Karbonn Mobile isn't a name that springs to mind when you consider budget smartphone manufacturers, but in its native India, it's kind of a big deal.
The company commands 13 per cent of the Indian smartphone market and has partnered with Google on bringing the Android One standard to the developing world. Now it has its sights set on the UK's budget smartphone market with four handsets prepped to arrive over the next few months.
The first of these is the Karbonn Mobile Sparkle V, the company's 4.5-inch Android One flagship. It launches exclusively on Amazon today and is discounted to £99 for two of the retailer's Black Friday Lightning Deals.
Away from the Black Friday discount, the 3G-only Sparkle V stands at £129 and comes with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 4.5-inch 854 x 480 display, 1GB RAM and 5MP rear-facing camera. The hardware is identical to the version sold in India and, as such, supports dual SIMs and a microSD card.
Although the Sparkle V launches with Android KitKat, its status as an Android One handset means Android 5.0 Lollipop is imminant. Karbonn says the OTA update will arrive between mid-December and the first week of January.
"The OS is starting to supercede the manufacturer in some cases, so the partnership with Google will definitely help the brand," Deborshi Sarkar, head of sales at Karbonn's parent company Santok, told TechRadar.
"That being said, we definately plan to get Karbonn out there as a mobile manufacturer. We want to be the leader in affordable smartphones."
Sarkar optimistically predicts that Karbonn can manage a 4 or 5 per cent UK market share in 12 to 18 months.
"We will launch [the Sparkle V] in retail in Q1  as well as a 4G device and next year we will be releasing more devices under the Android One brand. In Q3 and Q4 next year, we will look to partner with software companies and apps," he said.
Despite a resilient Indian business and the marketing boost of Google's Android One branding, the UK's budget smartphone arena is a difficult one to conquer. The EE Kestrel offers similar specs and the bonus of 4G for £99.
Meanwhile, the excellent Motorola Moto G (2014) is available at a similar price point but comfortably beats the Sparkle V on specs. And, unlike Karbonn, the Motorola name is well established here in the UK.
It remains to be seen whether a low price and the promise of native Android is enough to sway the majority of budget smartphone users. However, we'll know more when we've given the Sparkle V the full TechRadar review treatment, so stay tuned to find out how it performs.
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