The race to offer cheaper smartphones in Africa has dramatically increased with the launch of the Android One program in Africa, however the price of phones is only one part of the problem.
Speaking at the launch of Android One last year, Google announced how they had delivered economies of scale that meant the first batch of phones could be offered for as low as $105 if bought contract-free in India. “Our goal was to develop high quality smartphones at an affordable price, with access to connectivity, done at scale around the world,” explained Sundar Pichai from Google.
A year on and Google has managed to bring the cost down to $87 for the African market. The launch in Africa has Infinix’s first Android One smartphone, the HOT 2, available in Nigeria at retail outlets and online via Jumia at a recommended retail price of N17,500 ($87) . It’s also been launched in Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Morocco.
Cheap smartphone wars
Cheaper smartphones are nothing new, Chinese “cheap phones” are awash across Africa at low prices. What is new, is that operating systems (OS) providers now have the power and are driving a large wedge through traditional handset markets. Mozilla first announced the introduction of cheaper smartphones at the Mobile World Congress 2014 and then launched the first Firefox OS smartphone last year at $33. Dubbed the Cloud FX, the device was the result of a partnership between Mozilla and handset company Intex Technologies.
The smartphone market is now extremely fragmented between established players and many new smaller entrants such as Injoo, Solo and Wiko. In Nigeria over 20 brands are battling it out, which will see prices driven lower for mass adoption devices and no doubt leave many casualties along the way.
Affordability is holding back internet penetration
The price of smartphones is only one part of the jigsaw in getting the mass market in Africa online, over 80% of mobile users in Africa do not use data. This is because Affordability is holding back internet penetration with only 23% of mobile phones connected to the internet in Africa by the end of this year according to the Internet Society.