It wasn’t the first time we’d heard this from a cyber cafe operator, but apparently the biggest challenge to mobile phone users wishing to get online by using their spanking new phones was whether they were a cheap Chinese phone or a fake. Up and down Kenya, or right in the heart of Masai country which is where we were today in the hot sunshine, if a customer bought a cheap phone and wanted to get online they ended up coming to the nearest cyber cafe for help setting it up. The problems are legion – from the fact that only genuine brands like a Nokia or Samsung are easily and directly set up with the mobile operator’s internet connectivity by receiving an SMS to the fact that the OS was rarely well configured or programmed. One lady we’d met earlier this week confessed shamefacedly to using a fake Nokia for browsing – she worked for a Safaricom dealer – apparently she was saving every penny towards buying a laptop for Christmas.
It makes me think that as social networking drives many more online to connect and communicate with their extended networks, global brands have less to worry about than they imagine they do.