More than any other country on this planet, I would say that India needs free access to the internet to help it leapfrog to the next stage of its already large economy (the Indian GDP just surpassed that of the U.K.). In order to sustain its economic growth, remove system inefficiencies, open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs and alleviate poverty levels, India needs to subsidize access to the internet for citizens earning less than USD 10 per day.
That figure is a mind-boggling 500M people in my estimate, mostly based in rural towns, and villages. Even large cities have huge populations of people with no access to electricity, or even potable water. Given this situation, is it not laughable that I am suggesting internet as a free (or almost free) utility for the people to use ?
No, it is not a matter to be sniffed at. Given that tablets are now available at less than USD 50 (though not great looking), access to the internet utility becomes the major constraint for those masses of people who are at the fringe of the Indian economy which is still slated to grow @ 7.5% or more this year. The key enabler for these people is going to be knowledge and application of knowledge to their vocations and school learning. And, how is India going to deliver knowledge and actionable learning to the masses when its educational infrastructure is so weak ? How is India going to develop its intellectual capabilities beyond the IITs ? There are many questions but it is unquestionable that people provided with opportunities at the right times in their lives make it to a successful life later in their lives. Opportunity is critical and the Indian economy would not be in a position to deliver opportunities to the roughly 10M people coming into its workforce every year, most of them waiting for a job. That is close to 1M people every month!
Facebook and Google are opening up the airwaves in India by offering WiFi access in railway stations and other public places. While their goals are not entirely philanthropic, such initiatives by private corporations have to be commended when the national resources are tight to deploy access throughout the rural areas of India. I believe that India stands to benefit in a huge manner when all its villages and rural population are connected via satellite-based internet. Already 400M Indians are connected to the internet via their mobile phones.
India is not only a huge consumer market which is becoming more knowledgeable about the products the people wish to consume. It is also a melting pot for all kinds of experimentation that companies would like to pursue in the interest of testing their offerings. India is also an entrepreneurial nation of youngsters rushing to launch their new ideas or adaptation of ideas which have worked elsewhere. Given that the government is pushing the idea of a “Digital India”, it is not surprising that the population is warming up quickly towards the concept of all time and real time connectivity to test ideas, consume products, evaluate anything and everything. This is nothing short of a revolution in the making.
The good thing about India is that there is space for everyone. With its English-speaking workforce and modern orientation, India will become the third largest economy of the world by 2030, if not by 2025. It is critical that India offers opportunities to its aspiring people via the concept of free internet. Such an offering can even be positioned as free for 3 years, followed by USD 1 per month thereafter, for segments of the population which has an annual per capita income of USD 2,000 or less. For people earning above this figure upto a cap of USD 5,000 per capita, the rate could be fixed at USD 3 per month. People outside this cap would have to pay the commercial price. Such a subsidy scheme would go a long way in facilitating internet access to the teeming millions of Indians, transforming the country towards a Digital India.
I do hope this happens for the benefit of all Indians.
11th June 2017
I never expected this to happen.
Then one day last week, it happened.
It was very painful to witness what happened.
I looked at it again and again, and could only agonize over how it could have easily been prevented.
Never happened to me ever before. Despite my very usual habit of over-using it.
Well, you have guessed what I am talking about, don’t you?
It is my iPhone 6.
I dropped it in a car park, and was sincerely hoping nothing would have happened, like I always do when the phone slips from my hand. I had fortified the back of my phone with a military grade cover, and my phone has always (luckily) fallen on the ground with its cover side facing the ground.
Since the cover ringed around the phone like a solid envelope, I never worried about the screen of the face hitting the ground (as there was a millimetre or so of depth between a flat surface and the screen, provided by the hinge of the back cover).
But this time around, I was not lucky as always. The phone slipped from my hand and fell on the concrete floor at a certain angle, with some force, which allowed the force of the fall to crack the screen. I could feel the minute glass shreds on the edge of the phone which hit the floor, while the rest of the screen was fairly all right, but with a few longish cracks but apparently smooth on the top.
