A day of devices and the need for change

2012-02-28 15:03

After the Sony press conference on Sunday night Monday morning started with a major splash from Nokia. Stephen Elop the CEO of Nokia was first up with his usual unequivocal enthusiasm for his brand.

A year ago at MWC 2011, Nokia announced a major shift in direction with their ensuing partnership with Microsoft of Windows Phone 7 (WP7). And what a year it has been for Nokia - at the Consumer Electronics show at the beginning of January, Nokia released the Lumia 900, their first LTE enabled handset - “We have changed the clock speed of Nokia” stated Elop at this event.

Now at MWC 2012, Nokia made a slew of new handset announcements including a budget beating Lumia 610 which comes in at the very lowest entry point for a smartphone, of Euro189, (around the R2,000 mark in SA terms.) Shipping starts to Europe in the next few weeks and Africa as a developing smartphone market will not be too far behind.

In addition to the new Windows operating phones, Nokia also released a range of Asha devices, that still run the legacy Symbian operating system with the 202,203 and 302 variants. The 202 and 203 devices are touch-screen QWERTY keyboard devices (which look a bit dated to my smartphone enabled eyes.)

However, at the announced price point of less than Euro130 they are good value for money.

The fact that the 203 comes with multi-SIM support, will be a winner in many African markets, as well as the 302, which comes with added Microsoft Exchange Server features, useful for those of us needing to comply with IT department security protocols.

BUT, the belle of the ball was undoubtedly the Nokia 808 Pureview. Wait for it – it also runs on Symbian but, has a 41MP Camera Sensor with a Carl Zeiss lens! Yes that’s right - a 41MP camera! And even though it operates on Symbian with a lens like that on a mobile phone, it is truly astonishing. (Although to be honest, I’m not sure why anyone needs a 41MP camera on a mobile phone, but for a tech geek like me, it’s very cool.) As a comparison, the iconic Nikon D800 camera only has 36MP capturing capabilities.

After the entertaining razzmatazz of Nokia, we moved across to ZTE, the 4th largest handset manufacturer in the world. (This is in terms of total handsets not just smartphones). A more traditional approach to launch announcements, it was nevertheless interesting to see where they are going with their approach to the worlds continuing fascination with and dependency on, the mobile phone.

Most important of the devices on offer is ZTE’s high-end smartphone boasting the ZTE ERA with a whopping Quad-Core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. This will surely make the device sing along at a light speed. Combined with the LTE chipsets now included for the LTE enabled market, the ZTE ERA is a very compelling proposition.

With a total of eight new devices having been announced at MWC 2012, ZTE are certainly making themselves heard and bidding for a position further up the mobile phone glory totem pole. Rumor has it they are aiming to secure at least the number 3 spot for handset manufacturers by 2015. This means they need to edge out either the current third place holder LG electronics or number two on the log, Samsung. In all likelihood though, I doubt they would be able to push Nokia out of first place unless Nokia’s WP7 strategy fails miserably.

Need for Change

Later in the day I met with Trinia DasGupta, Programme Director for the GSMA’s mWomen programme. MmWomen was a fascinating study that the GSMA has been involved in for the past two years. The original study released in February 2010 (my first MWC in Barcelona), showed there are around 300million women that have not joined the mobile revolution.

Speaking with DasGupta today, the studies are still ongoing and the GSMA is fully involved in assisting mobile operators across the globe plan strategies to empower these women. The latest report and the reason for meeting DasGupta is called “Portraits: A glimpse into the lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.” This has some interesting findings:

• Targeting the Whole family: 74% of married women who did not want a mobile phone said it was because their husbands would not allow it.

• Addressing Suspicion: 64% of women who own a mobile phone say: ‘ it makes my husband suspicious”, a reported disadvantage of ownership particularly for women in Uganda and Papua New Guinea

• 38% of women live “off grid” with no access to an electricity source.

These are some pretty startling findings and offer mobile operators around the world a huge revenue opportunity should even a fraction of these women spend a tiny amount on mobile communications. And think of the difference it could make in the lives of these women. Could I live without a mobile device? Never, I think that is why I probably carry two phones and at least one tablet with me at all times.

What about you – could you live without yours for more than a day?

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