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A Study in Capitalism: Using a "Dumb" Phone

Updated on October 22, 2019
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Christian, parent, audio engineer, computer geek, teacher, writer & jack of all trades

How Access to Mobile Internet Improves Quality of Life, by Tim Metz (10/10/2019) https://www.kaiostech.com/how-access-to-mobile-internet-improves-quality-of-life/
How Access to Mobile Internet Improves Quality of Life, by Tim Metz (10/10/2019) https://www.kaiostech.com/how-access-to-mobile-internet-improves-quality-of-life/ | Source

As I mentioned before, a true capitalist wants to make a quick buck from any potential venture. This is really admirable if the venture is legal, of course.

I mentioned that KaiOS offers a means for 100 million people in developing countries to access to the internet from an inexpensive feature phone — a semi-smart phone. KaiOS doesn't make or sell phones, but it rather develops the software that drives feature phones — similar to what Microsoft did with the personal computer market in the early 1990's hopefully without the antitrust lawsuits.

In order to give an almost objective opinion on this product, I bought a $20 phone to test the operating system. The next step was to use it in the real world in New York City as my only mobile phone. Aside from people seeing it as a joke or me as an idiot who can't afford a $20 off-brand Android phone, it was difficult and limited as well as fun. After all, I've used several smartphones running Android for several years.

As KaiOS heads into emerging markets like Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, we are on the lookout for mobile apps to add to our KaiStore.
https://www.kaiostech.com/learn-to-develop-for-the-kaios-operating-system-with-these-resources/

Most older people might be okay with a feature phone to make calls, get the weather forecast (`Weather` app), the news (`News` app) and maybe even check their email (`Mail` app) keeping in mind that the screen is small. Considering the latter, the consumer base is practically insignificant.

Difficulty & limitations

There is currently a limited amount of games and applications available for KaiOS. Most games are clones of Android of online games like a Tetris (written by Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov) clone named Brick Plunge by Gamezop and even an excellent 2048 (written by Gabriele Cirulli) clone by Kai — so no trendy games. There are no shopping apps, no online radio, no streaming services other than YouTube in selected models and/or carriers, no word processors or other bells and whistles that we've grown used to like Gmail or Yahoo Mail either.

Therefore it's up to each website to be tailored to render properly on a 240x320 (2.4" to 2.8") screen, which is not very likely. Needless to say, understanding the feature phone market in mind and the consumer potential, most websites should.

Although I already knew, I can't take landscape pictures unless turning the phone to the side. The problem with the latter is that the KaiOS operating system (probably not the hardware) is not smart enough to save the picture landscape, no edit of Exif meta. This meant taking pictures on portrait (no big deal) and video the same way (annoyingly impractical, a third of a screen monitor or television with black blocks of each side). Of course, the latter could be fixed running a third-party image or video editor once the pictures and videos are moved from the phone to a desktop or laptop computer.

Lots of people (myself included) like older technologies including phones and handheld devices. It's a form of nostalgia understanding its limitations and remembering how cool it once was. At the same time, these older technologies force us to innovate and come up with better ideas or solutions. In other words, it satisfies the nerd in me.

But still impractically fun? Gotta be crazy

Lots of people (myself included) like older technologies including phones and handheld devices. It's a form of nostalgia understanding its limitations and remembering how cool it once was. At the same time, these older technologies force us to innovate and come up with better ideas or solutions. In other words, it satisfies the nerd in me.

As a benefit of these limitations, a feature phone can help you reconnect to your own real life. It forces you to disconnect and not to depend on your phone — as if enslaved by it. Further more, the small size and light weight of a feature phone feels like you're not carrying anything at all and its rugged construction (tough, inexpensive hardware) can take day-to-day abuse.

Worth it or not?

Depending on your needs, it might either be the right technology or not in developed countries like the United States, Canada or England.

  1. Most older people might be okay with a feature phone to make calls, get the weather forecast (`Weather` app), the news (`News` app) and maybe even check their email (`Mail` app) keeping in mind that the screen is small. Considering the latter, the consumer base is practically insignificant to make a serious impact in the United States.
  2. The younger generations might not be okay with a feature phone. They most likely prefer smartphones whether they have a practical reason to own one or not. As such, feature phones are not for the American market. Most users are spoiled with all the apps and services that smartphones can provide and we would most likely be bored to death not having such technology at our reach.

In developing countries, a feature phone might be the only solution since smartphones can only be afforded by the upper class.

4 ways KaiOS is spurring new interest in mobile development by Harshdeep Vaghela (09/30/2019) https://www.kaiostech.com/4-ways-kaios-is-spurring-new-interest-in-mobile-development/
4 ways KaiOS is spurring new interest in mobile development by Harshdeep Vaghela (09/30/2019) https://www.kaiostech.com/4-ways-kaios-is-spurring-new-interest-in-mobile-development/ | Source

Conclusion, survived with only a "dumb" phone

I cheated. I'm spoiled. I pulled out my smartphone several times, but the "smart" dumb phone was fun. As a programmer, it's gotten me curious about this "old" technology. I want to learn how to code for it and take advantage of a brand new and growing market.

  • about 32% of the poorer countries
  • 40% of Africa
  • 65% of South Asia

In any case, I really like my new $20 toy.

© 2019 Frankie Olvera

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