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The $10 cell phone has arrived - and with it, economic opportunity

Posting in Technology

On a recent trip to Shenzhen, China, a group of MIT students discovered that you can buy a cell phone there for as little as $10. While the cost of mobile phones has continued to decrease over time, the fact that you can buy a gadget that can make phone calls and send text messages (and has a working battery) for that price is pretty astonishing. The head of MIT's Media Lab, Joi Ito, reckons that these are likely the world's cheapest phones.

A $10 price tag means that virtually anyone in the world can afford a mobile phone. Moreover, in parts of the world where basic phones are still more predominant than the "smart" variety gaining steam in the developed world, local infrastructure makes these gadgets more powerful than even smartphones in rich countries.

In Kenya, more than 30 percent of its GDP is fueled by M-Pesa, a mobile payments system that operates via text message. (See a video about M-Pesa here.) Though they may make life easier, smartphones in developed countries have not yet become anywhere near as important to driving economic growth.

Despite the rapid proliferation of smartphones in many countries, basic mobile phones still account for the majority of those used around the world. And given the tremendous economic possibilities for mobile payment systems to create economic growth, perhaps the most basic, cheapest cell phone might make it the world's most useful.

Photo: Flickr/Erik Hersman

via [Quartz]

— By on March 17, 2013, 8:10 PM PST

Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure