Why the focus on smartphone apps in a dumb phone market?
On Day two of Mobile Web West Africa, I had Banke Alawaye of Parekelt Nigeria sitting beside me. We had met a year earlier at the 2012 edition of the conference. As the event progressed and developers shared, we both observed the focus on smartphone apps at the expense of basic SMS-based services and feature phone apps. She went on to narrate how an enthusiastic developer had approached her with a work of his – an iOS app developed for Nigerians. When she asked him why he chose that platform, he responded to the effect that the Apple store allowed for his apps to be purchased. I wondered: So, he is going to attempt to earn a living off the tiny club of iOS users in the country.
I also ran into Hendrik of PriceCheck in the hall during lunch break. When I mentioned my name, he exclaimed and said he knew me! Shock! He then went on to narrate how he has been reading Mobility.ng for about two years and uses it as a go-to for information about mobile in Nigeria. Anyway, after I had blushed pink and white and gushed from his generous compliments, he said he had a big question. I was all ears. In a nutshell, Hendrick wanted to know why the majority of Nigeria-based developers are raving about building iOS and Android apps and games in an environment where over 90% of phones in circulation are feature (dumb) phones.
Two different individuals observing the same thing – one based here in the country, the other visiting for a few days. We have a country where over 90% of phones in circulation are feature phones. Over 90%. Why the intense focus on smartphone app development? I don’t have the answer to why this phenomenon is a trend. I have no idea what each developers thinks or sees. However, I agree with both Banke and Hendrik. It sure looks like something is very wrong with the approach of many mobile developers. Of course, the three of us might just be looking at the wrong thing.