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

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs