News / Asia

In Indonesia, a Smartphone for Every Budget

A worker holds his cell phone as he rests next to watermelons at the Kramat Jati central market in Jakarta, March 4, 2011.
A worker holds his cell phone as he rests next to watermelons at the Kramat Jati central market in Jakarta, March 4, 2011.
Sara Schonhardt
Although Apple’s popular iPhone continues to break sales records as a global smartphone leader, millions of people across Asia are getting connected to the Internet through lower-cost phones. In Jakarta, even those with modest incomes can now afford a digital lifestyle.

Rio Safiyanto sits on a busy pedestrian overpass in central Jakarta listening to music from his Nokia mobile phone. The 23-year-old sells facemasks for around 30 cents a piece.  But he makes enough to afford a phone that gives him access to Facebook, Twitter and gaming applications.

He says every average person has a mobile phone. He says he uses the technology to communicate.  Even when he is far away he can reach his family.  He also likes the cellphone's music capabilities. 

Safiyanto is one of millions of Indonesians benefiting from low-cost phones and usage plans that allow users to pre-pay for talk time and data.  Although some models lack high-speed browsing capabilities, they can access the Internet and social networking sites. Safiyanto's Nokia has a keypad that makes it look almost identical to a Blackberry.

It is known as a feature phone, or smartphone lite, because it is cheaper and less advanced than devices like Apple’s iPhone.

These types of devices now make up the majority of mobile phones sold worldwide and have proven more successful in places like Indonesia, where high-end smartphones can cost upwards of $700.

Although many of these lower-income users are new to smartphones, Eddy Tamboto, the managing director of the Boston Consulting Group’s Jakarta office, says they quickly adapt to the technology.

"For a lot of people, mobile technology is a basic necessity to life," he said. "It’s basically their means to reach the rest of the world. And, a lot of people in the informal sector, the way they get to know about employment opportunities, the way they get to know about entrepreneurial opportunities is actually through the mobile phone. So the phone and the smartphone is not just convenience or indulgence, but actually it’s a big part of a day-to-day necessity."

For instance Nokia offers a service called Life Tools that sends text messages to farmers who pay a minimal subscription fee alerting them about weather patterns, crop prices and provides agricultural news and tips. It also has subscriptions for health care and education.

A local entrepreneur, Aldi Haryopratomo, has created a platform that allows small shop owners to sell things like prepaid mobile minutes and life insurance through text message. They can also accept utility bill payments. Ruma, the social enterprise company behind the technology, is currently working on an application that will notify people about job opportunities in their area.

Haryopratomo says that is targeted at blue-collar workers.

"The poorer you are the less likely you are able to get information like jobs, and I think that’s the benefit of technology, is you can make information that was previously expensive to become really, really affordable," said Haryopratomo.

Ruma’s services are geared toward helping feature phone users generate more income, but Haryopratomo says more and more people are moving toward the higher-end smartphones.

At a recent digital technology exhibition in Jakarta, hundreds of people milled around booths selling a range of mobile devices. Young sales staff handed out flyers splashed with promotions while banks offered no-interest financing on credit card purchases.

With competitive financing and credit options, Marina Luthfiani, the manager of an Oke Mobile shop in south Jakarta, says now almost everyone can buy a smartphone.

She says Indonesia is a consumer country and that Indonesians have to have the newest gadgets - even if they are unsure of how they will benefit from the new technology.

Those buying habits are catching the attentions of major consumer companies. McKinsey, a global consulting firm, says Indonesia will have 145 million people with annual incomes above $3,600 by 2030. 

Business advisors say Indonesian consumers are explorers who like to try new things, especially when it comes to digital adoption. They are some of the world’s biggest users of Facebook and Twitter. A report released last June by the Paris-based research firm Semiocast ranked Jakarta as the world’s top tweeting city, ahead of Tokyo and London.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid