For any individual even remotely associated with the mobile telephony space today, there is very little doubt that smartphones rule the roost. Sample this-according to data released by the International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the global smartphone space registered 27.2 per cent year-on-year growth in the second quarter of 2014, with just over a third of a billion shipments at 335 million units. If the market manages to sustain this pace, the year is expected to end with nearly 1.3 billion shipments! Not a small number , this! Of course, there exists a catch. A rather large one at that-the success of the smartphone is confined to a certain target audience only. For others, it is still considered a “pricey” item-one that is clearly out of reach. Luckily, though, every industry analyst worth their salt is currently postulating that the phenomenal demand (yes, it can be deemed phenomenal) for these devices will help make the price tags more attractive. When? Hopefully in the very near future. I am looking forward to this-not just because I am an avid fan of such devices myself-but to keep an eye on what it may mean for various emerging global markets. I guess one can write this off as an occupational hazard-particularly when one heads a company’s global market unit! Coming back to the point, though, let’s place this argument in the context of Africa. Today, an average African consumer is more than ready and willing to consume content of all kind. Naturally, to cater to such customers, one ought to have a vast product portfolio with a robust technological infrastructure supporting it. Check and check. The problem is-where are the smartphones? Certainly not in the hands of these customers! Take, for example, healthcare services. Even in this day and age, access to basic healthcare facilities isn’t easy for these people. Imagine if they (or at least someone in the same village) owned a smartphone. Imagine having a qualified medical professional at one’s fingertips at the touch of a button. Imagine, imagine.
Actually, it isn’t that difficult, keeping in mind the pace at which technology is evolving. What is-and we’re back to the same argument-is the fact that a very small part of the world’s population can access a smartphone. It’s all about the price. It’s just too high. Can something be done about this or not?? Well, yes, of course. Industry stakeholders ought to strive towards ensuring an increasing number of customers can snatch these devices off the shelves and thus avail of all the benefits that come bundled with the same (in terms of services).
The challenges don’t end there, of course. Let’s jump to 4G-which has been making headlines in India for the past year and a half (at least) and for a longer time globally. Now, while 4G may be touted as the “next big technology” that will magically help every operator gain an edge in an overcrowded market, it has its weak spots. Speaking of spots-did you ever consider the fact that operators are focusing primarily on deploying 4G across major cities a weak chink in its armour? Wake up and disable your Wi-Fi connection-this is definitely problematic! It weakens the technology’s very business case, by providing headroom to issues related to investments and taxes. Details, details, details. The easiest way out is for the operator community to join forces with the regulatory authority to ensure 4G is packaged in an attractively compelling yet competitive manner.
It does have its advantages, though-namely speed. This seemingly innocuous factor can actually help turn the technological tide. For example, proximity-which will help me, the consumer, access all the services I usually do while performing all kinds of mundane everyday activities. For example, mobile-based financial services pretty much ensure that I have a virtual bank at my fingertips-goodbye, brick and mortar buildings! Mobile-based health applications are another notable example-these measure every possible human function-from one’s pulse to blood pressure to how many steps one has taken that day. The possibilities are endless!
To sum up-there is little doubt that technology will transform people’s lives-all people-from consumers to enterprises. It will break down walls, eliminate distance, bring the world closer. Sounds promising? You bet! Just one thing, though-mind the bumps!