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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mobile Illiteracy & Miserliness- The DARK Truth

Let's face it,,,irrespective of the fact that mobiles have gone from the realm of strictly "rich" to a level where even a rickshaw-walla has one to chatter away,,they're still the uber style and "status" icon on a 'portable' level. Mobile manufacturers churn out new models with glitzier styling, more features, better battery, larger screens and so on and so forth at such a rate that a state-of-the-art mobile today is OBSOLETE within 6 months from the "bleeding edge" Point Of View. And while witnessing replacements on a yearly, half-yearly, quarterly or even bi-monthly timescales; it seems hard to imagine that just half to three quarters of a decade ago,,mobiles were still considered a nouveau-rich accessory which users kept till the mobile died of "Old Age".

But it's not a bad thing at all. For the price of a "hand-held brick" that could do nothing but make phone calls and send messages with a battery life of hardly 5-6 hours,,today one can have a virtual handheld computer which is a camera, media player, storage medium and your personal secretary (albeit without the 'curves' ;) ) all rolled into one. Oh yeah,,they still make phone calls and send messages. (WWWooooWWW)

India today has the fastest growing mobile population in the world in percentage terms and ranks 2nd in absolute terms. Mobile telephony operators mint money,,LITERALLY,,by catering to the ever increasing horde of users. More and more services like banking and ticket booking are being offered from the comfort of the mobile phone. Everything seems a shining pot of gold for users and operators alike.

But all this glitz,,,all this replacements to be "up-to-date" in style and features,,,all this new fangled feature terminology and the ever present tendency of young and old to want to carry the latest 'HOT' product on the market hides a disappointing truth - Mobile users are ILLITERATE and amazingly MISERLY even if they flaunt the latest Nokia N95, Sony Ericsson P1i, XDA 02 or the latest incarnation of the ultra-popular Motorola RAZR.

Illiterate you ask??? MISERLY you ask??? Surely i jest,,right????


Take a good long look at the mobile usage details of most of the population, if i may put a top of my mind number to it, 95% of mobile users in India haven't moved on from the basic "call and message" way of using their mobile phones irrespective of whether their mobile is a economy level plain-jane Nokia or a top-of-the-line Symbian or Windows Mobile Smartphone like the XDA O2 or the E90. Now why is that? Surely a person buying a phone with everything but the kitchen sink built into it would use most of the features inbuilt,,right??? WRONG again!!!! A study from BBC and WIRED Magazine showed that 90% of all mobile phone features are never used by the user. Why is that?? The easiest answer would be,,that the features are hard to grasp. After all,,if you go to a person with a mobile and say " Setup the net usage using GPRS or EDGE with sounds and images set to 'OFF' to save BANDWIDTH and speed up RENDERING", the majority chances are the least the person would do is give you blank stares as if you've asked a ascetic monk about the technicalities of the Kama Sutra,, or worse,, wallop you right in the eye for denting the "i'm a mobile user,,so i'm mod" image of himself/herself. Bottom line, the user has no idea how to go about it. Setup Email - No idea, setup PC drivers for USB transfers - No idea. Enable/Disable features on phone - Maybe not "No Idea",,but barring tech-o-philes or really savvy users,,most will crap out coz they feel they'll "Brick" their phones( Techspeak for making the phone inoperative)

