The end of typing

Wall Street Journal:

Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy.


A look at Megh Singh’s smartphone suggests how the next billion might determine a new set of winners and losers in tech.

Mr. Singh, 36, balances suitcases on his head in New Delhi, earning less than $8 a day as a porter in one of India’s biggest railway stations. He isn’t comfortable reading or using a keyboard. That doesn’t stop him from checking train schedules, messaging family and downloading movies.

“We don’t know anything about emails or even how to send one,” said Mr. Singh, who went online only in the past year. “But we are enjoying the internet to the fullest.”

The next billion are vital to Apple’s growth as a company. So much so, that it would not surprise me to see a new version of iOS tailored for this audience.

  • Janak Parekh

    Are the next billion are in fact vital to Apple’s growth?

    Most of these folks are buying devices less than $100, and now companies are working on devices less than $20. The device cited has just 4GB of storage. This is a completely distinct class of devices from the iPhone, and one Apple has traditionally stayed away from.

    (Don’t get me wrong—Apple definitely has designs in India, especially around the iPhone SE, but as far as I can see, they’re focused on the middle and upper classes.)

    • brisance

      Agree. I can’t see how Apple is able to sell to this market and still retain its brand image. One possibility is to spin off a smaller company. Kind of what Toyota did with LEXUS, but in reverse.

  • Mo

    I guess this is one market-approved solution to inadequate funding for public education, in any country.

  • jqlive

    Apple will never sell a phone “the next billion” will be able to afford. Apple cares too much about their profits. So even if they come up with a way to use your phone with voice only, it will only be available for middle-class to upper-class individuals. I see Google owning this market with Android and google assistant.

    I like Apple, but this is not their market and will never be, unless they change their pricing models. The next billion will be Google’s Android and whichever OEM(s) that can sell their phones/tablets/mobile computers at affordable prices.

    TL;DR iPhones are too expensive for people in these markets. People in these markets will not spend a year’s salary (or few months) on an iPhone, when they can buy a very good Xiaomi, Lava, Yu, or Lenovo for a lot cheaper.