Cell Phone Trends in Asia

I had a unique opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Asia – specifically in India, Cambodia and Thailand from early November to late December. And while this was a personal trip, I observed technology trends that were quite different from the US. Here are a few that I noticed:

- WiFi is not ubiquitous. Unlike many places in the US where WiFi is present in many homes, coffee shops, airports and city centers, WiFi is not everywhere in India. There are definitely pockets of WiFi access, but even in many homes, it’s not available.

- BlackBerry is a popular smartphone in India. Caveat: while I was in India, Windows Phone was not widely available. BlackBerry was by far the most popular smart phone. And what was most interesting and least obvious was the reason for its popularity – BBM which stands for BlackBerry Messenger. It’s a social messaging system and many consumers are hooked on it. Many people buy the BlackBerry because their friends are on BBM. The most popular non-smartphone choice was by far Nokia – which makes me excited about the opportunity that Windows Phone + Nokia brings to India.

- SMS is king in India. Cell phone data connections are not nearly as popular as SMS. This has been the case for many years now but it’s still surprising to see. Any technology venture in India needs to think about having some kind of SMS strategy and keep in mind that not everyone has cell phone data plans and WiFi access – but everyone has and loves SMS.

- Custom Ring tones are popular. If you hear the tune to a popular song in a café, more likely than not, it’s someone’s cell phone ringing.

Well that’s my last post for 2011. Happy 2012 to all of you!