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Controversies Gadgets Mobile Technology

Apple iOS – The Beginning Of The End?

That Apple copied, shamelessly, Android and about every other major mobile OSes in its iOS 7 is no longer news. But what beats me is why most online reviews fail to mention this shameful act but instead hail this “next-to-die-after-Blackberry” as the best thing to have happened to mankind.

Undoubtedly, iOS 7 is the biggest step this mobile OS has taken in years but in truth, it is only just about catching up with what Google’s Android has got going on for a couple of years.

appleNaturally, we would expect Google to respond – decisively – to the leverage Apple is having with its copycat innovation. One should not also forget that the so-called fingerprint technology that Apple has in its latest iPhone iteration, the iPhone 5s, is also a high tech photocopy of now Google’s Motorola Atrix phone innovation from back in 2011.

Ummh, these are indeed desperate times for Apple. Who would ever have thought that this once innovative company will stoop this low? All indicators seem to agree with what some analysts have predicted, the very steep decline of Apple’s fortunes by 2015.

Just my 2 cents here Apple, it may not be worth much. I believe the only lifeline left for you to remain relevant is to adopt Google’s Android business model – Open Source.

Any Geek worth his salt – that has seen the other greener side that is Android – would appreciate the very limiting ecosystem that iOS plays in. Obviously, the mobile OS is meant for those that love to be spoon-fed. Even my 3-year old hates to be spoon-fed! It beats me why “grown-ups” will allow Apple to do that?!!!

Those that hail the iOS 7 obviously have never experienced Android Custom ROMs. Custom ROMs are modified, usually enhanced mobile operating systems. I wholely recommended PAC-MAN , it is an android ROM on steriods. Trust me, try it and you will be hooked!

Well, like we say in Nigerian Pidgin English, let us continue to “siddon look” (Sit Down and Look) and see how it all plays out, eventually.

apple android

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Gadgets Mobile

BlackBerry to offer BBM for iPhone and Android

The idea was first mooted about 2 years ago about the possibility of Blackberry making its Messenger (BBM) real-time messaging service available on Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Google’s Android platforms.There was a post on Diary of a Geek from March 2011 suggesting this. This fact has however been confirmed by Blackberry and the service is billed to be rolled out by summer 2013.

From all indications, this implementation has been 2 years late in coming. Within this period, the only edge that Blackberry could have laid claim to, the messaging app, may have been eroded by the likes of Whatsapp and Wechat. With WhatsApp claiming more than 200 million active users, and WeChat around 190 million, BBM may just be a little late to the party with its paltry 60 million monthly active users with, perhaps, a big chunk from Nigeria and other developing countries.

You can read more about this from Blackberry’s official blog.

bbm

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Gadgets Mobile

Are Hybrid Tablets the New Netbooks?

Hybrid TabletsHybrids have gotten a lot of hype lately, with a slew of touch-enabled laptops and flipping, folding convertible designs launching so far this year. But with some of these new hybrids—specifically smaller tablets with docking keyboards—there’s been a nagging question that I can’t quite shake: Are hybrid tablets the new netbooks?

You remember netbooks, right? The minuscule clamshell PCs, with 8-to 10-inch screens and crowded keyboards, caught shoppers’ attention as much for their sub-$500 prices as for their compact form factors. For a brief period a few years back, netbooks were the hot new thing, selling like proverbial hotcakes—but it didn’t last. Those hotcakes didn’t even stay sold as customers returned their cheap netbooks in droves.

Complaints touched on everything from screen dimensions (in many cases, too small to display full-size webpages) to keyboard width (too tiny for traditional typing), but the biggest gripe by far was about the processors. Shoppers went looking for inexpensive alternatives to laptops, but found that netbooks’ pint-sized CPUs wouldn’t always support the programs they were accustomed to, or provide the speed they expected.

