A first world smartphone for third world mobile networks

smartphones

Dameon D. Welch-Abernathy, AKA PhoneBoy, is a mobile phone connoisseur like me and information security specialist. He is one of the few people that actually make sense when talking about mobile platforms and devices.

I stumbled on some of his thoughts on mobile phones in developing countries yesterday. Here they are for your convenience:

Not only does the price need to come down, but the phones need to be more miserly on data usage.

Phones, services and apps must be optimized for low bandwidth use. Current Smartphones are not.

I prefer my older Symbian devices when outside the US as they are not constantly connected & low bandwidth.

It’s one reason I think Nokia’s Asha devices are compelling. They are designed for low bandwidth use.

No doubt iOS has better apps, but the Apple devices aren’t cheap and use lots of data.

The company who can build a first world Smartphone for a third world mobile network will get the next billion users.

There’s plenty of money to be made at the low end. It’s about volume.

Basically, it is the same thing that I keep repeating. Which manufacturer will bell the cat? Who will deliver a smartphone that’s not power and data hungry and at a good price?

Symbian used to be the standard for that. BlackBerry meets some of the requirements and fails at others. IPhone? Duh.

Yes; we have N20,000 Android smartphones but they fail at data and power consumption, and are terrible at performance. Android is just too much of a resource hog to handle low RAM and CPUs well.

Nokia’s Asha phones come close, but fail for the simple reason that they are not smartphones.

Dameon also reiterated something that I have pushed here: the money is always in the numbers, and the numbers are ALWAYS at the base of the pyramid. The manufacturers who get this concept right rule. Nokia ruled for over a decade because of this. Samsung now rules for the same reason. The iPhone’s very brief dance at the top was just that – a very brief dance.

When shall we get a first world smartphone designed for third world mobile networks and users? And from whom?

PS: I follow PhoneBoy on Twitter. You should too!

About The Author: Mister Mobility

Communications | Web | Mobile. Owned over 100 mobiles. Adventurer. Ladies' Man. Follow him on Twitter @Mister_Mobility, on LinkedIn at YomiAdegboye, and circle him on Google+. Listen to his music on SoundCloud.

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29 comments for “A first world smartphone for third world mobile networks

  1. Mark
    May 29, 2012 at 08:04

    Let the fight begin.

  2. May 29, 2012 at 08:08

    Well, part of the problem is – there is a difference between hardware and software.

    The problem is not with the hardware- as regards data consumption. The problem is with the OS on those phones.

    It is only in the case of battery issue that i agree hardware plays a role. Even in the power issue, software plays the bigger role.

    What can any AndroidPhone manufacturer do,- practically -to make its Android phone less of a data hog.? Very miniscule!

    Apple and Blackberry are better positioned to attack the twin problems because they control both hardware AND software.

    WindowsPhone and Android manufacturers are not so lucky…

    Issue of pricing- there is a level below which prices annot fall. otherwise, quality suffers and plummets…

  3. May 29, 2012 at 08:20

    Android is just too much of a resource hog to handle low RAM and CPUs well.

    All the new shiny OS seem to suffer from that.

    Mesmerizing UX / graphics gobble power and memory.

    See WindowsPhone not being able to run Skype / Angry Birds… http://www.wpcentral.com/nokia-lumia-610-cant-run-angry-birds-rovio-going-fix

  4. Efe
    May 29, 2012 at 08:23

    @eyebeekay, I couldnt have said it better. Sometimes, we forget that these companies are businesses that want to make profit. They are not a charity organisation. Connecting the next billion people should make them money, otherwise, they wouldn’t embark on it. Nokia has learnt the hard way. Selling hundreds of millions of devices is useless if you aint breaking even. At the moment, the money is in high end phones. Thats why apple declares unprecedented profits every quarter

  5. Efe
    May 29, 2012 at 08:30

    Nokia tried to force its 256MB RAM windows phone to run skype and it backfired. Sometimes, cheap is not a good excuse for drop in quality.. I d rather save further and get a better phone than be stuck on a “cheap” phone with memory issues. I used a nokia 5230. The 128MB RAM was inadequate even for a symbian phone. You cant run opera mobile and another app simultaneously. I was extremely frustrated. You get scared of losing your work just by running another app. The price we pay for “cheap” smartphones

  6. May 29, 2012 at 08:54

    Even if phoneboy is a fire god, there are those who would still dismiss what they dont understand.
    Well my philiosophy has been made clear.thats why I told pliris;you would sell 3 units of lowentry smartphone by the time you sold one highend phone

  7. Efe
    May 29, 2012 at 09:03

    Yes you would but the question is, at what profit margin? Nokia sells millions more phone than Apple. Samsung sells more too. The difference in sales is in the tens of millions but apple is the most profitable tech company. Not only that, it is the most valuable company in the world. While nokia sells milions of dump phone with very little profit margin, apple moves a fraction of that number but makes more money.

