Young people in emerging countries are set to reap the benefits of Nokia's Asha mobile phones
If you live in a large, affluent and metropolitan city then you will almost certainly own a mobile phone, probably a smartphone, and everyone you know will have one too.
They have become so intrinsic to our lives that not having a mobile phone and not being ‘connected’ have become unimaginable.
We’re not alone, millions of consumers around the world share these aspirations, to get online, to have fun, and have access to the benefits of the Internet.
Here are some interesting statistics for you, though. The world’s population is now roughly 7 billion and 3.2bn of them don’t yet have a mobile phone.
Crucially, on top of those 3.2bn people, 1.2bn merely own a basic mobile phone that is good for voice and SMS but little else.
The great offer
Saulo Passos is Nokia’s communications director for mobile phones and he wants to get the message out there that Nokia has a great offer for the billions of consumers out there who are just looking forward to getting online for maybe the first time.
Now resident in London, Saulo has previously lived in Sao Paulo and for the last 15 years has been following the fastest growing emerging economies and watching the great strides that countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Vietnam and his native Brazil have all made.
Nokia’s Asha range of smart mobile phones is aimed at helping young people in these up-and-coming countries get online, so that they can begin to enjoy the benefits that we’re already taking for granted.
Conversations spoke to Saulo about the potential impact that the Asha Phones could have in their target markets.
Could you describe the state of the mobile phone market in some of the emerging countries that the Asha phones are aimed at?
The core markets for Asha are typically concentrated in large metropolitan areas from high growth economies, such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico or Vietnam. They are incredibly dynamic, with a great appetite for the Internet and social networking.
It’s amazing to see that a lot of the young guys coming from these countries are having their very first contact with the Internet through a mobile device, and there is a lot of room for growth.
Some of these markets have about 70% to 80% penetration, with open doors for first time users. And in other cases, people who have bought a very simple phone now are migrating to an Asha phone, delivering the smartphone-like experience for a fraction of that cost.
What’s the profile of a typical Asha buyer?
They will be urban, young, and really social; normally between 16-24 years old, and living in big metropolitan areas such as Cairo, Karachi, Sao Paulo or Jakarta. They are really interested in what they can do with technology, and very smart about how they can find the best phone for their needs.
They are socially very connected, both through a social network or through their network of friends in the “real” world. It’s not unusual to meet people who have made hundreds of friends on social networking sites without ever having used a PC.
They love to share stuff – updates about what’s happening in their lives, pictures, videos, you name it with their friends, and want to keep up to speed with everything happening around them.
They are very ambitious and see the sky as the limit in terms of possibilities but they are young so they are still constrained in financial resources, but full in aspirations and know how to appreciate something that can give you more value for your money, like an Nokia Asha device.
How will they benefit from an Asha device?
First of all, there’s the mobile Internet experience. If you look at social networks like Facebook you’ll see that almost half of the people that are accessing Facebook are doing it through a mobile device, not through a computer.
Having something like the Nokia Browser, which compresses data by up to 85%, means they can surf faster and pay less for it.
The Nokia Browser also comes with something unique we call Web Apps. Today, we have 10,000 Web Apps that make the mobile web beautiful to look at and easier to use.
These web apps are also intelligent because they can know where you are and then give you results based on your local community.
Also, the Asha Touch family that we just launched comes with a package of 40 EA games, which are free to download from the Nokia Store.
That would have cost them 75 euros, so I think that is something people will appreciate.
When you are done with those – there are around 35,000 other apps waiting to be explored.
Another element is the design. People want something affordable yet stylish, it looks cool, well crafted and done with high quality materials. That is Nokia’s legacy of having superb design. It’s not just with smartphones but in phones like the Asha family you can also have the same story of beautiful colours, superb designs, superb materials and with a very good user interface.
How much of an issue is affordability?
This is the key point because more and more people are having access to the Internet for the first time on their mobile device. We believe that it is not only important to make the phone affordable to buy, but once you’ve got it you have to be able to really make the most of the features it has.
That’s why we’ve designed the Nokia Browser to use only a fraction of the data used by other phones – and it gives you your web pages quicker, so you can have your cake and eat it!
Asha phones are giving many people access to information and tools that they may not have previously had. How aware is Nokia of the social impact that these devices could have?
Absolutely. We have an extensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme and it’s not just about the devices.
The devices have tremendous power in that way but we also have an entire eco-system that has a direct impact on communities as well.
Take a look at basic stuff, like the packaging of the device. We have been reducing the size every year, using less paper and making the boxes smaller. That means less transport to get the boxes from the factory to the point of sale.
This might seem to be a tiny thing but when you multiply that by 1.3bn devices out there, which is the current installed base of Nokia, then it’s massive.
Here is another example, Nokia Life. We launched the service last year and it is currently available for China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria.
The main aim of the service is: How can we provide information and education to consumers that don’t necessarily have a fancy, 3G, super-connected device?
So Nokia Life delivers SMS messages. You can choose the area of expertise that you want to be more familiar with and we are in partnership with more than 70 companies with that knowledge.
Let’s say, that you want to have better financial planning for your family. We’ll have some financial institutions that are providing tips on how you can manage your financial affairs in a very direct and basic way.
This is a very powerful way to impact, in a very positive way, the communities where we are and this programme, which is going to be extended, has been extremely successful.
Image credit: toehk