Thanks to subsidized pricing from cellular carriers, it's easy to forget how expensive smartphones really are. Sure, $200 for a subsidized high-end smartphone isn't chump change, but the full retail price of a Samsung Galaxy S5, for example, is $600.
That's mid-range computer money, which makes sense because smartphones are mid-range computers shrunk to a really small size. Now, imagine having to pay the full cost of a smartphone upfront for any smartphone.
For the iPhone 6, you'd pay $650. A phablet like the Galaxy Note 4 is between $800 and $900. Even an older smartphone like the Galaxy SII is in the $200 range.
You wouldn't be buying a smartphone every two years if that was the case. Of course, I've explained how paying upfront can save you money in the long run, but you need the money first.
In developing countries that don't have subsidized plans and people don't have a lot of cash, buying a smartphone is a big hurdle. That's why many manufacturers offer low-cost smartphones running Android.
Well, Google is throwing its hat in the ring.
Google has launched its new Android One project, which starts with a $105 smartphone. The smartphone has decent horsepower and runs the latest version of Android.
Unlike other manufacturers' offerings, Google is directly involved in Android One, which means the software will get regular updates and be sure to work well with the hardware. That isn't always the case with other smartphones - even in the U.S.
Google has partnerships with HTC, Acer and Panasonic to build more units, mostly at a similar price point. That should give first-time smartphone buyers plenty of options - in addition to smartphones already on the market.
Unfortunately, Android One won't be coming to America anytime soon. Right now, it's exclusive to India - the third largest smartphone-buying market after the U.S. and China. However, Google is going to expand the project to more of Southeast Asia soon.
Hopefully at some point, Android One will make its way to America. I can see it being a great starter phone, and I wouldn't mind having a consistent Google experience on smartphones. Right now, fragmentation of Android versions and phone hardware is one of Google's biggest obstacles.
Looking for a phone now? Be sure to read my smartphone buying guide.