Though you’ll still see one or two being sold as inexpensive systems for K-12 students, by and large the netbook is now all but extinct. The ultrabook has come on the scene, offering portability with the promise of a full-fledged processor, but the prices usually bottom out around $700. Apple’s MacBook Air models eventually jump-started Intel’s Ultrabook category, but so surpassed the underpowered netbooks of the time that they are rightly considered part of another category.

It’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head again.

As tablets and hybrid ultrabook designs have begun cropping up recently, it’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head yet again. Ten-and 11-inch tablets are being released with docking keyboards and Windows 8, designed to provide the convenience seen in iPads and Android tablets, but with the additional productive capability and software support of a Windows PC. These little tablets share many of the defining features of netbooks. Dinky Atom processors? Check. Chintzy 32-bit versions of Windows? Check. Small screens? Check. Cramped keyboards? Check.

But there are some key differences as well. For example, the keyboards are slightly improved over those on netbooks, with many lessons learned from earlier disasters. You won’t see one coming in at less than 10 inches, where keyboards on the largest netbooks topped out at 10 or 11 inches—and most systems were equipped with nearly useless keyboards 8 or 9 inches in size.

Small screens are also less of an issue, as they are now wide enough to display content without cutting off webpages, and the Web has adapted to smaller displays thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices. And where netbooks were often used at arm’s length like a laptop, tablets are more ergonomically suited to cradling and carrying. Higher screen resolutions also play a part, with most hybrids offering 720p and a few even sporting 1080p. The result is a much more readable, usable display.

The current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Where the Atom processors used in netbooks were slow and clunky, the newest batch of Atom CPUs deliver speedier performance and superb battery life. Intel has pushed hard to close the gap between their mobile and PC chips, desiring a stronger presence in mobile markets, and the Atom platform is the beneficiary of this progress. The results aren’t on par with the latest Core processors, but you will find solid basic performance. More important, the current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that the netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Finally, the usage model has changed. Only a few years ago, netbooks were expected to be primarily productivity machines, letting you type documents, fill out spreadsheets, and so on. Since that time, online services like Netflix, Facebook, and Skype have exploded. For these sorts of uses detachable hybrid tablets are perfect, letting you curl up with a movie the way past generations curled up with a good book. You can Skype and chat and browse to your heart’s content. And with a docking keyboard, you can actually do some work, whether that means taking notes in a classroom or meeting, preparing spreadsheets, or designing a presentation.

So, although detachable hybrid tablets certainly share a family resemblance to netbooks, they are ultimately their own devices, with their own pros and cons. One of the biggest benefits of these new devices is all-day battery life—and I do mean all day. Some of the latest Atom-powered tablets offer well beyond the 8 hours needed for a full workday, and then supplement this with a second battery in the docking keyboard, letting you go from dawn to dusk and into the night without stopping to charge.

Will 2013 see a repeat of the buy-and-return cycle that killed off netbooks? Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe. Vendors and manufacturers, on the other hand, have a very different concern: If people can already do most of this with the smartphones and tablets they already have, who will want to buy a Windows tablet?

Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe.

Source : PCMAG

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Gadgets

The Child, the Tablet and the Developing Mind

I recently watched my sister perform an act of magic.

We were sitting in a restaurant, trying to have a conversation, but her children, 4-year-old Willow and 7-year-old Luca, would not stop fighting. The arguments — over a fork, or who had more water in a glass — were unrelenting.

Child-with-iPad-via-AFP-615x345Like a magician quieting a group of children by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my sister reached into her purse and produced two shiny Apple iPads, handing one to each child. Suddenly, the two were quiet. Eerily so. They sat playing games and watching videos, and we continued with our conversation.

After our meal, as we stuffed the iPads back into their magic storage bag, my sister felt slightly guilty.

“I don’t want to give them the iPads at the dinner table, but if it keeps them occupied for an hour so we can eat in peace, and more importantly not disturb other people in the restaurant, I often just hand it over,” she told me. Then she asked: “Do you think it’s bad for them? I do worry that it is setting them up to think it’s O.K. to use electronics at the dinner table in the future.”

I did not have an answer, and although some people might have opinions, no one has a true scientific understanding of what the future might hold for a generation raised on portable screens.

