Tech Transformers

Orange unveils $40 smartphone with data, strikes Google deal

French telecoms company Orange has released a $40 smartphone that comes with text, minutes and data for the Middle East and Africa and struck a partnership with Google to bring local internet services to its customers.

The Orange Rise 31 is a 3G device with a 3 megapixel camera, 4 inch screen and runs Android. The $40 handset comes with a bundle of text messages, 500 megabytes of data per month and minutes, for an average of 3 months. After that, users will have to top up.

Educational content will be pre-loaded onto the device in local languages. The partnership with Google will see services such as Maps tailored to the market to allow people to find the nearest health clinic, for example.

It's the latest move by Orange to boost its presence in emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa. Revenues from the region increased 5.1 percent in 2015 and account for about 12 percent of Orange's total revenue. The company said it has 110 million mobile customers in the region with 4.4 million net additions last year.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno | Getty Images

The Middle East and Africa were forecast to have seen around 50 percent growth in smartphone shipments last year, surpassing the overall growth of the industry, according to IDC. At the same time, the number of people owning feature phones is set to decline. It's this opportunity that Orange is hoping to capture.

"If you look now at the population, 45 percent of the devices we have been selling across the MEA region were smartphones so 55 percent of the population are still using a feature phone," Yves Maitre, executive vice president of connected objects and partnerships at Orange, told CNBC by phone.

"The last 55 percent is illiterate and we have to give them something intuitive in local languages with tutorials to get them using the internet."

For Google, the move allows it to spread its services to the fast-growing consumer base in the region. Many Internet giants and looking at ways to reach the next wave of people in emerging markets coming online. Facebook's Free Basics program - - attempts to give people in developing countries access to internet services, such a the social network, without incurring data charges.