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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With its image increasingly outdated elsewhere, RIM hopes to capitalise on Nigeria’s twin obsessions with status and communication.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.

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Gadgets Mobile

The Strange Nature of the Nigerian App Market

With 100 million mobile subscribers, Nigeria stands among leading mobile markets in the world. Its mobile content sector is quite fascinating — this is a market where $100 apps can debut at the No.3 position on Apple’s list of top iOS apps.

Bible and Quran apps are a major feature of the Nigerian mobile content market. The evergreen “Message Bible” was launched globally in December 2009 at almost the same time as “Angry Birds.” While the raging avians achieved greater global success, “Message Bible” was a smash in Nigeria, recently returning again to No.15 among the top grossing iPhone apps. In the United States, the app didn’t even crack the top 600 at its peak.

Recently, the old war horse has been eclipsed by hot new entries like “NKJV Bible” and “Amplified Bible,” which hit No.1 last week in Nigeria. “Amplified Bible” offers more than 100 books for free, and features a range of in-app purchases such as the King James version and scriptural knowledge.

Popular Nigerian apps are expensive. Very expensive. The two best-selling bible apps among the top five apps on August 10th were each $10 — and some of the most popular in-app purchases cost as much as $35. “QuickOffice Pro” made the top-10 list with a $15 price tag, and the popular game “Chaos Rings” costs $13. Nigeria may be a poor country, but the people who can afford Apple’s iPhone do not chase after free apps. In contrast, 9 out of the 10 highest-grossing iPhone apps in America are free.

Bible apps may dominate, but Nigerians also hanker after luxuriously detailed, high-end fantasy games with a Japanese flavor. Both “Infinity Blade 2″ and “Chaos Rings” were top-10 apps on August 10th. “Chaos Rings” was a No.1 smash in America during the spring of 2010, but faded fast due to its unusually high download price. In Nigeria, it’s still a blockbuster.

Similarly, “Infinity Blade 2″ only spent a week on the U.S. top-10 list for iPhone apps generating the most revenue. But in Nigeria, it has returned to the top again and again, most recently during the first week of August 2012.

Why is the Nigerian mobile app market so inundated with $10-plus applications?

There are several explanations. First, the market may simply be immature. The American iPhone app sales charts were dominated by expensive apps in 2010. Over the past two years, app vendors realized that handing out free apps with compelling in-app purchase features is an effective strategy to maximize revenue generation. The Nigerian market may follow a similar evolution in the future.

Second, it’s possible that Nigerian consumers are using expensive apps to substitute for even more expensive purchases. Buying 10 spiritual books would cost more than buying a single bible app that comes with a hundred free books. Buying a PlayStation 3 console with a “Final Fantasy” game would cost hundreds of dollars, but buying a slick, well-produced mobile game is a tolerable substitute, even if the game is priced at a relatively steep $13.

Third, the pool of iPhone owners in Nigeria may be so narrow that it is dominated by the elite who can afford to splurge on pricey apps. Expensive apps may be a status symbol. In America, there are tens of millions of iPhone owners, many of them in sub-$50,000 annual income households. That middle-class pool of consumers slants the app charts to favor free or cheap products.

Supporting the “status symbol of a narrow elite” explanation would be the hottest new apps of August 13th. The $100 “CFA Exam Audio Series: Level II 2013″ hit No.3 in the Nigerian app market, while the $70 “King James Silver Study Bible” debuted at No.7. The rather exclusive nature of a CFA study aid would seem to imply that the Nigerian app market is resting on an extremely narrow demographic footprint.

As mobile app markets outside America mature, it will be fascinating to see whether they converge with the U.S. app market or continue evolving in vastly different directions.

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Gadgets Mobile

Beauty Or The Beast?

In the first part of this post, i started the chronicling of my activities in the search of a replacement for my iPad tablet. The iPad still remains the most widely accepted tablet because of its popularity, perceived status symbol and, well, fashion accessory. For the serious minded geeks out there, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the iPad is not in the least functional. From simple tasks like attaching files to emails or viewing flash enabled sites to more serious tasks like backing up your files, nothing comes easy or straightforward.

It really has been a very long search, no thanks to the endless streams of tablets coming into the market. However, my search is being guided by 6 key considerations, based on my present circumstances and needs;

1. COST : A budget of $400
2. ACCEPTABLE BATTERY LIFE
3. SCREEN SIZE : Preference for 10.1 inch tablets. I read a lot of A4 formatted PDF files.
4. 3G CAPABILITIES
5. APPS : Acceptable availability of apps for the OS platform of choice
6. EXPANSION PORTS : Presence of any or all of the following ports; MicroSD, SD, mini or full HDMI and mini or full USB.

At the end of the day,the following tablets made the first cut based on, at least, 4 of the criteria listed above;

– Samsung Galaxy 10.1
– Archos 101 G9
– Lenovo Ideapad K1
– Acer Aconia A500
– Toshiba Thrive

It is very common place to find a lot of these tablets having very similar features (1Ghz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor; 2MP and 5MP front and rear facing cameras; 1GB RAM, etc) and only differentiated by brand names and inconsequential features. However, two of these tablets were able to seperate themselves from the pack, thereby making my second cut;

1. Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (a.k.a Beauty)

Regarded as the iPad of the Android world, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is indeed a fantastic device and undoubtedly, the Android tablet with the best user experience.

Slim, light and quite pretty, the device compares very favourably with the iPad 2 and possess very similar design and features. And with 10 hour battery life, it tips the scale in probably being one of the best Android device around.

Unfortunately, just like the iPad, it lacks expansion ports. None at all!

2. Toshiba Thrive (a.k.a. The Beast)

Weighing in at 1.66lbs and with 0.62 inches thickness (almost twice the thickness of iPad 2), the Toshiba Thrive makes no pretence at being slim or pretty. It was intended as a near laptop replacement, thanks to its array of expansion ports; Full HDMI out, Full and mini USB, Full and mini SD (max 32GB), SDHC and SDXC (max 2TB). With The Thrive, the possiblities and expandability of the full USB port are almost endless. It accepts your regular keyboard and mouse (wired or wireless), flash drives, portable drives,etc. And to top it all, the tablet is about the only one that has a user replaceable battery!

Simply put, The Thrive is for those that expect a lot more than an ipad.

Probably the only snag with this tablet is the relative limited battery life. The max you can probably squeeze out of it is about 8 hours.

My Verdict

At about $450 for the minimum Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 specs, the tablet has exceeded my budget by about $50. In Nigeria where the minimum wage is just a little over $100 per month, this sure counts for a lot. However, what eventually informed my choice of the Toshiba Thrive ($360) over the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the lack of expansion ports on the former.

Personally, I believe those with limited demands on their tablets or those more concerned about the status symbol their tablet would confer on them, may consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. But for the Geeks, chances are that The Thrive would suit your needs just fine.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.