“We really don’t know the full neurological effects of these technologies yet,” said Dr. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.” “Children, like adults, vary quite a lot, and some are more sensitive than others to an abundance of screen time.”

But Dr. Small says we do know that the brain is highly sensitive to stimuli, like iPads and smartphone screens, and if people spend too much time with one technology, and less time interacting with people like parents at the dinner table, that could hinder the development of certain communications skills.

So will a child who plays with crayons at dinner rather than a coloring application on an iPad be a more socialized person?

Ozlem Ayduk, an associate professor in the Relationships and Social Cognition Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, said children sitting at the dinner table with a print book or crayons were not as engaged with the people around them, either. “There are value-based lessons for children to talk to the people during a meal,” she said. “It’s not so much about the iPad versus nonelectronics.”

Parents who have little choice but to hand over their iPad can at least control what a child does on those devices.

A report published last week by the Millennium Cohort Study, a long-term study group in Britain that has been following 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001, found that those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not. The study, of a sample of 11,000 children, found that children who played video games — often age-appropriate games — for the same amount of time did not show any signs of negative behavioral changes by the same age.

Which brings us back to the dinner table with my niece and nephew. While they sat happily staring into those shiny screens, they were not engaged in any type of conversation, or staring off into space thinking, as my sister and I did as children when our parents were talking. And that is where the risks are apparent.

“Conversations with each other are the way children learn to have conversations with themselves, and learn how to be alone,” said Sherry Turkle, a professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.” “Learning about solitude and being alone is the bedrock of early development, and you don’t want your kids to miss out on that because you’re pacifying them with a device.”

Ms. Turkle has interviewed parents, teenagers and children about the use of gadgets during early development, and says she fears that children who do not learn real interactions, which often have flaws and imperfections, will come to know a world where perfect, shiny screens give them a false sense of intimacy without risk.

And they need to be able to think independently of a device. “They need to be able to explore their imagination. To be able to gather themselves and know who they are. So someday they can form a relationship with another person without a panic of being alone,” she said. “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only know how to be lonely.”

Source

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Articles

Using The Right Charger For Your Mobile Device

usbAbout three years ago, 10 major mobile devices manufacturers, including Apple, Nokia and Samsung, committed to a voluntary agreement to work towards a universal charger based on a micro USB connector, in an effort to reduce unnecessary waste. But no such universal charger has been settled on, and Apple appears to have backtracked on the idea with the introduction of a new proprietary Lightning charger for its iPhone 5 that is likely to be the standard for several generations of future iPhones.

Not withstanding this seeming setback, many manufacturers have already adopted the micro USB connector for their chargers. Devices having this charging port are now very common place and is not unusual to see a single charger being used across numerous devices in homes and workplaces

However, just because the plug fits into your charging port does not mean you are using the right cell phone charger for your phone. Unfortunately, such mistakes can be costly!

But why is this?

Voltage

For a replacement charger, it is important to get one with the right voltage. While the device may work with chargers with voltages that are close, it is often at the expense of shortened lifespan of the batteries being recharged. Some devices, however, are quite tolerant of voltage variations and will work just fine. Others, not so much. Problem is, how do you know this detail about your device? There is no easy way to know which category your device falls into, so it is best to simply get the right voltage from the start.

Amperage

Also, the ampere rating of your charger is very important. This is usually represented by notations like “1.0A” on your chargers. Many people are confused by amperage ratings and what they mean when it comes to power supplies and replacements.

One easy way to look at it is this:

Voltage is provided by (or pushed) by the power supply.

Amperage is taken by (or pulled) by the device being powered.

In other words, while the voltage is a constant and should match, the amperage is something that varies based on the devices need. A device will “pull” more amps when it is working hard than when it is not. The voltage will remain the same regardless.

The amperage rating of a power supply is the maximum number of amps that it is able to provide if needed.

Thus, as long as you replace your power supply with one that is capable of providing as much or more amps than the previous supply, you’ll be fine.

