Did Cheap Chinese Knockoff Phones Lead To The Arab Spring?
from the butterfly-effect dept
Basically, the quick version of the story is that the MediaTek chipsets made it easy for "shanzai" to become massive mobile phone makers and sellers overnight. They would take the chipset, knock off features from other phones, or add a few features themselves, and, voila, a phone. As one person quoted in the article notes, you used to need a giant company to build a mobile phone. "But now, a company with five guys can do it." In fact, these firms would make small batches of all different kinds of phones to see how the market reacted. Talk about rapid prototyping and rapid innovation based on direct customer feedback...
However, with MediaTek not supporting more modern 3G mobile networks, it faced growth limits in China, and moved on to India and eventually to the Middle East, where cheap Chinese knockoff phones apparently became quite popular. The story does appear to be missing any direct evidence that the phones were used in the Arab protests, but does point to reports about such phones flooding into the region in the months before. There's certainly a correlation there, though that doesn't mean a causal relationship by any means. Either way, though, it is a fascinating story about how such a "gray market" came into being and changed markets over time.