Monday 31 December 2012

Africa's home-grown mobile phone and tablet pairing officially come to market!

   In a world where phones are typically designed in highly developed countries by companies with billions of pounds of research and development money and where these designs are then brought to life in China and then shipped around the world, it's fantastic to hear that a small company has managed to get as far as having the product available on the market. There's a few companies at the moment who are trying to challenge the conventional path; we've got Jolla with their Meego-based project, we had Palm with their stunning WebOS software, Geeksphone with their Android based devices and now there's VMK with their Android phones and tablets. VMK are unique because a few companies have claimed to be African designed devices, but have been mere re-brands of Chinese tablets.

Image credit: VMK.
   Now this isn't actually the first time we heard about VMK's efforts early in September 2012 as they announced their plans to produce their Way-C tablet and they pledged to follow it up with their Elikia smartphone, both of these devices were fully designed by VMK without the help if European or any external companies. Way-C means "the light of the stars," and Elikia means "hope", which are quite apt names and reflect the importance of this sort of project to Africa.

   So what we're looking at here isn't new information, but these devices are now finally officially ready to buy! On the Elikia phone there's a 3.5-inch QVGA (480x320p) display, 512MB of RAM, a 650MHz processor and a 0.3 megapixel front-facing shooter and a rear 5 megapixel option. The specs might not be so appealing if there's a Galaxy S3 or HTC One X sitting in your pocket, but we're not the target audience here. The cost of the device is $170 US without the need to commit to a contract! A price which is much more realistic for the more affluent residents of Congo, because the average yearly wage is $140, so this is targeted towards the high-end of the Congolese market. The software on board is Android 2.3.6, although because of the incompatibility of Congo's credit cards and Google Play's payment system VMK had created their own app store, which has the option to use prepaid gift cards. The phone is available for 85,000 Congolese Francs on both Airtel and Warid, which works out to around £57 or $93.

   The tablet on the other hand is 150,000 Congolese Francs and that works out to around £101 or $164 and is a relatively powerful device for the money. There's a 7" 800x480p screen, a 1.2Ghz processor, Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread and 4GB of internal storage which is MicroSD expandable. This is a competent device in its own respect.

   The main story here though is that Africa now has a first tentative step into the tech world and hopefully this is a foundation which will flourish in the near future. If we hear any more from VMK or any other similar project we'll be sure to let you know and seeing as Africa is fastest growing mobile market in the world we expect there will be plenty more news coming out of Africa in the future! But, in the meantime if you want some more information on either of the devices you can find full information about the Elikia phone here and the Way-C tablet here.


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