  8. Harry Echemco
    May 29, 2012 at 09:55

    When shall we get a first world smartphone designed for third world mobile networks and users? And from whom?

    I doubt very much if that is ever going to happen again. What I think will happen is general upgrade of network infrastructures to be able to handle the ever increasing traffic and general drop in data bundle pricing.

    Apps like Opera Mini is already helping to reduce the effect of these new smartphones and a little enlightenment on the part of users in understanding the main culprit in huge data consumption is also helping.

    It is also important to note that while Nokia is still a lot better than most modern mobile OSes in data usage, Nokia cannot solve effectively the problems of present day pattern of smartphone usage. What will help more is further enlightenment on the part of the mobile device users. Viewing YouTube video or downloading/streaming MP3 music files on any platform will result in approximately the same data consumption. Platform will not help much here.

  9. May 29, 2012 at 10:57

    Any service that involves buying soft WARES / goods online may have a difficult hurdle to overcome here in Nigeria. Streaming services are prime.

    As Harry said, unless you are on an unlimited data plan (Blackberry / Etisalat), it may sometimes cost you more in data than the item you want to dowload ITSELF..

    Right now, 1 megabyte data is about N5 averagely in Nigeria on nonblackberries…

    Data costs need to come down lower to encourage wholesale adoption of SOFT online services…

  10. May 29, 2012 at 11:13

    Viewing YouTube video or downloading/streaming MP3 music files on any platform will result in approximately the same data consumption. Platform will not help much here.

    I disagree with that one!

    It is patently false.

    Obviously, downloading on a Blackberry would use LESS data (on account of inbuilt compression)- than on a platform WITHOUT similar compression (say Android)

  11. Harry Echemco
    May 29, 2012 at 12:17

    Obviously, downloading on a Blackberry would use LESS data (on account of inbuilt compression) – than on a platform WITHOUT similar compression (say Android)

    It’s not so obvious Eye.Bee.Kay. When buy MP3 music online, it is usually not recoded before sending it to your device because doing so will degrade the quality of the audio. Again these DRM protected audio files will always maintain their original standard irrespective of the platform being used.

    You should try compressing an MP3 music file or any video file you have on your laptop with say Winrar or 7z file compression programs to see how much percentage you could take off the original file.

  12. May 29, 2012 at 15:23

    @Harry, i see your point. Agreed.

  13. May 29, 2012 at 15:36

    I guess the software engineers need to keep pushing the stateOfTheArt in lossless compression algorithms

    Reminds me of the recent advancement in Sorting Techniques – by Microsoft software Engineers..

  14. Efe
    May 29, 2012 at 18:24

    So if Blackberry doesnt do much compression in mp3 and video compression as stated above, can we then say bb compression is overrated?

  15. May 29, 2012 at 18:39

    So if Blackberry doesnt do much compression in mp3 and video compression as stated above, can we then say bb compression is overrated?

    @Efe, it was when harry put the fact that media files are already compressed anyway- that it occurred to me that the famous / legendary BB compression_prowess may just be so much baloney.

    If i use apps like Opera mini / Nimbuzz that already compress data, it really would truly not matter what platform i am running on.

    There are real technical / technological limits to how much further you can confess anything..

  16. Harry Echemco
    May 29, 2012 at 19:28

    So if Blackberry doesnt do much compression in mp3 and video compression as stated above, can we then say bb compression is overrated?

    I won’t say that BB compression is overrated. Majority of BB users only ping, chat or browse with their phones. Pictures that are part of web pages can be compressed while still maintaining acceptable picture quality for mobile devices.

