February 15, 2011 | by Michael Heller
I love the smell of revolution in the morning, and the Umeox Apollo has the seeds of revolution in it. The idea of the phone is nothing new, and incredibly simple: a fully solar powered smartphone that is cheap. On first consideration, such a phone may be a good option for hikers, and backpackers, but the reach is far far bigger for something like this.
The Umeox Apollo is fairly basic: a 3.2″ (320×480) touchscreen, 1 GB internal storage, 3MP rear camera, microSD card slot, FM radio and of course the solar panel on the back. The Apollo needs just 3 hours in the sun to charge the battery for normal use, though if the battery is fully drained, it could take up to 17 hours to re-establish the battery.
But, the game-changing feature? $100 off-contract. Today, even Eric Schmidt said that the future of Android is in lower income areas. If (read: when) the price of this phone or phones like it comes down even more, suddenly the world will be even more connected. Consider this: right now, there are about 2 billion (out of almost 7 billion) people in the world with access to the Internet. Many of the least connected areas of the world are also quite sunny like Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, and the Middle East. So, a phone that doesn’t need external power, which already has a low cost of entry, which is only going to continue to get lower, is the best option to quickly connect the rest of the world to the Internet.
Google has already announced that it is investing $1.2 billion into O3b (Other 3 billion), which is a company dedicated to bring satellite Internet to under-served areas in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. That service is likely to begin rolling out in 2013, and by that time, phones like the Umeox Apollo will not only be more prevalent, but will be cheaper, and may cause the population with access to the Internet to more than double in a very very short time. And, remember that VoIP is continuing to expand, so these areas are not only being connected to the Internet, but will be gaining voice access at extremely low cost.
Android already has the best position to be on the low-cost phones that make it to these newly connected areas because the OS is free, which cuts down on the cost of production. And, Google has the most to gain by creating a pathway for 3 billion new Internet users because that is another 3 billion sets of eyeballs on their display ads. Smartphones are the easiest and lowest-cost way to connect the world.
Umeox has already pledged that productions of the Apollo will be shipping out to Latin America, India, and Europe by May, with more countries following soon afterwards.