We spoke to Head of Mobile Division at Samsung East Africa on where the smartphone market currently lies and he revealed the 'magical price cap' that is giving manufacturers sleepless night

Charles Kimari, Samsung Electronics East Africa Head of Mobile division. (George Tubei)
  • Today, the smartphone mass market is proving to be more attractive than the high-end niche market and phone manufacturers are now outdoing themselves to woo the entry-level consumer.
  • More and more mobile phone manufacturers are being forced back to the drawing table to create affordable smartphones and the fight is becoming vicious by the day.
  • Business Insider recently had a chat with Charles Kimari, Samsung Electronics East Africa Head of Mobile division to get a glimpse of the smartphone market in Kenya and larger East Africa.

For decades, the mass market, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, was left in the cold by phone manufacturers who simply choose to go after the moneyed high-end consumer with deep pockets and ‘expensive taste’ to match. They would forever tantalise their tastes by unleashing one super expensive product after another that ordinary folks could only dream about and lust after at the safety of gleaming glass windows.

Ten years later, the script has been flipped and ‘the entry-level consumer’ is now the king spoilt for choice with an array of pocket-friendly smartphones of all sizes and colour. Today, the smartphone mass market is proving to be more attractive than the high-end niche market and phone manufacturers are now outdoing themselves to woo the entry-level consumer.

More and more mobile phone manufacturers are being forced back to the drawing table to create affordable smartphones and the fight is becoming vicious by the day. Chinese phone manufacturers like Huawei helped triggered the fall in smartphone prices with their cheap but handy phones.

Business Insider recently had a chat with Charles Kimari, Samsung Electronics East Africa Head of Mobile division to get a glimpse of the smartphone market in Kenya and larger East Africa.

“Currently, the space that is being fought for right now is where the market share lies and that market share lies between Sh5000 – Sh40,000 ($400),” Kimari tells Business Insider.

Kimari says this is where the big fight is currently unfolding and anyone who wants to ensure they are open for business is trying desperately to cut a niche for themselves.

“This is where the big fight is, everyone is trying to dominate this space Samsung wants to dominate the space the Chinese products wants to dominate the space. So, who will ultimately dominate this space is whoever comes with the right product with the right proposition and price is very important,” he added.

As a result, high-end phone manufacturers such as Samsung, who initially never targeted entry-level smartphone users, now want a slice of the mass market too and in recent years has been forced to relook at its marketing strategy and equally target the mass market with pocket friendly smartphones but with a larger than life personality and their latest smartphone entry was no different.

“Each of the A series, that we just launched has a category of the population it targets. Take Samsung A10 and A20, for example, it is priced above Sh10,000 but below Sh17,000 ($170). So, again you see two models playing within this category which we had never positioned ourselves before but now we know that we will be able to deliver value to the entry-level category consumer and this time round with a phone that packs more specs, bigger battery life, more storage capacity unlike what we had before for the same price,”  said Kimari.

Going forward, Kimari adds that competition will only get even more fierce and what will ultimately determine the winner is how they position themselves with smart and innovative products that fit into the pocket of the entry-consumer but that is easier said than done.

“Even if you look at the operators right now, they are essentially working on products that are below Sh5000 ($50) and what they are trying to do is basically to spread their reach within the mass market but again certain determinants will put a break on the market. e.g. look at products like Volte, Samsung is currently leading and so other products like the Chinese for instance do they have the capacity to reach the phone specification requirements? this will affect the dynamics of how far they are penetrating the market with a particular product because again the operator kind of tends to determine what model will be pushed into the market because they are the owner of the network.”

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