Data cost hurts smartphone adoption
Duncan Alfreds, News24
Cape Town - Cost remains a significant impediment to the mass adoption of smartphones, particularly for users in developing countries, hardware manufacturers have said.
"We've been working on it with the operators, pretty much globally and we've started to see some operators launching an Android data package where they give you significant data to access your Gmail or Facebook. Even in South Africa right now, MTN and Vodacom have just launched a new data package for prepaid," Raed Hafez, Motorola managing director for the Middle East and Africa told News24.
Research In Motion enjoys a dominant position in SA because of its unlimited data package offered with BlackBerry smartphones because South African users are cost-conscience.
Hafez acknowledged the RIM proposition, but said that operators are intent on moving away from such packages.
"The unlimited data which BlackBerry has is also causing some pressures on the operators' profitability. We're seeing them shying away from that and even looking to increase the mix of other devices in their portfolio."
Sony Ericsson hinted that South Africans would move away from BlackBerry devices as has been the case in the US and other developed markets.
"The BlackBerry phenomenon is literally a phenomenon in South Africa and the Middle East where BlackBerry enjoys such a very healthy market share," Sony Ericsson Southern Africa marketing manager Colin Williamson told News24.
Nokia has also identified cost as a significant factor for adoption of data-hungry smartphones and built streamlined browsing into their new Lumia smartphone.
"We've got some really great initiatives in terms of the Nokia browser which comes standard on these devices. It's a proxy-based service where it compresses data by up to 90%. The push e-mail that we use where you can set up to 10 accounts: That e-mail is also compressed," said Patrick Henchie, Nokia head of product for South and East Africa.
Smartphone running Android requires an always-connected data connection and even though it can be switched off, it reduces the user's experience of the device.
Samsung said that cost was an important factor for South African consumers as it would have implications for the broader market.
"I think it's in everybody's best interest that data prices come down; that the consumer benefits from this," said Samsung spokesperson Paulo Ferreira.
"It is important to have an affordable data plan that allows the consumer to enjoy the ecosystem and capabilities of the device without having to worry about their pocket book all the time.
"Whether it's going to be unlimited or what we're seeing in the US where operators are starting to stop the unlimited plan - even for BlackBerrys, that remains to be seen."
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