I can only imagine how the late Ricardo Montalban (read: Khan) would advertise the new “El Vergatario;” the world’s cheapest mobile handset. Hugo Chavez’s new may very well be the response against the monopoly of the evil imperialists to control the people’s inalienable right to mass communication. It’s not made with soft Corinthian leather (like the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba), and it does not contain stones quarried from the cave (not stable, cave) that was the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but think about it: it’s a $14 phone (about Php 700).
You may not think much of cellphones that cost $14, but this antithesis to the imperialist-capitalist monopoly is a Venezuelan slider phone that has an MP3 player, a digital camera, and a radio.
To make some sense of the new El Vergatario, lemme use my phones as a case in point. Both my phones (a Nokia 6300 and a Sony Ericsson w760i) have MP3 players, digital cameras, and radios. The whole point behind bundling all these technologies into a single device is not to have the best of everything, but to have everything. The only thing that these phones I have in my pocket – or any phone in anyone’s pocket, for that matter – is to have those tiny screwdrivers for glasses, a set of dull knives, and a bottle opener. Or a plastic toothpick.
Look at it this way: I have a crappy MP3 player (thank you, iPod), a crappy digital camera (I have a better camera, but I take horrible pictures), and a crappy radio (I don’t listen to radio). I’m buying the brand and the prestige, not necessarily the technology. The only difference is cost: I have a P7,000 Nokia and a P16,000 Sony Ericsson that pretty much fail at everything except texting, calling, and bloghopping on the go. The good thing is that I don’t have a preoccupation with top-view kawaii poses posted on my Friendster account.
I’m not one to say that the El Vergaterio is going to take the world by storm, or that Chavez has given the old fuck-you to the telecommunications industry. With Chavez’s own predispositions, you never know if everyone in Venezuela will start carrying an El Vergaterio. But in a society that’s impassioned-bordering-on-addicted to Nokia and Sony Ericsson and Motorola, we have a long way to go before we have our own El Vergaterio (which is, by the way, a strange name to call your phone). Besides, selling a phone partly made by ZTE Corporation in this country is a bit on the whack side of things.