SA firms battle for smartphone market

A vicious battle for control of South Africa’s lucrative smartphone market is shaping up as leading service providers seek dominance.

Barely six months after MTN launched a low cost smartphone dubbed MTN Steppa, which it says has become a hit in the market, Vodacom is planning to respond with its own version of a low cost smart phone.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has revealed the company will launch a low cost smartphone in July that will retail at $45 only.

“We’re keen to make sure that we are providing affordable connectivity options to all income groups and not just those that can afford high-end devices,” he said.

The devise, which is developed by Vodafone, is seen as a direct assault on MTN’s Steppa which retail at $48 and recorded massive success in the market.

The Steppa is an Android smartphone which the company markets as the most affordable, easy to use and high performance touchscreen smartphone in the country.

In March, Vodacom launched a low-cost smartphone called the Smart 4 mini for $86.6 but it has been struggling to stir the market.

Though in recent years South Africa has witnessed significant surge in high-end smartphones competition pitting companies like Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, Huawei among others, the battle now is shifting to low cost smartphones.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), demand for low-cost devices has driven manufacturers to create good quality devices specifically targeting emerging markets.

“The arrival in the African market of low-cost smartphones that typically use the Android OS is one of the key factors driving the increase in smartphone penetration on the continent,” states the IDC.

It adds that by the end of this year there will be 204 million smartphone connections in Africa, up from 79 million in 2012. The growth will largely be drive by cheap devices.

Mobile services providers have realised that low cost devises are critical in driving growth. This is why the battle now is mainly at the low end of the market. Consequently, the company with the most attractive low cost devices stands better chances of locking in more subscribers.

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