Intel on Thursday evening announced the launch of the Intel Yolo Android based smartphone. The launch was held at the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi and attended by Danie Steyn - Intel General Manager for Eastern Africa, Aysegul IIdeniz - Intel Regional Director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa and Peter Arina - General Manager, Safaricom Consumer Business Unit. Also in attendance were other key members of Intel and Safaricom staff and the media.
The Intel Yolo is a smartphone aimed at Africa and a is a reference design based on Intel's Lexington chipsets that are aimed at the emerging market. Chris McGuire, Intel's Vice President and General Manager for Reference Devices says that the Yolo is meant to have a broader appeal to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Original Device Manufacturers (ODMs) and also ensure that a lot of the effort that goes into having a final device based on Lexington chipsets has been made easier for them.
It is for this purpose that Intel chose to partner with Safaricom, who have had previous success with smartphones such as the Huawei IDEOS who sold more than 100,000 devices in 2010. Arina said that Safaricom sold more than 500,000 smartphones in the last six months. The partnership saw Safaricom provide research and feedback towards coming up with the handset.
The Yolo has a 3.5 inch screen, a Lexington Z2420 1.2 Gigahertz hyper-threaded processor which was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The phone also makes a good graphics and gaming platform with a SGX 540 400 megahertz graphics processor.
Other qualities are a 5 megapixel camera , with no flash but with ability to capture high definition content. A remarkable feature of the camera is it's ability to take seven shots in one second from which you chose the best. The phone runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, has 4 Gigabytes of internal storage and supports expandable memory through a Micro SD (memory card) slot. It weighs at 132 grams, has FM radio and a 1500 mAh battery.
Manufactured by BYD, the phones has a rubberised plastic exterior, and three buttons - volume up and volume down on the left and power on the right. Supplied earbuds can be plugged in through a 3.5 mm earphone slot on the top of the device. The Yolo supports 3G HSDPA up to 21 Mbps.
The phone will also come bundled with McAfee's Mobile Security which offers tracing, backup and remote locking of smartphones. McAfee is owned by Intel.
The phone will retail at KSh. 10,999 ($ 125), which includes 500 MB of data worth KSh. 500.
In Kenya, the device will remain exclusive to Safaricom, though not network locked and hence can be used on other rival networks. Safaricom has been selling network unlocked phones for quite a while stating that locking added no value to the firm, which handles 76.7 percent of calls made within Kenya. The move also probably encourages potential buyers who would have shied away from a network locked phone.
Steyn said that Intel was already working on Android 4.2 Jellybean which would be received as an update on all Intel smartphones. McGuire said that the phone would also receive Android's next release Key Lime Pie when available. He said that the ability to run all apps available on the the Android Play Market's depended on Google's support of Intel's chipsets on future OS releases. Previously, phones based on Intel and even Samsung's Exynos chipsets have had compatibility issues with few apps on Google play.
Targeted at first time smartphone owners, McGuire says the decisions on what features to include or leave out were based on performance and affordability. The phone will later be available to other operators in Africa later in the year, especially in Northern and Western Africa.
Kenya was chosen for the launch due to the country's "innovativeness". The country saw a 20 percent increase in number of Internet users last year and has about 25 million active mobile lines.
Intel says it is targeting 700 million people with phones in Africa. The company recently opened an office in Kenya. Aysegul says the company has an aim to "bring computing to every person on earth."
In Africa, Intel chipsets will compete with Qualcomm, which recently open an office in Kenya and has been pushing low end devices such as the Tecno N3 (http://www.cio.co.ke/news/main-stories/ksh.-8,000-android-dual-sim-tecno-n3-launched). MediaTek also offers competition to the two and has been a preference for low end smartphone vendors such as Tecno and MiFone.
Intel has also partnered with Lava International in India to launch three handsets branded Xolo. they however pack more features, MediaTek chipsets and retail at a price of about $300 (KSh. 25,000 and above)