If you replace the power supply for some reason with one that has a maximum amperage rating that is less than the previous and less than what your device actually requires, then you may end up with a burnt out or (at least) overheating power supply, and the device itself may not function, or may not do so well.

Rule of Thumb

Your choice of a replacement charger for your mobile device should be guided by the following:

  • Make sure that the voltage matches as closely as possible.
  • Make sure that it is rated to provide the same amperage or more.

Lastly…

For those who use their laptops to charge their mobile devices, they probably would have noticed that it takes a bit more time to get a full charge using this means.

Most laptop USB ports are of USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 specifications and do not deliver more than 500mA (0.5A). This is a far cry from the recommended requirements for a lot of devices. Apple’s iPad charger provides 2.1A at 5V. Amazon’s Kindle Fire charger outputs 1.8; My wife’s Nexus 7 needs 5V/2A and my fancy Samsung S3 needs 5V/1A.

Probably better are quality car chargers that can output a range of 1A to 2.1A.

If you use a standard USB charger, these devices will probably charge, but slower than the stock charger.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

What’s Your BB PIN?

blackberry babes“What’s your BB pin?”

The question is the ultimate social status badge for many young, urban Nigerians. Standing in front of a row of gleaming BlackBerry handsets in a Lagos phone shop, sales assistant Remi Olajuwon explained: “The average Nigerian has a very healthy interest in status and luxury. So if somebody asks for your BlackBerry pin and you don’t have one …” she trailed off with a dismissive flick of her false eyelashes.

Retailing at between $200 (£126) and $2,000 in a country where most live on less than $2 a day, the cost alone made it a status symbol, she added. “People come in to buy one just to show they’ve been promoted.”

Amid sagging sales in Europe and North America, developing markets offer a ray of hope for Research in Motion (RIM), after the maker of BlackBerry posted a $235m loss for the latest quarter. In Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, Africa’s three biggest economies, BlackBerrys outsold smartphone competitors this quarter. Kenya and Ghana also had buoyant sales, officials said.

Around one sixth of Africa’s 620 million active phone subscribers come from Nigeria. Half of Nigeria’s 4 million smartphone owners use BlackBerrys, and use among the wealthiest segment of society is forecast to increase sixfold by 2016.

“There’s a misconception Africans only want cheap phones [but] Nigeria is a key market for us. We’re seen as an aspirational product,” said RIM regional director Waldi Wepenerlast month, after the company opened its first Nigerian store in Lagos’s computer village, a sprawling haven for tech junkies.

With its image increasingly outdated elsewhere, RIM hopes to capitalise on Nigeria’s twin obsessions with status and communication. BlackBerry-related dramas flood newspapers’ agony aunt pages. On social websites, debate rages as to whether a bride photographed using her phone during her wedding ceremony was reading an e-Bible, or was merely a BlackBerry addict. The Nollywood film industry, whose clunkily named movie titles are a good cultural barometer and include delights such as the “Fazebook Babes” series, has recently spawned the hit multisequel “BlackBerry Babes”. The comedy follows a group of scantily clad university girls obsessed with getting the latest phones.

The popularity of BlackBerrys in Nigeria is partly born of necessity. Erratic internet services and a nonexistent landline network are plugged by unlimited data bundles, costing about £12 a month. Unpredictable phone networks force those who can afford it to own two handsets.

“I already have another smartphone, but I need a BlackBerry pin number to socialise with friends and get babes. BlackBerry has an edge because of the pinging,” George Emeka, a university student said, using the colloquial term for its instant messaging service.

Others are getting more bang for their buck. Yahya Balogun, who lives in a Lagos slum, used eight months of savings to buy a secondhand model. The taxi driver has caught on to the growing number of high-end businesses who advertise and communicate using BlackBerry pin numbers as well as traditional means. “All my clients in [upmarket district] Victoria Island own BlackBerrys. It is a good investment,” Balogun said.

