Making a smartphone for just $25
Monday, October 20, 2014
Here’s a market you’ll be likely to hear more of in tech: “The Next Billion.” It’s shorthand for the next billion people that will become online consumers, and that makes them the target of tech giants like Google, Facebook and Samsung.
The next billion live in emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and Africa. Jenna Burrell, a professor at UC Berkeley’sSchool of Information, has been studying one of these markets, namely Ghana, since the early 2000s. She says even back then, it was clear that people who wanted to get online weren’t going to use desktops.
“You know it’s a small number of people who were going to Internet cafés, but almost everyone was either using, or owning or getting possession of a mobile phone,” Burrell says.
While a growing number of people in Ghana have smartphones today, the market is very different from the U.S.
Burrell shows me a phone she bought there. It has an antenna for the built-in transistor radio, and it has a flashlight for when the electricity goes out.
Burrell cracked open the back of her cellphone and points: “Underneath the battery pack where most of us don’t really look, it’s got a slot for your SIM card.”
Like most of the next billion, the majority of people in Ghana don’t have pre-paid mobile plans. Instead, they use SIM cards, which are basically phone cards or prepaid time that you insert into your phone.
“This unit is worth about two minutes of airtime, and that gives you a sense of how it’s a very precious commodity,” she says.