    The three basic things BB users do with their phones are text-based and highly compressible and this is what BB platform does very well. Also, any other service that is tied to BB services will definitely benefit from this compression when compressible data type is involved like email clients. Using Opera Mini on any other platform will give you comparable performance and you can also choose level of image impression.

    Notwithstanding that I do heavy browsing on my phone with Opera Mini of course, I do not use up to 80MB out of my 260MB data allowance on browsing each month. The remaining balance goes to software and media downloads and of course Android system and K9-mail client.

  17. Efe
    May 29, 2012 at 19:39

    Interesting. So much for less strain on networks. BB users are busy downloading movies. If the compression is overrated, it is unfair that other smartphone users have to pay more for data in nigeria considering that networks have to remit some money to RIM

  18. glenda
    May 30, 2012 at 03:00

    “I disagree with that one!

    It is patently false.

    Obviously, downloading on a Blackberry would use LESS data (on account of inbuilt compression)- than on a platform WITHOUT similar compression (say Android)”

    You have no idea what you are talking about Eye.Bee.Kay. Blackberry compression only applies when viewing webpages or sending email. When you watch Youtube, data consumed is the same regardless of what browser you are using. It would also be the same if you are using a desktop, laptop, iPad, or any mobile phone.

    You never fail to amuse me with your ignorance.

  19. Anyaogu
    May 31, 2012 at 02:45

    Apart from ram capacity another important issue to be handled in smartphone for third world countries is battery life

  20. shayman
    May 31, 2012 at 05:16

    Are our data plans that expensive. 1k for 260mb…i mean 1k is less than 10dollars. Is that not comparable with other countries?

  21. bosun99uk
    May 31, 2012 at 08:00

    Nokia has the power but has refused to make use of it.

  22. Harry Echemco
    May 31, 2012 at 08:13

    Are our data plans that expensive. 1k for 260mb… i mean 1k is less than 10 dollars. Is that not comparable with other countries?

    Other countries like? I think it could be comparable to some other African countries, but our population should make things easy for operators. And though the effective data allowance from Etisalat for now is 260MB, the official data bundle is 200MB while the extra 60MB is a 30% bonus data that Etisalat could suspend any time, especially if pressure is not coming from other operators.

    In USA say, customers pick high-end phones of between $400 – $600 and pay between $100 – $200 and are tied to contracts between 12 – 24 months that attract monthly charges of $50 – $60 or even less. These contracts include voice calls generally more than 300 minutes in a month and unlimited SMS and data (though unlimited data allowance is beginning to change). Unlimited data is one reason while this cloud storage services is growing rapidly and locked down devices like iOS devices and Windows Phone 7 devices will keep selling in developed countries.

  23. Harry Echemco
    May 31, 2012 at 08:42

    Thank you Mr. Mobility. Just noticed I have been taken off the prison and place in parole(?).

  24. efe
    May 31, 2012 at 09:21

    I think the cost of our data is overemphasized. I have seen more expensive plans in developed countries. I think the main problem is purchasing power. $10 may be chicken change in rich countries, but 70% of nigerians live on less than $2 a day. Even if we get subsidized phones and contracts worth $60 dollars a month, how many nigerians can afford to spend close to #10,000 every month for two years for their communication needs. So, it boils down to our economy. Purchasing power is low. Even if we pay less for data, it may seem like more

  25. May 31, 2012 at 10:11

    Thank you Mr. Mobility. Just noticed I have been taken off the prison and place in parole(?).

    Hmmmm *** pulling lips ***

  26. shayman
    May 31, 2012 at 16:24

    Efe said it all…the plans are not all that bad. It all boils down to our purchasing power..give some people 1gb data for 1.5k and its still expensive!

  27. Noni
    June 1, 2012 at 01:14

    The long and short of it is that first world smartphones are not designed for third world users. The demands and expectations aren’t necessarily the same. Any smartphone created for the developing world will have some shortcomings (eg BB Curve 9220) and the pricing?

    Nokia Asha phones are designed with specific users in mind; first world users who want an inexpensive phone that gets them on the internet, and those in the developing world who want the same. But if you want to see how they’re viewed, check out any African website versus a European or North American site reviewing a Nokia Asha phone.

  28. June 6, 2012 at 02:48

    Binu solves the bandwidth problem, it runs effectively on 2g and can be used for WAP phones (aka dumb phones) and Android phones to surf, text and even get on Facebook.

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