I literally get torn apart by fanboys each time I write an article about Android’s data-guzzling capabilities. I have been called names, my credentials questioned and even spat on (okay, I added that last one).
I run Africa’s top mobile blog and would be stupid if i didn’t talk about it. why? Our conditions here make it a big issue for the majority.
Here’s an excerpt from a report on what Google’s top man had to say when asked about plans to expand in Africa. I have emphasised the key part in bold. It is informative:
Among the highlights of my Davos week was a media round table with the top management of global giant Google – executive chairman Eric Schmidt plus lieutenants Nikesh Arora, Marissa Mayer and David Drummond. The theme of the hour and a half chat was how rapidly the internet is becoming mobile. In June 2011, for instance for the first time more people accessed Google Maps through their cellphones and iPads than via desktop computers. Half of those accessing Facebook are doing so through mobiles – with the trend suggesting it will reach 80% in five years.
I managed to pop a question around Google’s plans to expand its activities in Africa. Judged by other major corporation hunger for a bigger piece of the African pie, I waited pen at the ready for fresh info about how the “Don’t Be Evil” crowd wants to grab its slice. Instead, Schmidt’s smile turned to a scowl. Google’s not doing anything like as much as it wants to on the continent, he admitted, because it’s just not possible. Africans, he says, are forced to cough up “20 to 30 times what we (i.e. Americans) pay for data.”
See that? Google acknowledges that data costs are a hindrance to their push in mobile in Africa.
A mobile OS that guzzles data (and power) and that requires management to keep both factors within tolerant levels is a real issue in these parts. I recently used an automobile analogy in responding to this issue. Let’s explore that further.
Of Mobiles. And AutoMobiles
The African market (add Asia and South America to that) will remain this unique for a long while. It is the reason why Toyota cars (being as a rule more fuel economical – and cheaper – than most other brands) will outsell BMWs and Mercedes Benz models. With Korean brands stepping up their games too, its the same reason(s) that Hyundai and Kia models sell like hot cake.
That Your Silly Neighbour
Have you seen those silly guys in the neighbourhood who make a little money and go buy a Mercedes Benz right away? Have you observed how after a short while, they cannot keep up with maintaining the car? They spend on fuel like mad, alongside other expenses. Soon, the car is sitting in front of their residence, a monument to their lack of wisdom.
Meanwhile, the truth is that a less expensive and less fuel guzzling model would have served their purposes better.
The Vocal Minority
Those who want to deny Android’s data guzzling can keep sticking their heads in the sand like Ostriches. It is not a real issue for me as an individual. I can afford a 6GB data plan monthly – over $50 (that’s a month’s wage for lots of folks) – though I’d rather not, so I can use some of that amount for something else. It is not an issue for some of you other folks who regularly comment on this blog.
The vocal Android fanboys here are in reality a tiny minority of the market that we live in. They earn much more, are more comfortable, have internet access on their PCs at work and at home. They can afford to turn off data on their devices and nurse them as they wish.
On $2 Per Day. And Hustling!
Not so the vast majority of the African market, who are busy struggling to survive. They have little or no access to power, and nursing a mobile phone is the last thing on their minds. Life is a hustle. They want to just use the darn phone and get on with hustling. Babysitting a phone ain’t on their agenda.
It is a real issue for hundreds of millions of Africans. They earn $2 or N320 or less per day! Think about that. It is why I write about it. It is why I offer tips to manage it. It is also why I must offer alternatives.
Cloud Storage. iPhone, Windows Phone Too
It is the same reason that Cloud storage won’t be taken up in a huff and puff in Africa. It is the reason why I can say that it looks like Nokia is about to lose the smartphone market in Africa if they are shutting Symbian down at this point. It is the reason why iPhones and Windows Phone devices will remain niche here for a while.
It is why whoever sells (or can sell) a smartphone platform that delivers affordable data services on budget devices will take the market. Whoever that is, I don’t care. But that is the truth.
Africa Stuck With FeaturePhones?
If no mobile OS meets that need, we might as well expect the smartphone market in Africa and similar areas to shrink, as people will shy away from smartphones. The small smartphone market will likely then be dominated by Android. But the vast majority of mobile users will stay with feature phones while the rest of the world moves on.
Some people think that I am hating on Android. That’s silly. I provide information to a primary target audience – Africa, most of whom are affected by this issue.
However, as stated already, Blackberry deals with this issue – and if the guys at RIM are any smart, they need to go ballistic now. Not tomorrow. You pick up a BlackBerry, set it up once and just get up and go. That too, for about $9 (N1,500) per month. Nigeria just seems set for a Blackberry outbreak. Africa too.
Of course, whether RIM rises up to the task or not is a different matter.
Am I Biased?
The heck, I am!
I am biased towards the mass market.
For that reason, I was biased towards GSM when the CDMA-GSM debate came up. I was biased towards mobile internet services because I believed that would deliver internet to the mass market, and it is doing just that. I was right.
I was biased towards Symbian OS, because it met the needs of the mass market – good resource management in particular. With Nokia shooting Symbian dead, I am biased towards BlackBerry for the same reasons that I recommended Symbian for years.
Give me any OS that meets the same specifications, and I am biased towards it. This is Nigeria. This is Africa.
I am very, very biased. It is not an OS/brand thing, but it is bias all the same.
Of course, Google might pull a rabbit out of their hat and modify Android’s code such that it becomes more resource efficient out of the box. Who knows?
Back To The Future
Hopefully, we will get rock bottom data tariffs and it won’t be so much of an issue later. Hopefully, standards of living across Africa will improve significantly to reduce the importance of this. Hopefully too, public power supply will become stable and reliable, so we don’t have to carry a charger for our Android smartphones.
Until then, I owe the public that info. I owe them sound advice on choices and options that meet the peculiar circumstances that they live in.
If you cannot live with that, errrr….try a cup of Ice Cream Sandwich 🙂 Toodles!
Check out the full Google story here