Not smart enough for smart phones? | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Not smart enough for smart phones?

Pakistan Press Foundation

Smart phones are used in developed countries for the sake of convenience with a myriad of apps enabling users to run their lives ‘on fingertips’, as the cliché goes. But in Pakistan, despite their meteoric rise in demand, such gadgets are nothing more than fashion statements.

With eight million or so (branded and unbranded) smart phones currently floating in the Pakistani consumer market, one cannot deny that the love for touch screen, swipe and pinch is growing in the country. However, some psychologists see the frenetic craze for the new technology as the local consumers’ urge to bask in innovativeness and an elevated sense of social status – that stems from keeping themselves abreast with the world at large.

“Unlike in the West, where they have proven to be game changers – dictating the very lifestyle of consumers, I think the demand for latest smart phones in this part of the world is mere fad following, says Dr. Anila Amber, the chairperson of the department of Psychology at the University of Karachi.

“Maybe, smart phones are a fleeting trend, similar to other gadgets that were once in vogue but have completely vanished from the market now,” she said. “With the passage of time, some other hip technology might substitute them. You never know.”

However, Anila and her fellow academicians do not underestimate the role latest mobile phones are playing in connecting people. All of them agreed that the most significant utility of a smart phone lies in its ability to make communication simple and hassle-free. Because, apart from the basic usage, it is evident that the advanced features of smart phones still remain unused in Pakistan.

Those who see the mounting craze for smart phones as a passing trend have a point when they argue that if a user carries a smart phone only to make calls, play games and tweet, then they are practically not using it. Because a smart phone user, by very definition, makes the technology a part of their live: they conduct online shopping, watch TV and perform, for instance, customer relationship management and other business tasks on the move.

Moreover, globally this handheld gadget is revolutionizing the way investors, stock traders and other business professionals conduct their routine activities. From Wall Street professionals every other business profession, people are shifting to mobile applications for better, quicker performance. But in Pakistan the trend is yet to catch on.

“If you see stock trading [at the Karachi Stock Exchange], this culture is not that much popular,” says Altaf Kapadia, CEO at Live Securities. Another stock dealer Mustafa Pasha chimed in with his personal observation, saying mobile technology had yet to be leveraged fully in his occupation.

Though users in Pakistan suffer from lack of awareness about many an app, one cannot deny that there is a tendency to briskly adapt to mobile technologies owing to improving data speed.

“The biggest problem faced by Smart Phone users today is poor connectivity due to slow internet service,” says Asif Peer, chief executive officer at Systems Limited. Peer shies away from commenting on the 3G/4G mobile spectrum, which was auctioned recently in stepping up data travelling speed. “It’s too early to remark on the impact a technology that is not yet launched nationwide.”

However, he adds: “Primarily, the 3G/4G services should be cost-effective to encourage its use by the society at large.”

A peek into local market

Even if the 3G and 4G services become widely penetrative, the utility of smart phone would scales up only when the government will promote a liberal environment over the cyberspace and websites are not restricted on one pretext or the other, believes Hamza Rasheed, head of telecom division at Muller & Phipps Pakistan.

Pakistan meets all its domestic demand of smart phone, tablet and other feature phones from import. M&P, Advance Telecom and Inovi and United Mobile are some of the distributors of Huawei, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Nokia, QMobile, Motorola, iPhone, Megagate, T-Mobile, Lenovo, LG, Voice, Bird, BlackBerry and other brands.

Rasheed says that the Telecom regulations have to be relaxed and more business friendly to increase the utility of advanced features of a handset.

A global survey of 300 corporate executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found the impact of tablet, smart phone and laptop in offices to be ‘very high’ or ‘positive’. Over 80 percent of respondents surveyed said mobile technology helped enhance their communication and workflow.

Some offices in Pakistan encourage their employees to utilize mobile technology for improving connectivity. However, for one reason or the other, they seem to lag behind when it comes to adapting to the latest gadgets. Most of the top-level managers this scribe had talked to are still stuck with once a bellwether in mobil technology: BlackBerry.

A study by the Standard & Poor’s conducted two years ago found that the dominance of BlackBerry in the mobile technology landscape has plummeted. A total of 58 percent of the respondents of S&P’s survey preferred Apple in their personal life. But in Pakistan the picture is different. Here, firms do not seem eager to shift to the state-of-the-art mobile communication devices. Reason? Their unflinching trust on the security mechanism of the QWERTY (keypad) handset.

Amir Raza, the head of Alternative Delivery Channel at Bank Al Habib says that data security is the main reason why he favours BlackBerry.

Security also seems to be the top motivator for many stock traders for posing their trust on Blackberry, which has an international fame for securing customer records. “We use it mainly for three reasons: long battery time, no signal issue and security,” Kapadia said. Rasheed thinks that smart phones are vulnerable to secuirty breach.

Before the type approval – a condition introduced in 2013 by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to ensure the individuality of each handset, smuggled phones were mushrooming in the local market. Surprisingly, a thousand of smuggled phones, mostly of Chinese origin, had single international mobile station equipment identity – a unique number to track a phone.

This mass duplication of unique identity code had increased a phone’s susceptibility to unsolicited intrusion across a network.The government has restricted the influx of such phones by the type approval. However, smuggled high-end phones are still in demand as they have relatively low price tag, Rasheed says. Globally, the trend of using 8 to 10 out of 500 apps is common. But efficient telecom operating network, capable mobile apps and cost benefits are leading to optimal utilization of a smart gizmo.

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