A few years ago, the market for feature phones powered by KaiOS, a mobile operating system based on Linux seemed to be widely growing in Kenya, the re-introduction of the Nokia 2720 Flip saw a lot of hype grow on social media with many, me included thirsting to get my hands on one of these dumb phones that could do smart things.
KaiOS was developed by KaiOS Technologies Limited; a company based in Kowloon with the primary essence of the OS being to bring support for 4G LTE E, VoLTE, GPS, and Wi-Fi; with HTML5-based apps and longer battery life to non-touchscreen devices with an optimized user interface, less memory, and energy consumption.
KaiOs also features over-the-air updates (OTA updates). A dedicated AppStore (KaiStore) with over 500 apps.
The mobile operating system was advertised as comparatively lightweight on hardware resource usage and is able to run on devices with just 256 megabytes (MB) of memory.
For Kenyans, the introduction of these dumb phones meant more features for
- lower prices than smartphones
- low power requirements translating to extended talk and standby times
- Anticipated loss, damage, or reasonably rough use as feature phones are often more durable, less complex. This means that loss of these devices is manageable, and usually serves as a disincentive for theft in mature markets
So why is no one using a feature phone running KaiOS in Kenya?
Feature phones were meant to be cheap, they are not. On launch, for example, the Nokia 800 Tough was priced at Sh12,500 while the cool Nokia 2720 Flip was retailed at sh.10,200. At those prices in a market where the likes of Safaricom Neon Rays, Redmi, and even Nokia are offering Android OS smartphones at the same or half the prices, they were doomed to fail.
From a privacy standpoint, feature phones/dumbphones are inherently insecure: Location tracking and unencrypted messages and calls are just but examples for why some Kenyans may decide the cheap phones aren’t worth it.
Phones running KaiOS are basically feature phones with some smart features added or a low-capability smartphone in a feature phone body. And the aforementioned concerns for feature phones are also still present in these phones. KaiOS is a proprietary operating system, which means that data mining is easy. Corporations can insert data mining mechanics into your phone without your knowledge. This potentially puts your privacy is at risk.
Why do you think dumb phones failed to take off?