Let's for one moment take a summarical view of what the most usage styles of users who have mid-range phones and top end phones are. MP3 listening and transfers are right on top of usage time. So is transfer of video clips and pictures using Infrared or Bluetooth. Listening to FM. Now you ask me, all these things are a sign of tech savviness, is it not? Well,, one one level it is. But then again,,take a good long look at the things listed above. MP3 , pictures and video transfers using Bluetooth, FM listening - All FREE!!!! It doesn't cost a CENT. Now just tell that person so generous in transferring the media to send it to you via GPRS to your email,,and i can bet pretty penny,,that person is gonna BALK. Why? Coz it costs MONNEEYY!!! So,,the most features one uses on the phone,,are ones which can be used for FREE. That's a telling example of why usage of the internet over mobiles hasn't taken off till date in India though every phone from Rs 4000 onwards having WAP or GPRS are well capable of it. The Illiteracy about telephony features is so rampant that, with an example to clarify, people don't even know that most mobile operators offer basic internet packages on their networks FOR FREE. (Airtel Live is FREE,,for those of you who didn't know till now whilst browing other pages costs a measly 15 paise per 10KB translating to Rs 15 per MB of usage. Expensive compared to fixed line packages,,but you can't beat the portability ease and anywhere internet lookup for sure). Taking pictures is a big thumbs-up for mobile junkies. Camera Mobiles are really mana from heaven for the young who want to capture certain 'Cherished' moments with family and friends( Now Now,,keep your thoughts clean,,i know about the seedy side of this usage). But to see guys and gals going ga-ga over more and more Megapixels on their phone cam is a avenue of amusement in itself for a musing techie. While a 5MP camera on the N95 sounds amazing,, it's also pretty.......USELESS! Why? Simply because no home PC monitor can show 5MP in it's full size state. So the picture has to be zoomed out to be viewed. So if one is zooming out to see a smaller picture,,why have the need for massive sized photos of 2MP and beyond in the first place? The Sweet Spot for mobile cam phones is 2MP giving you 1600x1200 sized shots. Anything more seems overkill especially since mobile cameras use CMOS sensors rather than good quality CCD sensors that standalone cameras use. The quality difference is so world's apart no serious photo-junkie worth his salt would be caught dead using Camera Phones to capture minute detail professional level shots,,no matter how good camera phones are. Though as a side note for buyers, i must say,,Sony Ericsson has the best camera quality in phones. Their 2MP phones like the K750i can run circles around a Nokia Nseries in camera quality while the higher rez 3.2MP K800i and beyond are a class apart and give a good alternative to budged standalone digicams for casual users.

So,,,after all the hoopla,,,one sees that either users are completely clueless about how to use most of the advanced features of their phones, or are too cheap to pay for using most of the features that their phones offer even if they ARE tech savvy to use the features. So this brings up one question. IF,,in majority of the cases,,if all one has to use is the calling and messaging feature and occasional MP3 listening,,what's the point of changing for newer and newer phones every 6 months????? Why would one want to chuck, say a Nokia 6680 for a Nseries whilst in the end using the same things in both phones and nothing more? Why would one want to blow a month's salary on a high-end phone like a XDA 02 or Sony Ericsson P1i or Nokia E90 when you're gonna do the same things that you did with a 8000 bucks mid-range?? But beyond all that,,,,,,,,,,,,Why spend such high amounts of money,,,,when most users are not even generous enough to actually CALL and instead save that precious rupee by giving MISSED CALLS and wait for the other person to call back???? Why flaunt your mobile's EDGE, 3G, Java, Blah-Blah, Bling-Bling if you don't even know how the hell to use them? How many of use see anyone using their mobiles to book tickets over the mobile internet,,or pay their bills,, or do mobile banking??

Barring the top 5% of users comprising of businessmen who really use the services like mobile banking or checking their email and so forth and the techies (i'm a proud member of the techie world if i may boast) who actually have the skills to use their mobiles to the hilt of what it offers,,the rest are just shams and posers for whom the most knowledge about phones which they are aware of is the MAKE AND MODEL of their phones. Mobile Internet????? Duh!!!!!

That concludes the insights on the "hip, modern and technologically astute" world of Indian mobile users.

Which part of the world do YOU come in????Put in your views.....

Author's Note - Has a MotoRIZR Z3, tweaked for extra speed, additional software for Fax and setup for mobile internet using EDGE where available or GPRS as backup. Hates the Java based OS for it's speed,,but loves it for the ample software for it available on the net.

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