Tech Transformers

The handset that’s not just for ‘little old ladies’

In a world flooded by smartphones, the more basic "feature" phone has been sidelined, but one company is still betting on the devices.

"People assume it's just little old ladies using feature phones, but actually the market is bigger than that," James Atkins, co-founder of British technology firm Kazam, told CNBC in an interview.

Kazam, formed by former executives at HTC, offers high-spec smartphones at a low price to take on the bigger companies. But one of the firm's founder insists feature phones are a key opportunity for the company.


The company unveiled an internet-connected flip phone called the Life C6 ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. One of the features is an SOS button that automatically sends texts or makes calls to pre-registered numbers. The Life C6 is aimed at the the European market.

"As big brands exit (the market) the opportunity for growth for us are still large," Atkins said.

However, as several analysts have pointed out, the feature phone market is shrinking as smartphones become cheaper and the market will continue to decline.

"Kazam is gambling that there will be a gap left there where others have pulled out. Any opportunity in feature phone market will be temporary and no more than a window of one to two years," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told CNBC by phone.

Unique offering?

But feature phones are just one part of Kazam's portfolio of devices. Last week, the British company unveiled six entry level 4G-capable smartphones, three Windows tablets and two Windows phones. On Monday, Kazam launched the Tornado 455L, its flagship Android smartphone with a 13 megapixel front camera and 5.5 inch screen.

The handsets are targeted towards the European market and those looking for a cheaper smartphone.

Kazam has joined a growing number of electronics companies targeting the fast-growing mid-range smartphone market, as customers look for lower cost devices with high-end features. France's Wiko and Spain's BQ are two of the biggest firms in this category selling smartphones at around 150 euros ($170).


Atkins says the company is not focused on trying to out do rivals with massive megapixel cameras, but focuses on customer services to differentiate from rivals.

"With all of these gimmicky things, how many people actually use it?," Atkins said.

Instead the company offers free cracked screen replacement, a three year warranty, and a service where engineers can remotely find any problems with the phone. This comes as standard when people buy a Kazam phone.


Atkins said the company's strongest markets are Germany and Poland, while the U.K. remains tough. Analysts said the small British firm will face big challenges in an extremely competitive market.

"Kazam hasn't had anything striking and differentiated about its market position," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

"I think the key thing that Kazam or any brand needs to do is establish some kind of identity with consumers and some kind of market differentiation."