In his rundown district where extended families squeeze into single rooms, neighbours frequently browse on his phone. “My daughter can use the internet [for schoolwork],” said neighbour Tosin Alabi, his face lit by the screen’s blue glow during a recent powercut. “Personally myself I can never pay 1,000 naira [£4] every week for internet. And the battery is terrible when I can go for two days without charging my own phone,” he added, indicating a battered Nokia feature phone.

Nokia’s low-cost phones remain the top overall sellers across Africa, though affordable mid-range mobiles could also erode RIM’s top-end dominance, analysts say. Last year, Chinese manufacturer Huawei gobbled up almost half of Kenya’s smartphone market with the launch of its $100 devices powered by Google’s Android software. RIM has felt the heat in South Africa, where, unlike Nigeria, mobile carriers offer packages with Apple iPhones. “You’re only with it if you have an iPhone, preferably the iPhone 5, or Samsung Galaxy SIII,” said Khayakazi Mgojo, based in Pretoria.

A three-day loss of service across Africa and parts of Europe last year was the final straw for some. “I switched because BlackBerry was frustrating me with all its constant freezing at the most inconvenient times, short battery life and the daily reboots,” Mgojo said. Nevertheless she added: “I still use it for social network because it’s cheap compared to buying data bundles.”

RIM hopes to bat away growing competition in its most important African markets by releasing its jazzed up BlackBerry 10 software in South Africa and Nigeria at the same time as other global markets next year. “At a time when Nokia is strengthening its distribution arm in Nigeria and Apple has recently appointed its first official distributor … the opening of the first BlackBerry-branded retail store is a logical step [to remain] the country’s No 1 smartphone vendor,” said Nick Jotischky, an analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media.

And for the consumer there still seems a popular groundswell for RIM’s best known product. Manzo George, a businessman who owns three BlackBerrys, said he had no plans to switch over to an Android phone anytime soon. “When people ask me why not try a new brand smartphone, I tell them there are smartphones and then there are BlackBerrys.”

Outsmarted

The once mighty BlackBerry is no longer a status symbol in western markets, but RIM hopes for a revival on 30 January with the release of its new operating system, BlackBerry 10.

Caught in the crossfire between Apple and Android, RIM has lost market share. Its devices excel at email and instant messaging, making them popular with younger users who cannot afford big phone bills, but the company has been left behind because of its failure to create a smartphone that can efficiently navigate the wider web.

RIM’s worldwide market share stood at nearly 20% in 2009, says research firm Gartner, but has now fallen to 5%. While smartphone sales are booming, RIM’s shipment volumes have fallen 57% in a year, according to IDC resaerch. In June the firm reported its first operating loss since 2004, and set out plans to shrink its headcount by a third, shedding 5,000 jobs.

Source

Categories
Hack

What is a Rootkit and How it Infects your PC

Everyone knows about computer viruses – and people are rightly fearful of them. Many have also heard about (computer) worms, which are nasty programs designed to spread as much as they can to infect computers.

A rootkit, on the other hand, is devious in a different way. This is used to gain control over your desktop by hiding deep inside your system. Unlike most viruses, it is not directly destructive and unlike worms, its objective is not to spread infections.

So what does a Rookit  do?

What it does do, is provide access to all your folders – both private data and system files – to a remote user who, through administrative powers, can do whatever he wants with your computer. Needless to say, every user should be aware of the threat they pose.

Rootkits generally go much deeper than the average virus. They may even infect your BIOS – the part of your computer that’s independent of the Operating System – making them harder to remove. And they may not even be Windows-specific, even Linux or Apple machines could be affected. In fact, the first rootkit ever written was for Unix!

Is this a new phenomenon?

No, not at all. The earliest known rootkit is in fact two decades old.  However, now that every home and every work desk has a computer that is connected to the internet, the possibilities for using the full potential of a rootkit is only just being realized.

Possibly the most famous case so far was in 2005, when CDs sold by Sony BMG installed rootkits without user permission that allowed any user logged in at the computer to access the administrator mode. The purpose of that rootkit was to enforce copy protection (called “Digital Rights Management” or DRM) on the CDs, but it compromised the computer it was installed on. This process could easily be hijacked for malicious purposes.

