In the wonderful world of shanzai, we have a new competitor made with a Mediatek chip- a Nokia N9 knockoff, the Noka (诺卡) N9. The Noka N9 has 7 operating systems interfaces: Meego, iOS 5.0, HTC Sense, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry, Smasung’s TouchWiz and Symbian Anna. This screenshot below from the video shows the user switching OS interfaces.
But it wasn't the impressive overload of OS interfaces, dual-sim card, 3.8″ WQVGA 240×400 resistive touch screen or the 1.3MP rear and front facing camera that caught my attention.
It was an advertisement on Taobao that revealed much more about what Chinese users want: games and porn (two areas I research). Below the description of the knock off, the first and most prominently placed feature of the Noka N9 was Talking Tom - a game that could that operate across platform. The writing in red claims that:
In all of history, this is the most versatile Talking Tom ever!!
Then below three rows of Talking Tom screenshots, is another ad for a game that allows you to watch females strip when you blow on the microphone:
Most deliciosly evil game of pretty girls stripping!!
Then below the stripping games are more pictures of other games included in the phone from Angry Birds to Fruit Ninja.
If users just want games and stripping apps, then do they really need any of the other features that are offered in any of the original OS's on phones that cost 3-15 times as much as knock offs? Not really, at least according to this Taobao advertisement which shows that it is possible to reduce user needs down to a few most necessary apps. The success of Shanzai mobiles tells us that the purity of an OS actually matters little to these users. They just want a phone that looks like a smartphone with games and basic features. The interesting point here is "looks like." The Noka N9 is a semi-smartphone （半职能手机) that looks like a smartphone but doesn't have the full features of a pure smartphone. In previous interviews that I have conducted with shanzai phone users, they expressed that they valued durability (i.e. droppability. not longevitiy) and affordability in a phone. But in more recent interviews, they now the new value for non-elite users is to have a phone that can do the things that they see smartphone users doing - like interacting with more complex, interactive, & graphically rich stuff - like Talking Tom & Puff - a stripping game for you to look at girl's underwears.
This Noka N9 knock-off is apparently doing so well that even if you type in NOKIA N9 (诺基亚 N9) on Taobao's Hot Items, a list of NOKA N9 knock offs come up as the top results, covering the entire first page, which tells me that a sizable group of consumers are buying the shanzai version instead of the original N9.
*This post was prepared with the help of research assistant and manager, Pheona Chen.