Many Still Resist Call of the Smartphone

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- While the world once again paused in midrotation to admire something Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone did, millions of workaday feature phones went about their unintrusive, inexpensive business.

In a tech environment that grinds to a halt when a smartphone unveils a new carrier -- never mind a new device -- it's easy to forget that simple flipping, sliding, Web-free "dumb" phones still have a more than 72% share of the overall U.S. mobile phone market, according to ComScore ( SCOR). Gartner ( IT) says that share jumps to more than 80% globally as legal, low-cost "white box" phones manufactured in Asia, India, Africa and Eastern Europe now account for a third of worldwide mobile phone production.

Simple cell phones are estimated to retain a more than 72% share of the overall U.S. mobile phone market.

Though its multiple apps, features and better overall functionality make it technologically superior to any feature phone, the smartphone still lags well behind its imbecile predecessors in one important consumer-oriented category: price. The NPD Group found that the average selling price for all mobile phones last year hovered around $90, a 3% drop from 2009. The average smartphone price, however, was closer to $140. While that's a 9% decrease from the year before, it still represents a $50 premium over phones already offering consumers a cheap way out.

At Verizon Wireless' ( VZ) online shop, for example, seven of the 11 phones offered free with a two-year contract are decidedly not smart. They include products from Samsung and LG -- which together account for more than 45% of all mobile phones sold in the U.S., according to Gartner -- but also lesser-known brands such as South Korea's Pantech, China's ZTE and PCD, once known as Audiovox. It's a similar situation at AT&T ( T), where free LG, Samsung, Motorola ( MMI), Sony ( SNE) Ericsson and Nokia devices are paired with Pantech and the ZTE-manufactured F160.

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