Most mobile analysts in Africa have come to the consensus that the future of Internet access on the continent lies in mobile. Over the next decade, mobile devices will serve as the vehicle for delivering Internet access to millions of Africans. For this to happen, the devices will have to be highly affordable. As such, when device manufacturer Huawei launched its sub-$100 Ideos X1 Android smartphone in Kenya about two years ago, many were filled with anticipation for the coming African smart phone revolution.
The device did not disappoint, becoming the best-selling smartphone in Kenya in the first quarter of 2011. Till date, Huawei has reportedly sold over 350,000 Ideos phones in Kenya and counting. Considering that this is estimated to constitute about 45% of the Kenyan smartphone market, this figure is nothing to sneeze at.
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Enter Samsung with its ambitious Africa smartphone strategy. According to Reuters, “Samsung Electronics Co aims to double its share of the sub-Saharan smartphone market to 20 percent by next year, as it focuses on affordable handsets.”
Kwang Kee Park, Samsung’s President and Chief Operating Officer for Africa, told Reuters in an interview.
“We intend to grow the smartphone market up to 20 percent for the next one year’s time with the Galaxy Pocket,” he said, referring to a stripped-down member of its Galaxy smartphone family.
The Samsung Galaxy Pocket is Samsung’s latest push into the affordable African smartphone market.
Samsung estimates Africa’s smartphone penetration to be at about 6- 8 percent and it is looking to massively increase its share of the smart phone market using devices such as the Galaxy Pocket. The company aims to make up to $10 billion in sales from Africa by 2015.
The Galaxy Pocket launched in South Africa after its Kenya debut recently. Many industry analysts make side by side comparisons between the Samsung Galaxy Pocket and Huawei’s Ideos X1.
Both devices clearly target similar demographics and the smartphone market is set for a battle between the two devices in markets like Kenya. The Samsung Galaxy Pocket retails at about Ksh 9,999 (about $118) while Huawei’s Ideos X1 currently retails at Ksh 6,798 (about $80).
To increase the Galaxy Pocket’s appeal among Kenyans, Samsung launched a ‘buy one get one free’ campaign in Kenya recently. During its Kenyan launch, it brought together a select group of students from Kenyan schools including University of Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology amongst others to help launch the device.
It also recently marketed the devices to students assembled for a Google Student Ambassador summit in Nairobi, giving all 142 of them present free Samsung Galaxy Pockets. The student market is clearly a hot target demographic for the device and Samsung’s hope is likely to make its Galaxy Pocket the smartphone of choice among students
Watch Google Student Ambassadors do the “Pocket Dance” at their recent summit in Nairobi.
The African smartphone space is wide open for whichever device manufacturer best executes its affordable smartphone strategy. Will the Huawei Ideos X1 with its strong debut and early lead become the continent’s favourite affordable smart phone brand, or will Samsung with its aggressive market push and strong brand name be able to get the Samsung Galaxy Pocket in the pockets of millions of Africans?
Only time will tell, but the battle is sure to be fierce and likely profitable.
Image credit: Samsung Kenya