What makes it different from a virus?

Most often, rootkits are used to control and not to destroy. Of course, this control could be used to delete data files, but it can also be used for more nefarious purposes.

More importantly, rootkits run at the same privilege levels as most antivirus programs. This makes them that much harder to remove as the computer cannot decide on which program has a greater authority to shut down the other.

So how can I get infected with a rootkit?

As mentioned above, a rootkit may piggyback along with software that you thought you trusted. When you give this software permission to install on your computer, it also inserts a process that waits silently in the background for a command. And, since to give permission you need administrative access, this means that your rootkit is already in a sensitive location on the computer.

Another way to get infected is by standard viral infection techniques – either through shared disks and drives with infected web content. This infection may not easily get spotted because of the silent nature of rootkits.

There have also been cases where rootkits came pre-installed on purchased computers. The intentions behind such software may be good – for example, anti-theft identification or remote diagnosis – but it has been shown that the mere presence of such a path to the system itself is a vulnerability.

So, that was about what exactly is a rootkit and how does it creep in to computer. In my next article I’ll discuss how to defend your computer from rootkits – from protection to cleaning up.

Source

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Google To Converge Android OS And Chrome OS By 2013?

The China Commercial Times reports that Google has placed hardware orders with Taiwanese manufacturers Compal Electronics and Wintek to produce a Chromebook with a 12.85-inch touch display. Could this be the start of Google merging Android and Chrome OS?

Chromebooks are lightweight laptop and desktop devices that use the Chrome Web browser for their primary interface, with Linux on the back end. There’s really no reason why they couldn’t use Android to support the Chrome interface. Indeed, Chrome is now the default Web browser for Android 4.x and higher.

While Chromebooks don’t get as many headlines as Microsoft Surface and Apple iPads, the devices are quite popular. For example, Samsung’s ARM-powered Chromebook  is Amazon’s top-selling laptop computer, as of November 27th. At the same time, Android now owns 72% of the entire mobile devices market–not just smartphones.

What would you get if you put these Android and Chrome OS together in a touch-enabled laptop? You might well get Windows’ true desktop successor.

Think about it. Chromebook and Android smartphones and tablets are taking off. Microsoft’s Surface marriage of the tablet and desktop is on the rocks. Pure PC sales, of course, continue to decline.

Microsoft’s reaction to its falling market share–and certainly its faltering market dominance–has been to try to follow Apple’s path in creating a closed hardware/software ecosystem with Windows 8 and RT. Apple, with its charisma and dedicated fan base (and I do mean that in a nice way), has managed to get away with it. Microsoft, not so much. Google is offering a much more open path for both developers and users, on both Android and Chrome, that’s clearly gaining in popularity. Wouldn’t a combination Chrome/Android Linux desktop prove a winner?

This isn’t a difficult hurdle. Android, with version 4.2, supports multiple users. Previously, this was always a weak point for business desktops. The actual merger of Android and Chrome wouldn’t technically be difficult to do. Both are Linux-based system that use Webkit for Web browsing.

Leaving aside the technical aspects, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said as far back as November 2009 that, “Android and Chrome will likely converge over time.” That time may well be sometime in 2013.

Source : ZDNET

 

Categories
Mobile

Firefox OS: Another Lab Experiment?

There are now a good number of mobile OS out there, with many still considered as not more than lab experiments. The likes of Jolla and Tizen fits this description perfectly.

Jolla, in particular, has a tall order of competing with Research In Motion’s upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, as well as the latest version of Windows Phone for the lucrative title of third most popular mobile platform globally, behind Apple and Google’s operating systems. How that pans out, time will tell.

The ambitions of some of these mobile OS can be considered humorous at best. Not to be considered a “kill joy”, why not let us , em, humour them.

The new kid on the block is the Firefox OS, still in its alpha release. My initial hands on with this OS left an Android taste in my mouth. Simply put, the experience was too familiar.

