Kenya rings changes as older devices fade

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-10 07:41

China-made gadgets altering country's mobile phone landscape

NAIROBI - Older phones are on their deathbed in Kenya, with time running out for the gadgets that have been on sale in the East African nation for close to 20 years.

The devices, mainly used by low-income earners, are being edged out of the market by the increasing number of low-cost smartphones.

Industry data indicates that older phones may not be in the Kenyan market in the next two years as manufacturers continue to release cheaper, high-tech devices.

Most of the low-cost smartphones are mainly from Chinese manufacturers including Tecno, Itel, X-Tigo, Wiko, Neon and Huawei.

The gadgets are priced between $25 and $50, making them affordable to the bottom-end segment of the market.

Kenyans have embraced smartphones and are increasingly rejecting models they consider outdated.

Most of those currently using older feature phones in the East African nation are mobile money agents because of the nature of their work.

"I have kept this feature phone for use in my business because it is efficient. Myself I have a smartphone, but for mobile money transactions, I use the feature phone because its battery lasts even for a week as long as it is fully charged, enabling me to serve several customers without interruptions," said David Nzule, a mobile money shop operator in Nairobi.

Not in stock

A survey in phone shops in Nairobi on Wednesday revealed that many companies have stopped stocking older phones.

"We stopped about two years ago. If you want a smartphone, then we can talk," an employee at a Safaricom shop on Moi Avenue said.

Safaricom, East African nation's leading telecom company, said in a recent report that more than 100,000 smartphones are sold in Kenya each month.

The company said that two thirds of all mobile phones sold in its outlets were smartphones, both expensive and cheaper models.

In a new survey, GlobalData Mobile Broadband Forecast paints a grim picture of the future of older phones in Kenya.

The company noted in a survey released on Monday that by the end of 2022, over 80 percent of mobile phone subscribers in Kenya, which number about 31 million, would be using smartphones.

The survey predicted that the number of active smartphone subscriptions in Kenya would hit 20 million by the end of the year, signifying a major increase from last year.

"This increase in smartphone numbers matters as Kenya is also home to some of Africa's most innovative software developers," said Simon Anderson, GlobalData analyst for the Africa and Middle East market.

Bernard Mwaso, an information technology consultant with Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi reckoned that time is up for feature phones in Kenya.

"Few people want to be caught with a feature phone today because the options for smartphones are wide. You cannot resist change, we said bye to the landline, why not feature phones," he said.


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