I was devastated at least mentally, as I was going to travel on business to another country. And, I did not have the time to fix the screen. For the first time, I started to place my phone upside down on the table, and ignored the constant beep of messages (the phone was working perfectly all right otherwise). And, I went looking for the ear piece, and started using the same for making and receiving calls, as I did not want some glass shreds entering into my ears during animated and long conversations which sometimes make the screen of the phone somewhat moist.
I somehow pushed through my trip and returned home. I looked for an urgent fix for the screen, and as usual, there were a dozen “fixers” for iPhone problems. I investigated and this time decided to go as per the recommendations on FaceBook. I shortlisted two vendors and called the first one who agreed to fix for a decent price. I did not call the second vendor, and decided to check out the first one who turned out to be pretty good, and fixed the screen in just 15 minutes flat. It was a good experience, and very quick. The vendor gave me a warranty of 3 months, and suggested I get a screen protector which would reduce any future damage.
As I was thinking about this fiasco, it dawned on me that any new phone lasts for only 2 years – more or less the same for every phone I have had, and when the phone contract renewal is just around the corner, the current phone gets into some trouble. My phone contract is due for renewal and recontracting by second week of December, and just a month ahead of that timeline my current phone had a fall, and I had to spend some money.
I will get the iPhone 7 when I recontract for another 2 years, and I thought it will be good to keep a refurbished iPhone 6 as a full backup phone, given the heavy use we are subjecting our phones to – constant tinkering with the phones is a norm these days, not just with teenagers but also with all adults, who walk around condominiums, houses, offices, and even on roads, looking at their respective smartphone screens. People do that even while waiting at traffic intersections in their cars. When the phone beeps, people get up from their slumber and look at their smartphone screen in utter darkness which is not at all good for their eyes.
But this is where technology is taking us – we are all taking a ride, and started forgetting rather quickly how to engage in a conversation.
Welcome to a lot of cracked screens and WhatsApp messaging while doing a variety of things around your house or office!!!
19th November 2016
Well, I could not think of a better title to this blog post !
Our home had a 300 MBPS fibre internet connection for the past couple of years, and recently the contract ended. I was paying a price higher than that for 1 GBPS (1,000 MBPS) fibre connectivity for more than a year, as there was no point in upgrading during the contract or breaking the contract. This is always the case as the lock-in period deters people from much necessary upgrades, unless one is prepared to pay much more or incur a penalty.
So, once I was out of the contract, I decided to upgrade the internet speed to 1 GBPS. I was really salivating at the possibilities afforded by increased speed of access, and was hoping that the sales talk was for real – in the sense, that my access speeds will at least triple from where they were before the upgrade. Not an unrealistic expectation, I would say.
But then, reality is always different.
I got the speed upgraded and the provider installed a D-Link cylindrical router in the place of my much-loved ASUS router (which incidentally would be able to handle the increased speed as I found out later). It was a simple installation lasting less than 10 minutes and the guy from the service provider took my signature and left upon completion of his work.
Within couple of hours after the upgrade, complaints started from my household with regard to the speed and quality of the internet access – the speed was apparently lower than the previous lower speed of 300 MBPS! Further, there was “fading in” and “fading out” of the internet – it comes and goes type of complaint. I embarked on some serious testing and found that the complaints were true. I was upset that the provider could do such a shoddy job.
I contacted the service provider and some gracious technical person guided me through the troubleshooting and we jointly found that the old ethernet cable was the problem. I replaced the same with a new cable from the router box and the direct speed from the modem to the laptop increased by a huge amount from less than 100 MBPS to 700 MBPS ! After this experiment, it looked OK but then I found that the mobile broadband speeds and laptop internet access speeds deteriorated significantly after a distance of some 10 metres. For instance, I was getting less than 20 MBPS on mobile broadband just 10 metres from the router. This meant that my surfing from a slightly remote bedroom was impacted, and this was not the case with the previous 300 MBPS fibre speed. It became very clear to me that the service provider has not tested various scenarios within a normal household.
I again contacted them and insisted that their service person should stay on for atleast 30 minutes and prove to us that there was no problem with the internet. Surprisingly, the provider agreed and sent a technical person (who was much better than the previous person who just installed), and he modified some settings on the cylindrical router. I witnessed a massive jump in mobile broadband speeds on my Apple iPhone in the living room wherein the router was installed. It almost approached 292 MBPS on my cell phone, which I thought was fantastic. Further, the remote bedroom speeds more than doubled from the previous levels.
