technology

Mobile Observations from Brazil

Although the Jana team is based in Boston, our members are located in emerging markets like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. It can be a challenge to stay aware of the challenges that exist in those countries but not here in the US. Historically, folks at Jana have done a lot of travel for sales and marketing. But only recently have we started sending more of the engineering team abroad. We have sent engineers to China and India, and a couple of weeks ago I went to Brazil.

One surprising thing about Brazil was the ubiquity of high-end phones. I brought along an Alcatel Onetouch as my Android test device, and it was usually the worst phone in sight. We visited Rio de Janiero for 4 days, and then Sao Paulo for 4 days. In each city I saw a lot of new Samsung and Motorola phones. There were also a surprising number of iPhones. Granted, these cities are modern and the residents have above-average income, but I expected to see more cheap Android phones.

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I’ve lived in the US all of my life, so I’m not really familiar with buying SIM cards and topping up pre-paid mobile plans. The Brazil trip was the first time I experienced loading a local network SIM card only to have it text you with a message that says (in Portuguese) you have no data available. Topping up is very easy, just walk into any drugstore and use the POS to enter your phone number and package choice.

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I had no problem getting LTE and 3G data on my usual iPhone, but my Android phone was not so lucky. The Oi network SIM card only had 2G data. Downloading was brutally slow, in one case it took me 45 minutes to download a 7-megabyte app. I can see why Facebook instituted 2G Tuesdays. We might do something similar at Jana to better understand the difficulties encountered on slow mobile networks. WiFi networks were much better, but sometimes you had to provide a bunch of personal data in order to gain access.

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Travel is always an enlightening activity. I’m often surprised at how different things are at first. But over time there are more and more similarities unveiled. It’s actually not that difficult to land in a different country or culture and find common ground. I really enjoyed the opportunity to experience life in Brazil for a week, and I’m looking forward to other in-market trips in the future.

If you want to visit new countries as part of your job, you know what to do!

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