Big, bigger, biggest… This applies to today’s smartphones: the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus next to the 6 inch Android phones like Nexus and Samsung Galaxy S6. Not quite the same but there’s a new hit in emerging African markets, especially in Ghana: the X-Tigi S18 phone. It’s also big… but big like we were used to in the 90'. Welcome back Retro phone!
Interestingly, this phone’s sudden and rising popularity has not derived from going viral at first, but from the power of word of mouth from people already using the phone. In Ghana this phone has already proven to be very functional — but clearly they didn’t pay too much attention to attractiveness and design. Nevertheless, it makes a distinctive device that has caught the attention worldwide. You may call it vintage or ahead of its kind: besides the basic functions of calling and texting, it is used both as a power bank and LEDlight. It is not surprising that this phone has become quite popular in Ghana since they have been affected by a severe power blank crisis in the whole country. They think in solutions; a power bank phone to survive a power loss in order to keep society going.
One of our colleagues at aFrogleap was curious enough to buy the X-Tigi S18 after reading the numerous blogs that appeared about this new phone. It is reminiscent of an army phone because it comes in a green camouflage box and it calls for adventure. A great device to take along on your vacation — according to our colleague — because one might want to disconnect once in a while to really feel that you are away enjoying your time off. Well, I’m sure that this phone actually has many good qualities to make a camping trip a success.
Its features: from then and now
What makes this phone so interesting? Actually, three things: battery, functionality and price. The battery is more than five times as large as that of the iPhone 6 and lasts for weeks. In addition, this battery is so strong that it’s able to charge the battery of other small electronic (USB) devices, such as smartphones, because of the USB port on the back side of the phone.
Even after charging an empty iPhone the X-Tigi S18 still has enough battery to remain accessible and to actually function as a phone. Well, not exactly like we are used to nowadays. It runs on Symbian — the operating system that became known by the Nokia phones — and makes use of old Android icons. There is room for 3 SIM cards, which means that you can simultaneously use three phone numbers in one phone (your work, private, and… another number). Also, the phone's memory can be expanded with a Micro SD card up to 8Gb. Internet speed will not be faster than 2G. That really means back in time, right? And the camera is also very 90s: 3.0MP. In addition, all popular features from the 90s make their comeback on this phone: FM radio, games like Snake and T9 for tapping messages. More of today is the addition of apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Although, you should not expect too much from it because of the lack of push notifications and slow internet.
Finally, the price is attractive. On the streets of Accra, the capital of Ghana, you can buy the X-Tigi S18 for about US$35. In China, where the phone is made, this might be a little bit cheaper (US$25). Unfortunately, the phone is not yet for sale in other countries. People who feel like buying one will have to do so via an intermediary, which probably will add something to the price.
In the end, this phone was not only intended to serve as a phone. In fact, it's an emergency phone that mainly acts as a portable charger for other small devices 'in need'. The use of the X-Tigi S18 links up with the context in Ghana, and the user's need in specific situations (other than that it would fit into Western societies). Nonetheless, it is remarkable to see that it contributes to improving the situation and better connecting the people there.