Evgeny Tchebotarev

@tchebotarev

A Six Year Lag: Why Switching To An Ancient Smartphone Taught Me World Isn’t Equal.

Starts with Part I on how I got to this… Thanks. Now we can move on.

So you are reading this story. Maybe you are in a coffee shop, maybe at the office. I’m willing to bet, though, that you are living a privileged lifestyle. Do you read it on a laptop or a smartphone? Yep, told you — privileged.

When a day ago I swapped my aging iPhone 6 Plus for nothing, and realized I needed at least temporary phone, so I found one — an early 2012 model, Google Nexus.

As you might guess, using a 5+ year phone is not fun. It’s slow. Damn. It’s slooooooooooooooooooooow. Yeah, you get it now. Even though it has support for Wi-Fi 802.11n standard, the chip is likely too slow to load things as I would expect them to. So, loading an app from Google Play — a 5 minute experience at least. Opening Google Chrome and loading a page — another couple of minutes. When I finally was able to download Spotify, music wouldn’t stream fluidly — despite no other apps in background, it would skip a second every 30 seconds or so.

It felt real bad. But then I looked up the specs:

  • 1.2 GHz dual core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16/32 GB Storage
  • 4.65" Display 1280x720
  • 5 MP rear camera and 1.3 MP front camera

Yeah, it is slow. It’s turning 6 years old this year after all. It’s not meant for “modern apps”, and using it for anything other than text is, frankly, a mild form of torture.

But here’s the kicker: in India, this represents a new phone specs. While you might be sad that iPhone 7 retained the same design for 3 years in the row, and not as sexy as one might want, a regular consumer in India is heading to the store right now, and buying a brand new phone with the following specs:

  • 1.3 Ghz processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB storage
  • 4" Display 800x400
  • 5 MP rear camera and 2 MP front camera

This is what consumer can go and buy in May of 20-freaking-17. It costs $75, while the average selling price of a new phone in India hovered around $100 range last year, and only now started to move up towards $150 mark, with the expansion of Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo.

If you work in the company that wishes to build for emerging market, go and buy your team Android phones from 2011 — this will fairly accurately represent what they have to build for in 2017. And if you wondering, how your app looks and works on those devices — let me tell you straight, it is pretty damn bad.

PS: In case you think it’s a joke, Apple restarts production of a 3-year old phone to bring it to India at a lower price point. Rumours have it, it will have a sub-$400 (or close to it) price point, still largely unattainable for most Indians.

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