Entry level smartphones for Africa

Last week Microsoft and Huawei announced the 4Afrika phone, a Windows 8 device that will go for somewhere between $150 and $200.


The device is a Windows Phone 8 smartphone that will come preloaded with selected applications “designed for Africa”. The phone will be available at launch in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Angola and Côte d’Ivoire.

The smartphone is 10.15mm thick and features a 4-inch WVGA (480×800) IPS LCD touchscreen with “zero-gap touch” technology. Its 1,730 mAh Li-Polymer battery powers a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8230 dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and Adreno 305 GPU. Additionally, the phone includes a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera and VGA shooter on the front.

From a technical perspective this is a great phone with a decent processor, good quality screen and a large enough battery to last at least a day. For me it’s a no-brainer since I’m not an Android fan and for someone looking to get a smartphone this is potentially a brilliant device. However, I think someone dropped the ball on pricing.

Consider the fact that in Kenya you could get a Huawei IDEOS (Android phone) for $100 this might be a little expensive for the average African entrepreneur. While this phone is vastly better than anything the IDEOS could offer I think the $100 price point is a perfect place as an entry point.

I can only assume that the pricing issue is related to the cost of licensing Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8. If Microsoft had foregone these licensing revenues for the first million odd phones it would have been a fascinating experiment to see whether they could have recouped the money on app income. In addition, suddenly pumping a million devices into the mobile ecosystem would have greatly increased their market penetration world wide.

That said, I am not a business analyst at Microsoft and I’m sure they’ve worked this out. Either way it’s an exciting step that Microsoft is clearly interested in Africa and investing in African infrastructure. The truth is, those $100 Android phones are pretty grotty (don’t get me wrong they’re an amazing gateway drug into the smartphone world) and this may sell many stuck on dumbphones on the idea.

Leave a Reply