So, I thought all was good and signed off on this second visit from the service provider (within just 4 days of the original installation). I gave a strongly positive rating given the quality of the work done by this second person.
But then the real measurement of performance lies with the big users – my wife and the children. While the children were generally OK with the new speeds, my wife was not as she generally uses the internet from the remote bedroom.
I scratched my head. I thought this will pass and everyone will eventually be “OK”. That was not to be. My wife again complained and asked me why I have not implemented the WiFi range extender which has been under our consideration for quite some time, since we have 3 walls separating the master bedroom from the living room, and I had previously gone around looking for a suitable solution.
So, here I go !!! I went shopping yesterday, and bought a few items. I bought a rather expensive WiFi range extender (TP-Link) since there was a sales person at the Challenger Store who patiently explained that their expensive solution is better for Netflix Video Streaming as compared to their cheaper solution. I asked some questions and got satisfactory answers. I bought the more expensive solution which is basically a powerline internet range extender, came home and proudly installed it. I was worried if it would really work out for us, as I had the immense pressure of satisfying the lady of the house.
I did everything as per the book, “paired” the two devices of the TP-Link solution, and took one of these devices to the bedroom and inserted into the power point. It gave some initial troubles, but then eventually it worked…….we got some very good internet speeds for seeing movies in our bedroom. I am still continuing to test the product, not all done. However, I believe it is a good product. Basically, you connect an ethernet cable from your router to this TP-Link device and then pair it with a similar device. The second device becomes your bedroom range extender as it gives out WiFi signals of good strength via the electrical circuit.
Still testing, but looks good. Hope it is a good investment!
Experiments like these are challenging but good though somewhat expensive!!
02 October 2016
Whenever I travelled to India, I used to depend on a small Samsung “Guru” mobile phone which served me reliably over the past couple of years. It costed just SGD 40, and its battery lasted for minimum two full days with reasonable usage. The standby battery time was probably more than 10 days !
What with India getting inundated with “Apps” for everything, I felt the need to buy a “samrtphone”, as the use of the Singapore smartphone was proving to be expensive when it comes to data usage.
But before I could do that, I had to upgrade the mobile phone plan at Airtel Relationship Centre (Airtel is the mobile phone service provider that I use while in India, while for my Singapore phone I select Vodafone, providing some redundancy !). My mobile plan had only voice, so I needed to get a 3G/4G LTE SIM Card – which was given free to me. In approximately 4 hours, my current SIM card disconnected from the network, and I could insert my new SIM. My data plan had only 500 MB per month in it, and that was more than sufficient to look up something on the net and order a cab ! And, that costed me SGD 3 per month. I thought the price was pretty decent.
Then, I went shopping for a new smartphone. I had shortlisted a few makes – such as Micromax, Motorola, Asus, Oppo, Xiaomi, etc., and also had read the reviews of the kind of phones which could fit my bill [I had a budget of INR 7,000 max as this was a standby phone with little usage, that translates to SGD 140 approximately]. I thought there is no point in going for a fancy phone, given the usage.
However, the Indian market for smartphones has marched on aggressively and has emerged as the second biggest and hottest smartphone market in the world, due to the very fast adoption of smartphones and mobile data plans. Every cab driver is having a smartphone, and the market for the low-end phones which cannot serve data has evaporated. Almost everyone on the street seemed to be using a big screen smartphone – may be they are all watching bollywood movies or song videos, or using WhatsApp. But the scenario has changed vastly over the past couple of years, so much so that mobile service providers are scrambling to ensure quality of service when it comes to serving data. The adoption of smartphones in India is very good for all stakeholders – the government, the mobile service providers, eCommerce providers, app developers, and the consumers.
In my shopping expedition, I found that several brands are not available off-line in a physical store. That was annoying, but then I realized that brick-and-mortar stores won’t be able to keep up with the fast and radical product releases by more than 30 mobile phone makers online. Many of them sell only online through Flipkart or Snapdeal or Amazon India.
