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Summary:

Previously obscure manufacturers are making Windows Phone hardware.

blu-5-inch-windows-phone_story

Microsoft VP Nick Parker presented a bunch of new Windows Phones from “trusted Microsoft partners” such as Blu, Prestigo, Yezz and InFocus at the Computex trade show on Wednesday. You’ve probably never heard of some of these companies before. Who are these phone makers?

A few months ago, Microsoft decided to waive the Windows Phone licensing fee. It was a major change in strategy, meant to entice smaller handset makers to embrace the platform and hedge against Nokia’s dominance of the market. By making the mobile license free, Windows Phone becomes cost-competitive with Google’s Android. Before, it reportedly cost between $20 and $30 per phone to license the mobile operating system.

It’s not hard to become a Windows Phone OEM — you can even sign up online. This means we’re going to be seeing a lot of low-cost phones from previously unknown companies.

The first two manufacturers to get favorable Windows Phone licensing terms were Indian phone makers whose devices are not coming to the United States. But some of the devices announced yesterday at Computex are headed stateside. An introduction to Microsoft’s new OEM partners:

PSP8500DUO

Company: Prestigio, a subsidiary of ASBIS

Year founded: 1990, but started making phones under the Prestigio brand in 2011

Headquartered in: Limassol, Cyprus

Announced Windows Phones: Microsoft announced the Multiphone 8500 DUO and the 8400 DUO. The 8500 DUO is the higher-end of the pair, with a 5-inch 720p display and a quad-core 1.2 GHz processor. The release doesn’t specify who makes the chip, but at the moment, Windows Phone 8.1 only works with Qualcomm — not MediaTek, which dominates the inexpensive Android chip market. The 8400 DUO only has a 4-inch, 480 x 800 screen, but has the same processor and rear camera as its more expensive brother. Both handsets can take two SIM cards, which is nice for people who cross borders on a regular basis. Although neither handset has LTE support, both include quad-band HSPA+ radios. The 8500 DUO will is $235 USD and the 8400 will cost $115. Both prices are for an unlocked phone.

Coming to the U.S.? Nope, these phones are headed to Europe exclusively in July.

Who manufactures these phones? Taiwan-based Gigabyte.

Makes Android phones too? Yes.

Fun fact: Prestigio also offers a full line of dash cams.

blu-5-inch-windows-phone_story

Company: Blu Products

Year founded: 2009

Headquartered in: Miami, Florida

Announced Windows Phones: The render shown above is a 5-inch handset, but few details about it are available. We don’t know the processor or the price, although these are mid-to-low end phones. The render does look similar to one of Blu’s Android handsets, the Dash 5.0, which has a 5-inch 480 x 854 display, dual-SIM support, and a 1.3 GHz MediaTek processor.

Coming to the U.S.? Yup. According to Microsoft, these will be available in the United States and Latin America.

Who manufactures these phones? Blu describes itself as a “mobile manufacturer,” but we don’t know who they contract to assemble the devices. Update: Commenter realjjj points out Blu has been rebranding a lot of Gionee phones recently, and looking at the specs, it’s completely plausible.

Makes Android phones too? Blu sells a full line of Android phones.

Fun fact: Currently, the Blu products website only has two mobile categories: Android phones and Feature phones. That will soon be changing. Blu Products hashtags just about every single one of its tweets with #blu.

Not a Windows Phone, this is the current Flagship In Focus Android smartphone, the IN810

Not a Windows Phone, this is the current Flagship InFocus Android smartphone, the IN810

Company: InFocus

Year founded: 1986

Headquartered in: Tigard, Oregon

Announced Windows Phones: There wasn’t a specific device launched. Rather, the announcement was that InFocus is now an OEM partner for Microsoft. The handset displayed on stage measured 5 inches. Parker said InFocus will be producing LTE devices, which is a change from the other cheap HSPA+ Windows Phone handsets launched at Computex. InFocus currently makes a range of Android phones, including more expensive devices with Qualcomm processors, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it launch a flagship-style Windows Phone in China.

Coming to the U.S.? Most likely not; InFocus is focused on becoming a top mobile brand in Taiwan and China. Infocusphone.com is not available in English.

Who manufactures these phones? InFocus handsets are assembled by FIH Mobile, which is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn.

Makes Android phones too? Yes.

Fun fact: Yup, it’s the same company that made your projector back in the 90s. Pivot!

yezz-billy-4.7

Company: Yezz, which is the mobile brand for DDM Brands

Year founded: 2011

Headquartered in: Miami, Florida

Announced Windows Phones: Two phones, known as the “Billy” line — a little branding joke considering Yezz’s “Andy” Android line. (If Andy is named after Andy Rubin, then Billy must be named after Bill Gates.) The Billy 4.7 has a 4.7-inch 720P screen, and like the other Windows Phones announced on Wednesday, it’s powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor. There is no LTE support but you can get HSPA+. It’ll cost $250. The Billy 4 has a 4-inch display, naturally, as well as downgraded cameras, and will cost $139.

Coming to the U.S.? Yes. Sold exclusively through Amazon in the states and widely available in Latin America this summer.

Who manufactures these phones? Here’s a tour through what DDM calls its own factories in Shenzen, China.

Makes Android phones too? Yup, including a 6-inch Android phone that retails for $325.

Fun fact: The company refers to people who have a Yezz phone as “youzers.” The founder, Luis Sosa, who has been called a Venezuelan Steve Jobs, used to work at Blu Products before founding DDM.

At the very least, Microsoft’s free mobile operating system gambit has attracted the attention of low-cost OEMs that previously only made Android handsets. Considering the future of Windows Phone is in the lower end of the market, it seems to be a very successful move. Don’t worry — if you’d like a premium phone from a company you’ve heard about, Microsoft’s got you covered there, as well. At the same keynote, Parker promised a new HTC phone: “Microsoft will continue to have a great relationship with HTC. New things are coming.”

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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6 Comments

  1. Blu has been rebranding a bunch of models lately, mostly from Gionee but not only.
    And you shouldn’t assume that “Microsoft’s free mobile operating system gambit has attracted the attention of low-cost OEMs that previously only made Android handsets. “. M$ has the bad habit of buying it’s way in.

    1. Thanks for the Gionee info… was trying to figure that out but a lot of the info about white label handsets is in foreign languages, of course.

      And yeah, I agree, Microsoft is a company of deal makers. Providing its operating system for free is kinda buying its way in, even if they’re not making cash payments, (which they totally could be doing!)

      1. Stephen McAteer Jr. Kif Leswing Wednesday, June 4, 2014

        Well, making Windows Phone free they just made it cheaper than using Android, which has patent licenses to worry about.

        1. That they pay a lot of to Microsoft.

  2. But its Winphone blahhh, does it really even matter?

  3. Thank you for the article. Yezz mobile is now available in the United States thru indirect distribution. Blu Products have been the top GSM product line in multi-carrier doors the past year but it looks like Yezz will over throw them if they can get the word out. Would you know of any other unlocked GSM companies that are big in Latin America?