The rise of low-cost Android smartphones in Kenya could mean the end for BlackBerry and Nokia

The rise of the smartphone in Kenya has been astronomical over the past year or so. The main reason for this has been the arrival of affordable smartphones in many flavors from Nokia, Samsung, Huawei, RIM (AKA BlackBerry) and even other lesser known brands such as Mi-Fone and Tecno. As things stand in Kenya, I estimate that smartphone penetration should be in the region of 7% which is still quite low when many other global markets have over 30% penetration. On many levels, one could say that it is still early days for Kenya where smartphones are concerned but this will change radically over the next few years.

The reality is that for pretty much the first time in Kenya, we have smartphones retailing for as little as Kes. 7,000.00 depending on the brand and model you buy. At the same time, most of these low-cost smartphones run on Google’s Android, a trend that was started by Huawei’s ground-breaking IDEOS almost 2 years ago when it retailed for around Kes. 8,000.00 at launch. As of this writing, we probably have as many as 10 Android smartphone models retailing for under Kes. 10,000.00 in Kenya – including Dual-SIM models. It therefore goes without saying that when it comes to entry-level smartphones, Google’s Android has all the potential to wipe out Nokia and BlackBerry in Kenya.

Now, I am well aware that next year Nokia will be launching equally inexpensive Windows Phone 8 handsets in Kenya and the rest of Africa to counter the trend mentioned above. However, Nokia is still pushing Symbian-based smartphones in Kenya and these are not as popular as they used to be. At the same time, although BlackBerries have become really popular for business executives and the Youth who love the free BBM service, the reality is that with delay of their new operating system till next year, things are not looking good for them.

Going forward, it seems that Google’s Android will thrive not only in Kenya, but also in many other African markets as consumers start making the shift from feature phones to smartphones. It’s still quite shocking in Kenya for instance to see many feature phones still retailing for as much as Kes. 16,000.00 which is twice the price of some Android smartphones in the market. It’s really a no-brainer since Huawei has sold over 150,000 of its IDEOS smartphones in Kenya to-date and they have also released two more low-cost updates with Safaricom and Orange to maintain the trend. What remains to be seen is which brand will lead the low-cost Android market that is growing rapidly on a day to say basis in Kenya with Samsung, LG, Mi-Fone and Huawei leading the charge.

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  1. July 1, 2012 at 8:58 am — Reply

    You nailed it Moses. I’ve been singing this tune for long and now it is suddenly dawning on everyone. For Nokia to successfully dethrone the current budget friendly Droids then it has to unveil attractive smartphones that are inexpensive. From the Galaxy Pocket to the original IDEOS and the Gaga, the Ascend Y100 and the rest, Nokia has it’s work cut out. It is losing out on a very loyal market. Almost everyone in Kenya who owns a smartphone at one time had a Nokia phone. Nokia just outdid itself by sticking with very expensive phones that don’t add value to users. Android with it’s many apps and ease of customization came and is slowly stealing the show with the likes of HuawwLei, ZTE and Samsung leading the assault. As for Blackberry, RIM is just on a slow death and I don’t see the Blackberry addiction reaching the levels it is in South Africa.

  2. July 1, 2012 at 9:06 am — Reply

    So the Nokiageddon is spreading to Kenya too. Very unfortunate, considering the legacy of great value and service that Nokia represents in emerging mobile markets.

    One major mistake Nokia has made in emerging markets is failing to recognise that the tastes of their most loyal customers, the bottom of the pyramid crowd, has significantly evolved from one that value utility and durability to one that espouses the aspirational desires provoked by the “i-wave” – iPhones and Androids. Budget consumers now want to touch and swipe and skype like the best of them, but they don’t want to pay more for it, leaving the door wide open for Sammy and LG to cash in on…

    While I hope Nokia doesn’t go the way of Kodak, (like I wrote on Techloy, it’s beginning to look like only a miracle can save them now

  3. Kirima
    July 2, 2012 at 8:39 am — Reply

    Very true observation, I already have an Android smartphone so was looking for an alternative Nokia smartphone with Qwerty Keyboard in the sub 10,000 Kshs bracket but all that Nokia offer are the Asha phones which have great design and procesessors but why Nokia decided to put the S40 software beats me. Even on the Asha 302 that has a 1Ghz processor, what a waste.I get amused by ‘QWERTY movement’ ads that no doubt have duped a lot of people to believe that these phones are actually smart phones.
    The notion that the low end of the market doesn’t require or apprecieate smartphones is a fallacy,

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  5. October 7, 2012 at 6:54 am — Reply

    This is very true. Nokia is just wasting time by not realising that they should target african hotspots like Kenya. And even sadder is the pathetic Asha phones that are being dubbed as smartphones yet the only multitasking they do is playing music in the background! If only their marketing strategIes were better. The windows phone OS is so beautiful and fresh and would capture the attention of many people instantly! And if cheap, they would sell like hotcakes! If only Nokia knew this………

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