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Following through on a promise made in April, Orange is leading the charge to put Android smartphones into the hands of budget users.

It plans a range of affordable devices, including its so-called 'Boston' device, which will cost only $2 upfront with a low end contract, and will be targeted at the carrier's growing presence in Africa. But it is starting its low end push in Europe, with its first handset in its 'A-brand' class, made by LG.

Other products will follow from Huawei, ZTE and Gigabyte, among others, all branded by the operator. "At the beginning of 2010 15% of our portfolio was smartphones. This will rise to 30% by the end of the year, and will be 50% by 2013," Patrick Remy, Orange's VP of devices, told TotalTelecom. This reflects how the smartphone - any handset with a full operating system open to developers and a browser - is becoming a mass market item.

Sponsor banner The LG device has not been described in detail but is likely to make its debut in France and other European territories in the summer, targeting prepaid users and low end contracts. Remy has also demonstrated the Boston, which is made by Gigabyte and will launch in June in Spain, Austria, Slovakia and Romania. It features a full browser, touchscreen, Wi-Fi, GPS and 5-megapixel camera. In Spain, it will be offered free with a €20-a-month contract that includes 100Mb of data.

Boston would be about €120 for prepaid users, about half the price of current low end smartphones such as HTC Tattoo or Huawei Pulse for T-Mobile. The carrier's aim is to get more people using multimedia services and, over time, push them to upgrade their data plans or purchase more premium content. Orange expects to extend the strategy to other operating systems, like Symbian and Windows, once low cost devices appear.

Vodafone has also been rolling out low cost smartphones under its own label, running Symbian, LiMO or Android.

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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