Smartphones built on Android technology are gradually taking over the global mobile device market, and the Nigerian market is no exception, writes Emma Okonji and Amaka Eze
A recent survey from Ericsson showed that total smartphone subscriptions reached around 700 million in 2011 and that the subscriptions were expected to reach around 3 billion in 2017.
The report hinged the new rise in smartphone subscriptions on the Android technology that is driving smartphones - their features, aesthetics and full screen size that have made smartphones most popular among chief executives officers of various organisations and among the youths.
In Nigeria, most people are gradually shifting to the use of smartphones as the devices enable them perform several features that enhance business and personal lifestyles.
At the GSM village and computer village in Ikeja, Lagos, THISDAY checks revealed that most phone dealers are stocking up on smartphones, just as consumers' needs are tilting towards the mobile devices. The beauty of a smartphone is in the Android technology that comes with various unique features that are driving people crazy about them.
Little wonder that Samsung, which is taking the lead in smartphones manufacturing, is coming up with newer technologies based on the Android operating system. Last month, Samsung launched its latest mobile device, built on the Android 4.0 operating system (OS), called the Galaxy S3 phone. The new phone is an improvement on Galaxy S2 that catapulted Samsung into the position of world's best-selling smartphone maker.
The company said it would consolidate on the success it achieved with the Galaxy S2 by enhancing some of its most popular features in the latest device. Galaxy S3 comes with a 4.8 inch (12.2cm) screen, an increase on the 4.3 inch screen of its previous smartphone.
Speaking at the consumer launch of the device in Lagos, Head, Corporate Marketing, Samsung Electronics, Mr. Donald Etim, said the Samsung Galaxy S3 was designed to respond intuitively and naturally to human use and interaction.
Market information shows that Samsung and Apple now account for 90 percent of global profits from smartphones, suggesting that many of their rivals are struggling to cash-in on the smartphone boom, according to a recent study from ABI research.
The research indicated that smartphone shipments grew 41 percent year-on-year to 144.6 million in the first quarter of the year. Samsung and Apple accounted for 55 percent of global smartphone shipments during the quarter under review and over 90 percent of the market's profits, the study said.
"Apple shipped 35 million and Samsung 43 million, while Nokia was a distant third at 11.9 million," commented ABI Senior Analyst, Michael Morgan.
Android 4.0 Technology
The technology behind the Android 4.0 operating system is helping to enhance user experience by creating a massive competitive advantage for the devices that run on its platform.
The user interface experience with devices that run on Android 4.0 has been even more refined such that navigation using the devices becomes easier, faster and yet more pleasurable.
For instance, refined animations and feedback are such that the interaction is extremely active and engaging. It also comes with a new font which has been optimised for the high-resolution screen, making it easier for everyone, young or old, to read.
For instance the phone user may be in a meeting and yet sight an obviously important incoming call on the screen of the phone. At such times, the user need not pick it or unlock the device, but could simply respond by means of a text message.
On the incoming call screen, simply slide a control which will display a number of different text responses. Choose any of the text responses, or add any of your own when you are chanced. Send the email and end the call. This can be concluded in seconds.
The Android is connected to the cloud. This is a major unique selling proposition of the operating system which allows users to browse the web, synchronise photos, games, email and even contacts across all devices, wherever they may be in the world.
When browsing, the experience mirrors that of a desk-top browser in terms of speed and even convenience. In the case of email, Android 4.0 makes it easier to send, read and manage emails. It has an improved auto-completion system that helps in ensuring that frequent email contacts can be added more quickly.
Should the user desire to input frequent text more conveniently, it could be done by creating quick responses and store them in the application, thereafter entering them from a convenient menu when composing. When replying to a message, the user can toggle the message to 'Reply All' and 'Forward' without necessarily changing screens.
Android also has the feature known as the Face unlock. This is a unique device that takes personalisation of the mobile device many notches further. Face unlock enables the user to unlock the mobile device or tablet with his or her face.
All the user needs do to unlock is to bring the phone to the face or in the alternative, use a back up PIN. The device takes advantage of the front-facing camera and the sophisticated facial-recognition technology to register a face during set-up and to recognise it again during the unlocking process.
The Galaxy S3 phone embodies all of these android features and many more.
Smartphones now bring a lot of people together, especially in this era of instant messaging like the Blackberry Messenger, (BBM) which has attracted more people than usual, into using smartphones.
Those who reside in the urban areas use more smartphones and the social networks more than people in rural communities because they have more contacts, network coverage and internet access which make them tend to communicate more than those in the rural areas, but still rural dwellers are not left out of the latest trend.
Certainly the smart phone technology has set a new pace for most people, as many can essentially work from their homes, as well as entertain friends, send pictures, order files and communicate from their smart phones.
Desktops were hitherto available but were believed to have limited people to their desks, and offices. But with the smartphones and other smart devices such as iPads minor laptops, and galaxy tabs, businesses and lifestyles are completely changed.
When asked how they felt when they were without their phones, majority of smartphone owners who spoke to THISDAY used words such as, 'I feel lost, tense, idle or not updated.'
Though some of the people who interacted with THISDAY, argued that smartphones tend to make them lazy, others said that it is their best friend, closest pal, which helps them ease a lot of stress.
"My Blackberry smartphone is my most useful item. It is my phone, my contact list, my radio, my music player, my web browser, my encyclopaedia, my dictionary, my calculator, my calendar, my notepad, my to-do manager, my clock (and alarm clock)," said a student from University of Lagos, Osas Oyinbor.
Another user of smartphone, Julian Chibuzor, said her smart phone (which he referred to as her pocket-sized internet technology device), that runs all day on a single charge, is the machine that runs her life.
She said, "Essentially, my hand set has become my second brain which takes care of the innumerable aspects of my life, reminding me of just about every bit of the information I need."
A lady simply identified as Dr. Henrietta said, "I love my smartphone because I have access to the world's information on Wikipedia, as well as several other information sites, aids, which guide me sometimes on my job. I prefer to use my smartphone as my auxiliary brain."
A final year student at the Nigerian Defense Academy, Giwa Muhammad, said he could get information on most of his courses from his smart phones.
Some others who spoke to THISDAY, said they use the twitter application on their smartphones, to access the traffic situation in Lagos.
Creating a balance between the negative and positive aspect of smart phones on work and lifestyle is actually an issue to ponder. THISDAY respondents spoke on the issue.
A Senior Lecturer at the University of Jos, Dr. Embu Rueben, said, "Though some people know when to turn off their smart phones, or set up personal profile when at work, others simply ignore official rules, thus creating nuisance with their phones."
Another said that "some people abuse the use of smartphones by replying to every mail that comes to their smartphones and pay little attention to their jobs.
Rueben however said, "To some extent, it is more productive from a personal standpoint, because it keeps them up to date."