You live in Nigeria, one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets. Or any of the other numerous African and Asian countries that make the top of the list in terms of mobile growth for that matter.
You can duck into almost any mobile retailer’s store and walk out with a Symbian device in less than twenty minutes. And it takes that long only because you are spoilt for choice. There are so many such smartphones on display (and from different manufacturers) that you had to think through which one you would walk out with.
So, you have heard about all those spanking new mobile operating systems and how they are revolutionalizing people’s lives. Unfortunately, you hunt through store after store in search of an Android smartphone, and come up with nothing.
You ask a particular store attendant for the Palm Pre. “Pre-what“, he asks? Never heard of it. Don’t even waste your energy mentioning that it runs Web OS. Probably never heard of that either.
However, while its hard to find an iPhone, you do run into a handful of stores with a couple of units for sale.
Luckilly, hunting for a Windowsphone is not as tedious as hunting for an iPhone. Oh, it is not a walk in the park, but at least one or two major retailers list a handful of Windows Phones, especially from HTC.
Or perhaps you do not even care about mobile OSes and have no idea what differences exist under the hood of different phones. So you walk into a store and see this shiny phone that gets you drooling. “What can that phone do?”, you ask the attendant.
She responds, “It has a camera, surfs the web, you can check email, has bluetooth and you can connect it to your computer“. “Cool“, you say and pick a unit. You have just purchased a Symbian-powered smartphone. Yes; you don’t know and you couldn’t really care. But Symbian has made a sale just because its devices were available.
This is the situation on ground in many of the world’s fast growing mobile markets. Nokia and other Symbian licencees have a firm hold of those markets. They have a distribution network on ground. This factor alone means that for quite a while, Symbian will outsell other mobile OSes.
It does not matter how much of a rave OSX, Android and Web OS are in North America and Europe. If they are not widely available on the shelves in countries where mobiles are selling like hot cakes, the growth of those OSes will remain limited. This is one of the flaws of Palm’s strategy with the Pre. They ignored where the action is.
Of course, Android looks like it has the greatest potential to play catch-up. It is licensed by an ever-growing number of manufacturers who already have their feet planted in these fast-growing markets. Hopefully, we will begin to see Android devices by Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson in mobile retail stores here in Nigeria.
For now, the few Android-powered devices and iPhones in the market came in mostly via unofficial channels.
When other smartphone platforms invade stores in the hottest mobile markets, then, and only then will the mobile OS race be truly on. For now, the hold of Symbian is yet to be really challenged where it matters.
PS: By the way, anyone knows of any mobile store in Nigeria that currently stocks Android devices?