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Latest Smartphones Target Midtier Segment

NEW YORK — The smartphone market continues to grow, and from the looks of recent product introductions, the low- to midprice market offers the most growth opportunity for suppliers and retailers.

New LTE-equipped midprice Nokia, HTC and LG smartphones were unveiled or hit store shelves in recent days, including the LG G3 Beat, HTC Desire 610 and Nokia Lumia 635.

In a letter to employees outlining Microsoft’s plans for the Nokia business that it acquired, Microsoft executive VP Stephen Elop pointed to the potential of affordable smartphones. “In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest-growing segments of the market, with Lumia,” he said.

For its part, LG said its new G3 Beat targets “the growing low- to midtier segment of smartphone customers who want a great device that’s more compact but still powerful enough to run the most popular apps.” The device “represents our commitment to the midtier smartphone market that demands mature technology, proven branding, great innovation and attractive price, all in a single device,” added Jong-seok Park, president/ CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications.

The midtier focus coincides with U.S. carriers’ strategy to promote unsubsidized smartphones paid off in monthly installments.

U.S. smartphone shipments will rise 8 percent in 2014 to 163.5 million this year, CEA’s latest forecasts show. Wholesale dollars will rise 7 percent to $46 billion, CEA said.

For the midtier segment, here’s what various suppliers announced:

HTC: Beginning July 25, consumers will be able to order the 4G HTC Desire 610 from AT&T stores and the company’s web site, but an availability date wasn’t disclosed at press time. With postpaid service and no contract, the phone will cost $199. Consumers can also opt to pay in installments of $8.34/month under the AT&T Next 18 installment/ trade-up plan or $10/month with Next 12.

The no-contract prepaid-service Desire 610, sold with AT&T Go Phone prepaid service, will also cost $199.

The Desire features 4.7-inch FWVGA (480 by 854) Super LCD display with 199 ppi, front stereo speakers with built-in amplifier, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 4G LTE and HSPA+42Mbps, Wi-Fi b/g/n, 2,040 mAh battery, DLNA, 8GB storage and 64GB MicroSD slot.

LG: A smaller midtier variant of its flagship G3 smartphone targets growing demand by consumers who it says want the latest technology at a more attractive price. The LTEequipped LG G3 Beat, which features Android 4.4.2 OS, will make its debut on July 18 in South. U.S. availability wasn’t announced, nor were prices.

The device retains the G3’s floating arc metallic design with curved sides and gradually tapered edges for a more comfortable grip. It also retains the flagship’s laser autofocus technology and the back on/off and volume buttons.

The new model, however, features 5-inch 1,280 by 720 HD IPS display with 294 ppi compared with the G3’s 5.5- inch Quad HD 2,560 by 1,440 display. A thin-bezel design delivers a screen-to-body ratio of 74.1 percent, promoted as the highest in the midtier smartphone segment.

Other features include 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB memory, 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+21Mbps and MicroSD slot.

Nokia: AT&T is joining TMobile in offering the lowprice Nokia Lumia 635 smartphone, the first U.S.-market Lumia phone available out of the box with Windows 8.1 OS and the OS’s Cortana personal assistant.

Starting July 25, AT&T will offer the device at an initial launch price of $99 under its GoPhone prepaid program through AT&T-owned stores and AT&T’s website. It will come to national retailers and AT&T-branded stores operated by third parties “soon,” a spokesperson said.

Starting Aug. 8, the phone will be available in AT&T stores with AT&T’s postpaid plans at $139 with no annual contract through AT&T stores. It will also be available on that date for sale by national retailers that decide to carry it, a spokesman said.

The postpaid model will also be priced under the AT&T Next 18 installment-payment program for as little as $5.84 per month or only $7 per month under Next 12.

T-Mobile launched the phone at $0 down plus a monthly payment of $7 for 24 months with a postpaid Simple Choice plan.

Features include 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 4.5-inch 854 by 480 display with 221 ppi, 512MB RAM, 5-megapixel main camera, 8GB capacity, 128GB MicroSD slot, Bluetooth 4.0, and HSPA+42Mbps and LTE cellular.