The closing mobile divide
January 25th, 2007

An article today in the New York Times has this headline: ‘Plain Cellphones Can Overachieve, With a Little Help.’ This is important news for the billion or so people in developing countries who are often dismissed by those who predict the digital future–saying these multitudes won’t share in the mobile knowledge commons and One Web because they have simple mobile phones.

There is, reports the Times, already a big trend toward making features and functions of the expensive phones available on basic mobiles. The article, which has many specific examples, begins:

IF you have an ordinary cellphone — the type that you got free, or cheaply, when you signed up for service — you might envy those with phones that are also personal digital assistants, like BlackBerrys, Treos, Sidekicks and Windows smartphones.

Those devices, typically costing $200 to $400, let you do more than just make phone calls and take pictures. They are pocket-size computers equipped for many functions, including e-mail, Web browsing and contact management, note taking, financial recordkeeping and a calendar.

But as it turns out, that humble cellphone in your pocket may be able to do all this and more, depending on its built-in features and the available add-on software.

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