Technology

Made-in-Malaysia Android phone for under RM500

By A. Asohan

February 21, 2012

The DMD Android Smartphone Communicator, also called the M3 Communicator, comes with a built-in Near Field Communications chip that would allow it to act as a contactless smartcard and electronic wallet, amongst other applications.

The company is aiming at pre-paid users who find the entry price of smartphones of between RM1,000 and RM2,000 a serious barrier. To sweeten the deal, RM10 per month will give users unlimited chat, instant messaging and email.

“To be honest, we are not looking at those who already own a Blackberry or smartphone, but at those who find the typical RM2,000 entry point and RM60 per month data plan as being beyond their means,” said Herve Jegou, DMD Mobile founder and chief executive officer.

“We are very focused on bringing innovation to the people, and an innovation that is only available to 10 per cent of the people is meaningless,” he added.

He said that users of the M3 Communicator would also be able to download and use Android apps as they would with any other Android smartphone. DMD Mobile has also designed a streamlined user interface that it claimed was simpler and allowed users to get to their social networks much more easily with unified messaging.

“We are not about selling the device, but about the user experience. We want to give Malaysians 80-90 per cent of the Blackberry or iPhone experience at 30 per cent of the cost,” Jegou said.

The M3 Communicator is a 3.75G phone with support for GPS (Global Positioning System), WiFi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0. It will be on the latest Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) platform by June-July, which would mean even faster speeds, said Jegou.

He also said that two Malaysian mobile operators have already come on board to offer the devices to their customers. However, he declined to name them, adding that an announcement would be made before the M3 Communicator becomes commercially available in April.

The company will launch the product globally at the Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona from Feb 27 to March 1, where it will also be in discussions with foreign operators to roll out the phone in other countries.

DMD Mobile executive chairman Datuk Dr Mohammed M. Daud said that the company had already sealed an agreement with a mobile operator in Sri Lanka, which will be rolling out the M3 Communicator there in May.

“We will be looking at other markets in South Asia and the Middle-East,” he said, adding that DMD Mobile was confident of shipping a total of 100,000 units in all markets by the end of the year.

Dr Mohammed was also confident enough to believe that the next market the company should tackle is the BlackBerry stronghold of Indonesia. “The population of more than 220 million is a serious consideration,” he added.

The device will be manufactured by a third-party which DMD Mobile again declined to name, pending a later announcement.

Deputy Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Datuk Joseph Salang, who officiated at the launch, commended the company for bringing the latest innovations to the greater Malaysian market.

He said the Malaysian Government has launched many initiatives to provide and promote greater communications access and connectivity to the people, citing community broadband centres and libraries as well as the building of 1,000 telecommunications towers in rural areas as examples.

“However, this is only one part of the equation,” he said. “The other is getting the rakyat (citizenry) to own and use these devices … and this where the M3 Communicator will play its role — as a device that is affordable to everyone.”

Near Field Communications or NFC – not to be confused with a certain cattle project – is a form of contactless communications between devices such as smartphones and tablets. It builds on radio-frequency (RFID) technology to allow two-way communications, unlike earlier systems that only enabled one-way communications.

With an NFC-enabled phone, a user could pay for a drink at a vending machine by just waving his device over the machine, assuming it too is NFC-enabled. It could also function much in the same way Touch ‘n’ Go cards and SmartTAGs do.

It can also enable location-based services (LBS) — users who walk into a department store could, for example, receive time-sensitive discount coupons on their phones that can be redeemed immediately.

“We have signed up with a company that already has thousands of merchants under its banner, and when the M3 Communicator becomes available in Malaysia in April, each device will come pre-loaded with RM1,000 worth of coupons,” Jegou said.

Again, he declined to name the company, pending a later announcement.

For more on what NFC devices can do, see here.

* A.Asohan is co-founder and executive editor of Digital News Asia, a digital publication covering the ICT ecosystem that will go live in April.