Asia 2014 Debrief: The One that Got Away (in Malay)

I’m just back from my annual pilgrimage to Hong Kong, with a bonus side trip to Kuala Lumpur. As I slowly become reacquainted with life in the Eastern Time Zone I thought I’d share a few mobile insights from what I saw overseas.

A mandatory stop in Kuala Lumpur was the local temple of tech, Plaza Low Yat. The closest analog for those of us living in Toronto would be if Pacific Mall had an additional four floors of techy goodness. Even then, Low Yat would still have the edge — the first three floors are all about mobile.

My girlfriend was thrilled to find a cheap wallet-style case for her Nexus 4; my interest was piqued by a temporary display occupying almost all of the ground floor: The IPro Roadshow.

Ever heard of IPro? Me neither. They’re a Malaysian company (not to be confused with the Chinese one with the same name) who make cheap Android phones. Their only Internet presence is a Facebook page, dodgy or deft depending on how you see social media.

So why am I so interested in IPro? Their ridiculously cheap Android handsets, that’s why! I was particularly drawn to the IPro Sense 5M:

IPro Sense 5M

Some notable specs:

  • Android 4.2.2
  • 5″ IPS screen
  • Dual SIM support
  • microSD support
  • FM Radio

I can’t confirm or deny this but the rep I talked to assured me that it supported 850/1900MHz HSPA+ for the Americas. Even better, the back covers are interchangeable and can be purchased separately — and the battery is removable as well.

All this for RM 499 — $165.70 CAD at today’s rates.

In hindsight I should have bought one, and had we made a return trip to Low Yat I might well have. What gave me pause was a quick check of Google’s Open Handset Alliance Hardware Members, where there is no mention whatsoever of IPro.

As a modder I know that adding proper support for Google services is as easy as flashing a zip file, but I’d be wary of entering my Google credentials into a handset that might pass that information on to a third party. And unfortunately, port testing isn’t really my thing…

Still, the company has apparently been recognized as an Asia Pacific Top Excellence Brand — though I couldn’t confirm that on the official site.

I guess I’m so interested in IPro because it offers proof for a pet theory that I’ve held since 2009, that smartphones are to inevitably become commodity items like Windows PCs. If IPro handsets were sold with unlockable bootloaders, I think they’d be on to something…