The future of handsets – in Africa


The postscript – in Africa – is the most important part of this title. Many places you go, people are quick to talk Apple and Android (and at a push, Blackberry) when talking of the future. But really, do they know what they are talking about?

Narcissism comes easy to us humans – and our experience of the mobile phone is no different – we have a tendency to think everyone else’s experience is the same as ours. But, as Arthur Goldstuck says “Mainstream media tend to be heavily focused on the very latest, very shiniest phones on the market, or on the very coolest apps that feed these phones.” So, those of us having this conversation, with a high end smartphone in our pocket and disbelieving of anyone who hasn’t yet got one, are convinced that this bling bling is the way of the future. But looking at the numbers shows a different picture.

Currently, the most popular phone in South Africa is the “unknown” Samsung E250.

Here is a great infographic by Afrographique showing the prominence of Nokia devices in Africa

An infographic depicting mobile devices by brand and percentage used on the African continent. Data by Admob, 2010.

I agree with Arthur Goldstuck in his view that “the astonishing thing about these phones is that they attract no media buzz whatsoever. Because American analysts are narrowly obsessed with smartphone market share, they are oblivious to the phones that shape the global market. As a result, their commentary is not only irrelevant to developing markets, but entirely ignorant. ”

It really is time to broaden the conversation among those who think that smartphones are the only future in Africa. Feature phones can’t be ignored – well, not unless you want to miss the boat …

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