A young man posted this comment on his Facebook page recently, “Na peer pressure make me go buy Blackberry, I for don stick to my 3310 jeje.”
With the surprisingly high number of young, and sometimes, unemployed people clutching some of the most expensive mobile phones in the market today, it is a wonder how they afford these phones and pay the monthly Internet subscription charges required for these devices. NEXT investigations revealed that most young, unemployed people who don’t have a Blackberry desire to have one despite the cost, a situation which Henrietta Davies, a mother of two describes as the result of peer pressure.
At Blackberry Slot, Ikeja, Nigeria’s only authorised Blackberry retailer, the Blackberry Bold 9700 Smartphone goes for 75000 Naira, Blackberry Bold 9000 for 63000 Naira, Blackberry Storm 9500 for 75000 Naira, Blackberry Curve 8900 for 55000 Naira and the cheapest which is Blackberry Curve 8250 for 40000 Naira.
The gadget defines the person
To activate the Internet charges on the phone, daily, weekly or monthly charges are set by the service provider. MTN charges 5000 Naira monthly and 1300 weekly. Glo has three packages, daily charge of 400 Naira, weekly charge of 1500 Naira and 4800 Naira monthly. Zain has a monthly charge of 4750 and Etisalat charges 5000 Monthly. Sandra Kentebe, a 300 level student of the University of Lagos, says that having a Blackberry as a student now defines who is a “big girl or a big boy.”
“These days on campus, if you don’t have a Blackberry, it’s like you don’t have a phone at all,” she said. “With the way people are flaunting it around, it is hard for one not to search for dubious means just to get one. The other day, one girl’s Blackberry was stolen in the hostel and she cried as if she had lost her mother.”
Bimpe Filani, another student of University of Lagos, says her Blackberry was a gift from her boyfriend who has been giving her money to pay the charges monthly. “My Blackberry was a birthday gift from my boyfriend and he pays the monthly charges. He gave it to me because he knows I like it. By the time I leave school and get a job, I will be able to pay the charges myself.”
A psychologist, George Damian, equally attributes the craze to peer pressure. “It’s hard to see a young person or a teenager who is not being influenced by a new fashion, trend or technology,” he said. And parents like Sola Adekunle, the father of an 18 year old son, are starting to get the whiplash. “I bought a phone for my son last year when he finished secondary school,” said Mr Adekunle. “Recently, he has been disturbing me for a Blackberry saying that the one I bought for him is no longer in fashion. I asked him the price and he told me it was 40000 Naira and I wonder what an 18 year old wants to do with a 40000 Naira phone.”
An under-used gadget?
The fuss about the Blackberry however is being over hyped for Femi Garba, a chartered accountant. “Blackberry is a business tool, it is not a fancy phone for young people to carry about,” he said. “If you are not someone who needs to check your email so often, then I don’t see why you need to bother yourself about having one. Most of the people who even carry Blackberries these days don’t really know how to use it.”
At Blackberry Slot in Ikeja, a Blackberry Consultant, Segun Bisiriyu, said that despite the high cost of the phones, a good number of them are sold daily because of the phone’s attractive features. “A Blackberry has so many attractive features,” he said. “The first one is that the email push on it is fantastic. Unlike other phones, once an email is sent to you, it takes a maximum of three seconds to get to your Blackberry. Secondly, the Internet speed is fast. When you are using a Blackberry phone, you have the option of choosing different browsers.”
Considering that the monthly Internet charges add to the cost of maintaining the phone, Mr Bisiriyu was asked if the Internet features on the phone could be ignored. “If you do not enable a Blackberry Internet, then you are making a Blackberry as good as useless,” he answered. “The beauty of a Blackberry is the use of a Blackberry to Blackberry chat called the ‘Ping.’ With a Blackberry anywhere in the world, as long as you have Internet on it, all you have to do is to get the ping number. Each blackberry has its own PIN. You can just add your friend’s name from any part of the world and chat with them at any time. That is why you see every body crazy about Blackberry, you see them walking on their street and they are chatting.”
For Lanre Osho who was seen browsing with his Blackberry, the benefits of a Blackberry outweighs its cost. “Despite the fact that I find it difficult to sometimes pay the monthly charges, it is also a very good source of information,” he said. “Recently, with my Blackberry, I got an information that there was a serious riot at Egbeda. I didn’t know that before and I was supposed to go through Egbeda so I postponed my appointment.”