Mobile and smartphone use in urban and rural India

Jerry WATKINS, Kathi R. Kitner, Dina Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Between 32 and 74 million smartphones are forecast in the Indian market by 2015. This article looks more closely into this phenomenon by comparing two studies conducted at urban and rural sites in India. Study A was based upon a corporate ethnography of 'middle class' urban user segments in Mumbai and Belgaum. Thirty-three in-depth interviews were conducted with 'Mobile Only' and 'Mobile Heavy' users. A number of respondents reported that a mobile phone was their first 'personal' device, which led to a complex relationship between the user and their phone that was manifest both physically and symbolically. Study B details a development communication project based upon a six-month participant observation of a community radio station located in the rural Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh state. The strategic aim of Study B was to explore the potential of the smartphone as a tool for development communication. Nokia N97 smartphones were provided to community radio reporters and these devices facilitated the production of new programming and innovative community engagement pilots. Both studies suggest that low levels of income and digital literacy, and certain social structures and cultural norms may further constrain forecast adoption rates. However, the studies also demonstrate the range of new possibilities afforded by mobile-and smartphone-enabled applications and services once such constraints are reduced or removed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-697
Number of pages13
JournalContinuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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