IN ROTORUA we have our own mobile phone inventor. The Kiwi Mobile Smart Phone was designed here. I think it is New Zealand's best value smartphone.
I met the designer Muhammad Asif by chance. My computer got a vicious virus. I went into Rotorua looking for a technician to fix my computer. I had noticed a computer store at 1180 Eruera St.
I meet Muhammad for the first time when I put my computer on his counter and asked "Can you fix it?"
He agreed to make it an urgent job. I got a ring about 9pm that night with the news the virus had actually destroyed the hard drive. "I have to have a computer," I said. Muhammad offered to come out to my home and install a new system the next day. The whole system cost less than I had paid for the original computer.
As he was working installing my new system I offered him a cup of tea and asked "Where are you from?"
"Were you a computer technician there?"
"No. I was in telecommunications. I was in charge of putting in fibre around Pakistan."
The New Zealand Government has a fibre network project costing about $1.5 billion. Muhammad's company, I learnt, had put in six million fibre connections. This was not your usual technician.
"How come you have left your job to fix computers in Rotorua?"
"My daughter's school in Pakistan has armed guards," was the answer.
He told me his brother who had attended Waikato University had persuaded him to immigrate. His brother thought the price the students were being charged for their computers was outrageous so while still at university he started Budget Computers. They now have three Budget Computer stores.
When Muhammad left I googled him and found he was a director of the telecommunications company and he has two degrees from a top USA university.
Muhammad and I have become friends. Eight months ago Muhammad told me he was designing his own smartphone.
"You mean you are putting your brand on an existing phone?" I said.
"No. I am using the open source Android system to create my own smartphone." Muhammad explained that every country's phone network is different. Most of the mobiles on sale in this country are not designed for New Zealand's networks. This is the reason many smartphones will not work on all networks.
"My Kiwi Mobile will work overseas but it is designed for New Zealand so you get all three networks. It has two sim cards so customers can save on their phone bills and a front and back camera so you can Skype and take pictures. I will preload apps like Facebook and GPS. Do you think people will like it?" he asked me.
I was a bit sceptical. "People will not believe you can design in New Zealand a smartphone as good as the overseas brands. What about reliability?" I said.
"I can offer a 12-month warranty. Instead of sending any defective phone back to the manufacturer like the retailers I will fix any defective phone in my shop."
For a month I tested a prototype Kiwi Mobile Smart Phone. When I gave the prototype back I said I had never had a smartphone before so I did not know if they were all this good.
A sceptical friend told me I was just impressed with smartphones. He persuaded me to get the Apple iPhone 5. It cost three times more than a Kiwi Mobile.
I decided I liked the Kiwi Mobile more. The feature I most liked was it got reception at Lake Rotoma. Muhammad explained he had added an extra antenna for his rural customers. The prototype I had tested had a bigger screen. My clumsy fingers liked the bigger layout. But I also missed showing it off. On boards we all switched off our cell phones and put them on the table. Having the latest Apple impresses no one. Saying your phone is a New Zealand design now that is different.
He agreed to sell my Apple for me but said he had sold out of all his Kiwi Mobiles.
"Kiwi Mobile has been a success but my real love is telecommunications," he said. "I am now working on a telecommunications project."
It sounded exciting but I wanted a Kiwi Mobile. I have read with incredulity the lengths people go to get the latest model smartphone. I have become one of those people.
"If I help you with your telecommunication project will you bring me in a Kiwi Mobile?" I asked.
I have done some work on Muhammad's telecommunication project. I sold my Apple and bought a $10 phone. I am now on a waiting list with other Kiwi Mobile fans for Muhammad's latest model. He is bringing in a shipment next week.
I have been promised the first phone. I cannot wait to show it off to the Aucklanders and casually say, "You know you can only get a Kiwi Mobile smartphone where they were invented, here in Rotorua".