Android phones in Africa break the $100 price barrier

Call me biased, but I really believe that Android is the operating system of the future for smartphones. The Apple iPhone OS is not poised to take back the market share that Android is gaining because Apple products have always been destined for those who can afford them. I have heard rumors of an Android phone in the range of $100 being produced, and have been anxiously waiting for the day this would happen.

Time out... I need to explain what is meant by a $100 phone. Most of the people in the third world have to purchase their phones outright. The phone usage is prepaid, usually with scratch cards, and there is no monthly bill or contract. Most of the phone deals in the US for $100 or less require you to enslave yourself to a monthly plan for the next two years. This is not the $100 phone I am referring to. If you go to purchase that same phone outright (something the phone company is very reluctant to allow you to do), you will end up paying two to three hundred dollars more for the same unit. In the US, the cost of the phone is almost always subsidized by the carrier in order to get your juicy monthly contract.

In Kenya last week, I was able to purchase two Android phones, model Google IDEOS, for less than $100 each. Not only that, but each phone came with a free 2 Gig mini SD chip ($10) and a $12 scratch card with credit. This means that somehow, without a contract, they are delivering a fully featured Android phone for $78. Even Crazy Eddie couldn't sell at a price this insane!

For your money, this is what you get:

  • Android 2.2 Froyo
  • 2.8 Inch Capacitive Touch Screen Display
  • 320 x 240 Screen Resolution
  • 528 MHz Processor
  • Wi-Fi
  • HSDPA 3G Compatible
  • 3G Hotspot Capable
  • dedicated Search, Home and Back Keys
  • 3.2 Mega Pixel Primary Camera

OK, that was for the phone geeks.  In terms of real world useage, this is what you can use this for practically:

  • Amazon Kindle device with unlimited books
  • GPS with maps
  • Bible Reader
  • Barcode Scanner to catalog your book, DVD, or CD collection
  • Digital Camera
  • MP3 player
  • Portable movie player
  • Internet browser
  • Portable WiFi hotspot (connects your computer wirelessly to the internet via its cell data connection)
  • Calculator
  • Pocket calendar/dayplanner with built in reminders
  • Video game console
  • Digital alarm clock
  • Portable voice recorder/dictation device
  • Voice activated internet search
  • Weather forcaster
  • Read and reply to emails
  • Post photos and status updates on facebook

Not everybody needs to do all these things.  But the difference between a portable computer and a cell phone is disappearing rapidly.  In fact, some speculate whether the cell phone will completely replace the PC.  All I know is that this value has broken new ground in Africa and that it won't take long for the above features and tools are in the hands of the masses.