2 August 2012

Kenya: Mobile Devices Set to Evolve Into Principle Media


Around the year 2001 mobile phones became accessible to most Kenyans with a drastic reduction in subscription rates and tarrifs. For those who may not know, cell phone companies had a convulted registration system that temperamentally demanded anything between Sh200,000 and at one point Sh25,000 to get a mobile line.

The devices consumers used at these prices would not sell for Sh1000 given today's technology. Most were bulky, consumed nearly enough energy to light a house and generally worked for text and voice. I owned an Ericsson 1018. Close to 30 per cent of the phone mass was covered by the battery and the balance a circuit board and a small screen.

Teenagers today would not understand what those things were. Looking at the features that phones newly launched are carrying creates the impression that these devices are not designed for talking, or rather that is the not their core purpose.

Several developments determine what these devices will do and how they are designed. The first is the evolution of battery making technology.The capacity for a battery to work for several more hours also means that the devices they power can be used for several more functions. Current tablet technology is possible because the batteries that support these devices last long.

The evolution of memory capacity is another factor. Memory drives storage. If you can store a movie then your device usage changes. According to scientific norms the memory capacity of most devices doubles every 36 months. That tells you that the current all impresive technology will be doubled in the next 36 months. A Sh4500 Tecno mobile available in my rural shopping centre now comes with more than 8GB of memory. That means that people who were talking on these devices become digital music users , video watchers and photo sharers. The interfaces that these devices carry also alter the way they are used.

My 1018 had the most basic of software. The same Tecno I described comes with all sorts of bells and whistles. The software on mobiles has evolved with consumer needs. The growth of social media for instance has created the need for social interfaces across most devices. Thus priority apps on a phone today are Voice , SMS , and Facebook. This consumer evolution creates different uses for these devices.

To see beyond the curve, it thus becomes neccessary to look at mobile devices and technology from the perspective of the technologies and trends that drive the uses of the industry's devices. The next iteration of mobiles will "Literally go to the shop". Imagine endless battery life , infinite memory (cloud based ) and seamless interfaces. The mobile phone will take over as principle media this way.

Frank is lead consultant at FMC and CEO at Mobile Agency Sponge.

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