Factoring Smartphone Use into the Cost of Living

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-11-21 Print this article Print


People are willing to pay for this access, as long as it's possible for them to afford it. It's also worth noting that smartphones are useful for more than just access to a data service. In India, for example, there's a nationwide social networking system based entirely on SMS messaging. You don't need a smartphone for SMS, but having a full keyboard makes using the service a lot easier and a lot more productive. 

The near universal need for access to information, combined with the need to communicate, easily argues for broad smartphone adoption, but only if it's affordable. Likewise, smartphone use makes economic sense only if the monthly charge is affordable. Because most places with relatively poor populations have found a way to make wireless service affordable, the biggest piece of the puzzle is getting the best device for the job that's also affordable. 

Regardless of the iPhone's coolness factor, or the many partisans of the iPhone, the fact is that it's not affordable. Neither are the high-end BlackBerry devices or the high-end Android phones. But because the Android OS is open-source, it means that devices using Android can be made to sell for prices that the rest of the world can afford.  

Admittedly, these low-cost Android devices don't bring you the latest, snazziest features, but that's mostly irrelevant. They bring access to the Internet, and that's what really counts. They also bring access to communications, to specialized apps and to information that can prove to be critical for commerce, such as weather information, crop prices, merchant sales information or the means to negotiate the price of fish. You don't necessarily need to worry about a data plan for such things. What you need is the means to gain access. You can get that with a smartphone. 

I should add that before I spent a lot of time with the study that Trias sent over, I asked her about her references and her sources. Turns out she actually went to the places you'd expect for a study of this magnitude. Those sources included the UN, Neilson, ComScore and others.  

Her motivation was also important, which was to figure out where it makes sense to place advertising. The fact that she developed findings this important speaks to both her scholarship and to the fact that most people in the United States who use smartphones don't necessarily think much about smartphone use elsewhere. Fortunately, Tiffany Trias does think about this, and what she's learned is important to learning what people around the world are willing to pay to gain access to knowledge. 


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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