Why take my word for it? Firefox has been nice enough to allow a simulation of its new OS using a firefox browser. Follow the steps below to grab it:

  • In your Firefox browser, go to this link and click the download link for your OS. This will install the r2d2b2g Firefox OS simulator extension.
  • Click on the link for your OS and allow Firefox to install the software in your browser
  • After installing, the Firefox OS simulator dashboard pops up immediately. No need to restart your browser.
  • Enable the simulator by clicking the “stopped” button on the top left side of the browser. The button turns green and is labelled “running”
  • The Firefox OS simulator pops up immediately.
  • Enjoy!

Categories
Articles

Are Nigerian Mobile Networks Heading For Financial Crisis?

Recently, one of Nigeria’s four GSM Service Providers, Etisalat Nigeria, rolled out a unique bundle offering  called EasyFlex. In this offering, you get to choose a bundle comprising of Short Messaging Service (SMS), voice and data services.

For N1000, one of the plans offer you 100 minutes of talk time to any local network, 100 Megabytes of data and 400 sms – also to any network. This same GSM provider ordinarily offers calls to other local networks at very low rates, forcing their counterparts to tow the line.

It is very comforting that market forces is now driving the Telecomm sector in Nigeria. However, the offer of cheap SMS by mobile networks may not be particularly enticing as the trend worldwide is placing increasingly less focus on SMS as a means of communication. People would rather use other Instant Messaging (IM) medium like Samsung’s ChatOn, Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, Nimbuzz, Imsy and numerous others.

Personally, I can not remember the last time I used a paid SMS service. Some services like VConnect and get2Sms offer specific numbers of sms freely. Google also allow you to send free SMS to most Nigerian networks while Facebook allow you free access on select networks.

These free services have always come in handy the few times i need to use SMS.

The bundled SMS is, however, not a deal breaker for Etisalat because even with the SMS taken out of the equation, the N1000 package is probably worth almost N3000 if the included services are used on a Pay as you go basis.

Promotional offers is now the trend in Nigeria and the subscribers are finally getting back what they had been ripped off of in the past. So much so that the regulatory body, NCC, had to step in to put a halt to the ”çat fight”. Competition is now fierce as revenue, especially, from voice calls keep plummeting. This is partly because the number and duration of voice calls have drastically reduced. There was a time in this country when networks were billing per minute. They are now billing per second, coupled with the fact that competition has driven down voice call charges to less than a quarter of what they used to be. SIM cards are being given out (practically) for free. One of the other things eating into the revenue of these networks is the use of satellite telephony to connection to the internet for close to free.

All these pose serious financial challenges to our networks here.

Meanwhile, like with every business in Nigeria, running costs keep rising. Recurrent expenditure is shooting through the roof for these networks.

Revenues are dwindling, running costs are rising. Add these two together, and you have a veritable recipe for business disaster.

It is no surprise that most CDMA Operators have closed shop in Nigeria. There are mergers and acquisitions going on. With or without economies of scale, it appears that revenue in the Telecommunications Sector is dwindling and will continue to dwindle in the foreseeable future.

This has left me wondering whether the pervading cutthroat competition in the telecoms sector would not  leave casualties in its path.

We have a situation where there is a crying need to improve the Quality of service of the Operators by investing more in infrastructure. They need to expand the network capacity. How are they going to be able to do this when revenue is being forced downwards? Any business faced with this kind of scenario would look for ways to reduce expenditure, so as to improve on their bottomline.

And I fear the first ports of call would probably be ‘downsizing’, more pronounced outsourcing, reduction of staff emolument, smart tax avoidance (not evasion) strategy.

This may not be all good news for subscribers at all.

In what way do you think these networks can escape this “Catch – 99” situation?

Do you forsee a improvement s in the Quality of Service, due to the ferocious combination.

Or are you like me – I can already see cracks, and a deterioration in service rendition. I see vicious competition having a “MAD” quality about it already– Mutually Assured Destruction.

What is your take?