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Business

Budget smartphones from Japan to debut across Latin America

TOKYO -- Plus One Marketing, the developer of Freetel low-cost smartphones, will expand its presence in Central and South America via a tie-up with leading Mexican carrier America Movil.

The Japanese startup will develop smartphones to be sold at the equivalent of less than 4,000 yen ($39) -- on a par with prices offered by local manufacturers and Chinese rivals -- by keeping the specs low-end and limiting the performance of processors and other parts. The affordable handsets will still come with such basic features as a camera and Google's operating system. 

The new smartphones will go on sale in Ecuador in October and hit Mexico and Colombia before year-end. They will be shipped subsequently to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala and Argentina. The expansion will bring the Tokyo-based company's network in the region to a dozen markets, as it already sells phones in Peru and Chile. The company aims to sell 1 million handsets a year.

The move is part of Plus One Marketing's overseas strategy of grabbing market share in regions where the competition is less fierce. The company plans to boost sales abroad, including in Bangladesh and Vietnam, to 7 million handsets in fiscal 2018. Its target for total sales, including those in Japan, is 10 million phones that fiscal year -- more than 30 times the fiscal 2015 level. 

Plus One Marketing is bolstering its capital and has recently raised 4 billion yen by issuing new shares to 13 investors, including a venture capital firm affiliated with a Japanese bank and another based in Silicon Valley. With its capital now exceeding 6 billion yen, the company will increase its development staff in Japan and China to around 100 from about 70 at present, bolstering efforts to develop new phone models and improve software.

Founded in 2012, Plus One Marketing has been beefing up overseas sales this year, with ongoing or planned operations in Canada, the U.S. and Cambodia. Tie-up partner America Movil is the world's fourth-largest mobile carrier in terms of subscribers.

(Nikkei)

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