Tuesday, 6 May 2008

IPhone available soon in South Africa, Need cheap replicas for Africa

Fin24 reported this morning that the IPhone will be available in South Africa. Often i have conversations like this with people regarding the phone

Friend: So how is that phone?
Ismail: The best phone i have ever used
Friend: But you cant MMS / It doesn't have 3G / You cant forward SMS
Ismail: yes, but it's still the best phone i ever had

Now, please note i have never been an Apple Fan having said that, it is the best phone i have used thus far. Iphone is impacting on mobile internet usage like how blackberry did on mobile email.

Recently a guy ran the girl friend/wife/significant other usability test on Ubuntu Linux, basically to see how easy it is for a non tech savvy user to complete basic functions. The IPhone passes these with flying colours. All my previous phones (HTC, Nokia) failed dismally with functions other then calls and SMS.

I believe this is important. Lets take a look at how access to communications can stimulate economic growth and raise the quality of living.

In a study (PDF) by Harvard economist Robert Jensen he reported that when mobile phones were launched in kerala in 1997, Fisherman used the phones to call local markets while still at sea. This in turned helped raise profits by 8%, lowering consumer prices by 4% and reduced catch wastage from 6.5% to practically nothing.

This is just with access to voice communications, now imagine what easy access to knowledge and information (The Internet) would do?

Mobile phones have been available for a decade in most parts of Africa and there are more people with mobile phones then computers. Africa only has about 4% Internet penetration compared to 29% mobile penetration. Also remember that a number of people using mobile phones in Africa may never have had access to computers or the internet growing up. The environment in Africa may be best for mobile internet. Though mobile internet has been stifled by high data prices, cost of handsets and complicated interfaces.

So what does this mean?

I do not expect the IPhone to actually make a difference since Apple caters for the higher end of the market. Though Nokia has been been working in Africa and if they can develop something similar just as intuitive with easy access to the internet at a much lower price they would win back a fan. With data prices lowering this would allow masses of people access to the large body of knowledge found on the internet. Good times ahead!

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