Since I wanted the phone urgently, I had to settle for a brand different from the ones on my shortlist. However, my brother-in-law had given some positive recommendations, so I finally chose Lenovo. Yes, Lenovo ! I thought they only made laptops (mine is a Lenovo X230 laptop) !
I went to a mobile shop and saw Micromax, Oppo and Lenovo. The Lenovo P5 W Gionee had a good configuration with 5″ display which I preferred. It also had 16 GB RAM. And, most of all it came in at INR 6,900 just under my budget. If I had increased my budget to INR 10,000 I would have got a fabulous phone, but then I am not the guy who would increase budget for no significant and proportional return on the investment !
I also got Android 5.1 [Lollipop] without any customization, and so was happy the phone was designed for me to tweak around ! I quickly installed some 20 different apps, including some Android Optimizers. I am back to using an Android phone after a gap of over 3 years, and it was not bad at all. Android has come a long way during this period, and can give a run for the money to Apple iOS. Of course, my favourite phone is Apple, and that has not changed. But then Apple does not allow much tweaking, so it gives me pleasure to use the Android when I have some free time.
It was a good experience overall – however, I found the very next day that the Lenovo model that I bought was available for INR 400 less than the price I paid. But then, that is the way a competitive market operates, and I am sure that this phone would not even be available after a year as more advanced models at similar price points would have replaced it.
Welcome to a Smarter India driven by Smartphones !
14th February 2016
The title sounds big, right ?
But this is about ordinary consumers lining up for upgrading their phones to the latest Apple iPhone6, with many of them clutching iPhones which they have been using for sometime. Most folks were holding or using iPhone 5 (not even the 4s), which is not that old – less than 2 years.
There is this irrational drive in people who just cannot accept to wait out till a reasonable time for replacing their very good existing phones which indeed are working well. Either they have to beat others to the race for the title of the first guy who is going to be seen with the latest iPhone 6, or they just cannot afford to look at or use their current iPhones when a new one has been released.
I witnessed this when I went to a phone shop to enquire about something. There were long queues, and I rightly guessed that most of them were there to upgrade their phones as almost every counter was having a new iPhone box which was getting opened up for the customer sitting in front of the counter. Now, I can understand the continuing success of Apple which has created an irrational exuberance and drive in its iPhone users.
I agree that iPhone users are willing than other phone users to throw money around at Apple – it does not matter really what Apple brings to the party. Apple customers stick to Apple all the way. I was a convert from Android to Apple, and I plan to continue with Apple iPhones, though I do not intend to change other devices at home. My own personal computer still remains a trusted Lenovo, I don’t yet use the Apple TV, and I have my own cloud apart from the one offered via iCloud by Apple. I don’t intend to buy the new Apple iWatch.
But that behaviour is not normal. Apple has long managed to seduce its customers with rather devilishly appealing products which focus more on design and form factor, rather than on sheer number performance. Apple’s penetration into leading schools and universities ensures its dominance, which has been crystallized over the past decade or so.
However, I concluded that there is no real urgent need for me to upgrade my iPhone 5 with 32GB memory to an iPhone 6 at this point in time. May be I will eventually upgrade to just get the iPhone 6 and pass the same to a loved one. That is entirely possible. I believe that products once purchased after careful evaluation, should be used at least for 3 years, and I intend to stick to that rule.
In the meanwhile, crowds are swelling at phone shops and days are not far away when folks will be sporting the iPhone 6 as though it is an ornamental accessory to their way of life. Nothing much is going to change in their lives of course- with or without the iPhone 6 !
Enjoy the long weekend folks, and avoid the crowds !!
5th October 2014
Probably I have written a similar post in the past.
People are becoming total anti-socials with the deep penetration of SmartPhones in society. Not only that, they are on the verge of causing minor accidents when walking on the roads while browsing their phones.
It is indisputable that SmartPhones are becoming the centre of our existence.
Previously, it used to be laptops, and then tablets. Then phablets, which are tablet phones. Now it is SmartPhones all the way, because most average folks have figured out that they really do not need a laptop + a tablet + a phablet + a SmartPhone.
A rather big SmartPhone will do.
