While we sit around speculating for months at a time over the next big handset and bitterly complain about the cost of carrier contracts, it is often easy to overlook that there are some areas of the world where mobile phones, especially smartphones, are out of reach for a majority of the population. Thanks to Huawei and their low cost IDEOS handset running Android, for the first time one such area is seeing a flourish in smartphone use. Over 350,000 Kenyans have purchased the $80 Huawei IDEOS since its launch on Safaricom earlier this year. This is still a pretty amazing figure considering nearly 40 percent of the Kenyan population survives on a meager $2 per day or less.
The phone is nowhere near the heavy hitters we drop hundreds of dollars on here in the US and other developed parts of the world, but it is far from anything those living in Kenya have ever had access to. The introduction of such smartphones has the potential to create a huge impact on the peoples of developing nations. Agriculture and healthcare apps will provide those in areas still heavily dependent on farming and far removed from cities with their large and capable hospitals with quick access to tools to increase productivity, educate, and diagnose.
The Kenyan smartphone boom also illustrates a decisive advantage that Android holds over its competition. The ability for OEMs to implement lowcost solutions catered to specific world regions opens up a large market for the mobile platform. It would be hard to imagine Apple devising an $80 iProduct. Huawei has been known for their budget priced offerings in China and more recently branching out to the US and Europe, where they offer competitively priced options for entry-level smartphone users and beyond.
We often hear stories of technology being used in ways that negatively impact society, strip the land of its resources, and turn people against each other. Is it that outlandish to hope that a simple smartphone could bring about a wave of change for the underprivileged?