A Brief note on the blog:

This is the first of what I hope to be many posts under the ‘blog’ label. This blog will provide an opportunity and platform for discussion on the state of mobile technology as it pertains to development. These posts will not focus on the technical side of technology with detailed instructions and how to’s but rather allow readers to gain an insight into the world of Information Communication and Technology and why it’s important in international development. I welcome any discussion or debate.

When searching for a mobile device for any project involving ICT we first look at price and then look at performance. Searching for an expensive phone is pretty easy and you can almost always be guaranteed that the performance will be top notch. However, not many people let alone a project can just outright purchase the newest and most expensive product on the market and roll it out in the field. Instead, we tread the extremely murky waters in search of the perfect mid to bottom tier device. Trust me when I say, it’s not easy. In fact it’s incredibly difficult and more often than not you’ll find yourself with an incredibly mediocre device that’ll have you thinking why you even bother trying.

can you say ‘decision fatigue’?

Enter the $30 smart phone…


As mobile tech giants like Samsung and Apple fight it out with law suits being thrown left and right in the global north many companies are now looking at the global south for the next battle. After all, the next billion mobile phone users will come from emerging markets located in the “global south.” This next billion will be no doubt be accessing the internet through mobile devices rather than physical computers (think cellphone 3g vs. wifi infrastructure) and in order to do so smartphones have to come down to about $30. And they have.

Did you say $30 smartphones? This is fantastic news! How can we buy 100 of them for our project?

Yes, but…

There’s definitely a surge of cheap smartphones hitting the market in the last couple of years with a lot of Chinese and Indian companies leading the way.  However, in order to produce $30 smartphones (and sub $100 for that matter) a lot of corners have to be cut. These companies are definitely targeting a demographic of new, first time smartphone buyers with the intention of producing a product that will have a very short life span (this can be argued for all cell phone manufacturers – these companies just have a smaller profit margin as the article mentions).

note: The following is in direct response to this post about $30 smartphones.

Based on my observations the sacrifices that are being made are as follows:

 Mobile Connectivity

The only device with 3G connectivity is the Micromax Bolt A089 ($62). If mobile internet is not important than this is a non-issue. If mobile internet connectivity is important – then the Micromax Bolt is the only option.

 RAM (memory)

This is arguably the most important aspect of a device to run any applications smoothly without the phone slowing or crashing. Most of these cheap devices are using 256MB of RAM while the most expensive Micromax Bolt has 512MB. As of now (2015) I would even hesitate to recommend a device that doesn’t have 1GB of RAM. This is also an important factor to consider if you want to “future proof” devices for any new projects.

Operating System

After researching most of the devices it is apparent that the manufacturers have no intention of keeping the operating system up to date. For example, the Micromax Bolt A089 runs Android 4.2.2 which is an operating system over 2 years old. Many software companies will not support such an old operating system.

Battery Life

All these devices have pretty poor battery performance and you can even read them in the Micromax A089 Bolt user opinion and reviews. They even confirm the fact that after 6 months the devices become inoperable and have even mentioned the devices bulging (battery expansion is never a good sign).

The reality is that these devices are designed to merely give an individual in a developing country their very first smartphone experience. Will they be able to access the internet and e-mail communications? Yes. Will they be able to do it well? Not so much. Our own use case scenario will determine if these devices could be a good fit for us. My speculation is that these are not the phones for us and will cause more issues down the line.