It is not that people are constantly getting text messages and so have to keep looking and texting from their SmartPhones. Yes, most people appear to be doing some texting, but many others are just using their SmartPhones to watch videos or TV Serials, or play games. Or, browse news articles.
It is OK to do all these activities when one is seated in a MRT train or a bus. It is definitely not OK when people try to carry out these activities while walking for short distances from the rail station or the bus stop to their homes or offices, for instance. They don’t realize what is ahead of them, engrossed in the video for example. Other pedestrians who are sober and not using their phones, have to avoid these SmartPhone viewers who seem to think that the pavement is their right of way irrespective of who or what is ahead of them. And that would mean avoiding some 70% of smartphone-wielding pedestrians.
Apart from the above behaviour, such a heavy focus on one’s smartphone distracts people from official or business meetings, and even from personal meetings. It is not unusual to pass by a coffee shop and see two people seated across from each other, and both browsing their respective phones, rather than enjoying their coffee and talking to each other ! I am sure you have seen such folks.
There are useful situations ofcourse, when for instance you are navigating – looking for a specific shop in a mall, or even looking for the precise location of a building. It was interesting yesterday when I asked a sweeper on the road to guide me to a specific mall. He replied asking me why I am not using the Google Maps on my phone, as he was not sure of the building’s location ! Yes, ofcourse, the SmartPhone then proves its worth.
Networking via smartphone is not a bad idea, but nothing can replace a physical meeting F2F when multi-faceted dimensions come to play, revealing facts as well as emotions in a way better than any online remote networking can deliver. Youngsters may not agree, but I believe in the wisdom of the old style F2F meetings.
I hope that car drivers do not use their smartphones for anything except to navigate their way while driving !
The way we live our lives is definitely changing and changing rather fast. The next smartphone is going to have bendable, flexible displays. The value is unimaginable but there is nothing to replace human engagement in the usual way.
29th Sep 2013
When dealing with electronic gadgets, I have had my share of surprises and scares.
Mobile Phones and Laptops are always tricky, when it comes to software updates or operating system upgrades. Long time ago, I had written about my Apple iMAC problems, and other posts pertaining to laptops, etc.,
On 18th September, Apple released its much awaited iOS 7 operating system. I have been watching the news closely, and decided to upgrade the O.S. on my Apple iPhone 5 to iOS 7 on 19th late evening, almost 10 PM or so.
I thought that it would be a smooth experience, given the reputation of Apple. It was, for most part of the process. However, my iPhone did not ask permission before the installation, and it rebooted probably after waiting for some time. I had ignored the phone doing some other chores around the house.
OK, so far no problem. But I made couple of mistakes – one is, I did not back up the iPhone to my laptop, as I do once in a while. I had not configured the iCloud, which would have been painless, in retrospect. Secondly, I forgot the passcode. It is strange, but when the phone asked for it after rebooting with the new iOS 7, I made multiple errors, just on one character, and the phone got disabled.
DISABLED ! I could not believe that – I looked at the time, it was almost 11 PM on Thursday night.
I tried to dial the emergency phone which is shown just above the passcode box on the iPhone. No luck. Why do they call it emergency phone, when it is useless – this beats me.
I got a bit agitated. I went to the web and searched for solutions. I did find certain advice on the web and in the Apple forums, but my mistake was not known to me till I keyed in the correct passcode later on.
What shocked me was the “disabled” message on the screen of the phone, instead of highlighting that I had keyed in the passcodes mistakenly multiple times. I informed a couple of close friends that I will not be accessible on my regular cell phone number, and brooded over the next course of action.
Suddenly, I realized that there could be a problem with the passcode – I don’t know why and how. I carefully rebooted the iPhone. Then I waited for some time and steadied myself. Carefully, I entered the passcode (the one provided by the IBM Traveller software), and this time there was success to be had !
I went inside the iPhone, and to my big relief all my data was there, unaffected.
So, one lesson I learnt is this – never go away from your mobile phone or laptop when it is updating itself. Never get distracted. And, all the time, be careful about your passwords. Repeated mistakes will be punished.
Enjoy your gadgets and the upgraded iOS 7 (Nothing great really !).
21st Sept 2013