Samsung's Bada aims to bring apps to all

New mobile phone platform is designed to bring iPhone-like apps to cheaper smartphones. So, what's the catch?

Samsung has revealed a bit more about Bada, a new mobile phone platform that's supposed to bring apps to cheaper smartphones.

Bada will include a lot of the features you'd expect in a smartphone, such as motion and proximity sensors, accelerometers, face detection, and location-based services. Bada-based phones will focus on apps, and Samsung, like so many others, is trying to attract app developers with openness and flexibility. It's worth noting that Samsung will allow apps to control the dialer, send messages, and access contact lists. These are the kinds of features you see in, say, the iPhone.

But Bada phones will not be like the iPhone. Samsung calls it a "smartphone for everyone," in essence bringing the app-centric mentality of high-end smartphones down a notch to cheaper feature phones. The manufacturer believes there's a market for that, citing its own survey that found 42 percent of feature phone users willing to pay for apps, and 54 percent of those people saying they'd pay up to 5 Euros (roughly US$7) for apps.

So far, Bada has attracted some heavy hitters, particularly in gaming. Electronic Arts, Capcom, and Gameloft (developer of Ubisoft-licensed games, among others) will release games on the platform. Twitter and Blockbuster are also getting involved in Bada.

What's the catch? Samsung hasn't announced any phones yet, but I doubt Bada phones will be as desirable as high-end smartphones. Still, it's too early to judge. But in the United States, I see one potential snag: Any phone that consumes a lot of data, including Samsung's existing Omnia phones, is subject to the same US$30 or more for monthly data as high-end phones such as the iPhone and the Droid.

At that point, is downgrading worthwhile? If you want apps, you can get an iPhone or Droid Eris for UA$100, and Palm's Pre or Pixi for even less. At least then, you're getting proven app platforms instead of a fledgling one.

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Jared Newman

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