this RDA chip in volume and in retail. Bunnie said that MT6250 chip from his Gongkai Phone in retail price is $2.1.
- If someone knows about these, let me know and also share your thought.
Again, it is not rocket science to build a mobile phone. This is my DIY GSM mobile phone prototype which I recently developed for fun and hobby. Some basic functions such as call, sms, GPS are done and still working for a complete prototype. But, you may not defeat China at least in quantity and cost :D. Thanks for visiting.