Our world is still overwhelmingly populated by feature phones, but it won’t be long before smartphones take over (only question is when). Just yesterday we were discussing how GPS enabled smartphones, if given to government officials or even private sector people, can overcome the problem of them actually going to the places they’re supposed to go to (the example was the agriculture extension officer who does not go to the actual place where the plants are, but gives instructions from the office or the road). So here’s an update on the smartphone wars: The competition is only going to grow more heated. Android doesn’t just use different carriers, different manufacturers, and different software than the iPhone; it represents a different vision for the entire mobile industry. Apple exerts complete control over the iPhone.
Some people ask me about 3G. Is this the ISDN [I Still Don’t kNow] of our time? But I tell them that new, new stuff gives zing to an operator. That Mobitel in Sri Lanka got a lot of energy from 3G, even on the 2G side. Now comes more concrete support: If not for the i Phone, T Mobile would not have been sold, say some.
For a number of reasons, including our conclusion that for most of the BOP the path to the Internet runs through a mobile handset, LIRNEasia is interested in how people use smartphones. Here is a report summarizing research findings: The average smartphone owner spends 667 minutes a month using apps. That is more time spent with apps than spent talking on a smartphone or using it to browse the Web. But not all smartphones are equally friendly to apps. Programmers have an easier time designing apps for iPhones and Android phones, giving these devices a much broader pool to draw from.
LIRNEasia has been supporting app stores because we believe this is the solution that reduces transaction costs and mobilizes decentralized innovation. But as the NYT story today shows, it’s not an easy path for developers: Because Google makes its software available free to a range of phone manufacturers, there are dozens of different Android-compatible devices on the market, each with different screen sizes, memory capacities, processor speeds and graphics capabilities. An app that works beautifully on, say, a Motorola Droid might suffer from glitches on a phone made by HTC. IPhone developers, meanwhile, need to worry about only a few devices: iPhones, iPods and iPads.
It’s nice to have the New York Times and Wall Street in our corner in the debate about the future of the Internet. Our argument does not rest on the success of i phones, but on the whole idea that the days of the desktop computer, which was irrelevant to the BOP are over. Wall Street has called the end of an era and the beginning of the next one: The most important technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand. The moment came Wednesday when Apple, the maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads, shot past Microsoft, the computer software giant, to become the world’s most valuable technology company.
This is definitely not the appropriate set of new features that we need at the Bottom of the Pyramid in emerging Asia and elsewhere. Voice commands, greater convenience in reading/viewing, more location-sensitivity, etc. would be among mine. Of course we could also consider what the surveys say about flashlights and radios. But the most important thing is the discussion.
A story on the Barcelona GSM World conference had this interesting summary on the state of the handset market. With our focus on infrastructure we have not written much about handsets over the years, but it’s becoming difficult, especially in the context of the Mobile 2.0 narrative. As I said in a recent interview with the Expanding Horizons magazine: “Mobile networks will provide the key connectivity, especially as we see handsets becoming more advanced.” Global shipments of handsets had been falling every quarter since the third quarter of 2008, when the global financial crisis erupted, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.
The applications are developed, the hardware is ready. Who is not ready are the spectrum managers/regulators of Asia, who have barely started on refarming. Already some of Sri Lanka’s mobile data users are complaining that they cannot connect. The operators need to pay attention and so do spectrum managers. America’s advanced cellphone network is already beginning to be bogged down by smartphones that double as computers, navigation devices and e-book readers.
We reproduce fully below, Carlos A. Afonso’s post to a thread on Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility responding to discussions at the IGF workshop “Expanding broadband access for a global Internet economy: development dimensions”, in which Rohan Samarajiva, Chair/CEO LIRNEasia was the keynote speaker. We retain the original title. As neither we nor most of our readers do not have access to the thread it was posted, we like to continue the discussion here. __________________________________________________________________ Hi people, I come from one of the ten largest economies in the world, with nearly 200 million people, 8.
Google has acquired a leading firm in mobile advertising, causing observers to think that mobile advertising will take off in a big way. The growing popularity of the iPhone and other powerful mobile devices ensures that mobile ads will become more ubiquitous, but predictions for the growth of the business vary widely. “We see mobile as a huge growth opportunity for us,” Susan Wojcicki, vice president for product management at Google, said in an interview. “We see an opportunity working with AdMob to really accelerate our efforts in an important industry for Google.” Google is already ahead of its rivals, Microsoft and Yahoo, in one segment of the mobile advertising business: ads linked to search queries.
There seems to be something about open operating systems, as shown by this NYT story. The question now is whether Apple will open its operating system too. More cellphone makers are turning to the free Android operating system made by Microsoft’s latest nemesis, Google. Cellphone makers that have used Windows Mobile to run their top-of-the-line smartphones — including Samsung, LG, Kyocera, Sony Ericsson — are now also making Android devices. Twelve Android handsets have been announced this year, with dozens more expected next year.
LIRNEasia’s thesis that most people will experience the Internet through mobile networks depends to an extent on cheap terminal devices. According to the Economist, Android is playing a role in bring low-cost producers into the smartphone segment. Prices are now on a downward spiral, says Ben Wood of CCS Insight, a research firm. Several other handset-makers are already offering cheap smart-phone-like devices. Android allows cut-price Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE to enter the smart-phone market, which they had previously stayed out of for lack of the necessary software.
Google’s entry into the browser space raised the question of the future of Mozilla. Mozilla is so far doing very well. But the question is really who will occupy the mobile set-top. That will decide the winner, at least in the short term. The rise of Firefox unleashed a new wave of innovation and competition among browser makers.