12 takeaways from CA’s new guidelines every mobile phone buyer should know

I recently bumped into a smartphone brand on Jumia Kenya Kilimall known as Tesla, something that almost got me thinking Elon Musk’s Tesla is not only working on flying cars but also on affordable Android smartphones, too. How wrong I was! Turns out this is another of the many smartphone vendors that are flooding the Kenyan market with cheap handsets targeting first-time buyers with their attractive price tags.

The best part about having lots of mobile phone vendors in the market is that Kenyans are spoilt for choice. However, the lack of proper regulations coupled by the growing smartphone demand has led to an influx of mobile phones, both smartphones and feature phones, that include a significant chunk of fakes, of poor build quality, and many others lack any form of proper after-sales support, both software and hardware.

To curb these negatives of an otherwise positive trend, the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) has come up with a new set of guidelines that smartphone vendors who sell in Kenya should subscribe to. While some of these requirements are a must, the CA has basically made some of them an option for vendors.

Either way, the requirements are plenty and cover diverse aspects of mobile phones, some of which are irrelevant to the average smartphone buyer. In this post, we’ve narrowed down to 12 takeaways we feel every Kenyan should know before going out to buy their next smartphone or mobile phone for that matter.

  • Every mobile phone must be accompanied by a physical or electronic user manual out of the box. I was impressed when I found a Swahili user manual when unboxing the Nokia 2 and given this is our national language, we wouldn’t mind seeing Swahili manuals in every other mobile phone box. Right?
  • Every mobile phone vendor must provide a warranty of at least one year. This is a very important aspect every mobile phone buyer ought to know because you never know what could happen to your phone one, two, or more months after you purchased it.
  • The CA also wants every mobile vendor to provide after-sales services for two years. This should ensure that in case of any problem, you have somewhere to run to and not any of those local fundi wa simu shops.
  • One of my major concerns about smartphone vendors in Kenya is software after-sales support. Not so many vendors follow up their devices with regular software updates, something I’ve been quite vocal about. In the new guidelines, vendors are required to provide additional software updates to their devices, but for how long we don’t know. As per Google, though, devices should receive at least two major Android OS upgrades and up to three years of monthly security updates.
  • Every mobile phone you purchase must have the manufacturer’s brand name (logo) and model/type in “indelible ink, readily visible and legible.” So, if you come across a device that has no name or logo whatsoever, it should be the first indicator that you are dealing with a fake. Also, make sure you find out more details about the logo or name in question via a simple Google search, if need there be.
  • When you dial *#06#, the device in question should return the IMEI number as assigned by the GSMA. The device should also have the IMEI number printed on it, legible and indelible.
  • There are a good number of mobile phone vendors that don’t include a pair of headphones in the box, but this comes to an end. The new CA guidelines stipulate that every device must be accompanied by a wired or wireless earpiece facility.
  • There’s also a change to the requirements of the keypads that ship with phones coming to Kenya. Rather than use the old-age tactile keypads, the CA wants vendors to use digital QWERTY keyboards that are more user-friendly when composing texts and basically when typing anything on the phone.
  • The CA also requires that all genuine Kenyan mobile phones be equipped with three ringer settings of Loud, Vibrate and Silent.
  • Given how uncertain things can become with Kenya Power, you need a mobile phone that promises significant battery life on a single charge. The CA now has your back as it requires every vendor’s mobile phone to offer at least 8 hours of talk-time and 24 hours of standby time. So, if you happen to purchase a phone that lasts a couple of hours on a call and the battery is dead thereafter, that’s a fake!
  • Every device shall be accompanied by suitable and appropriate power supply cord and mains plug that are in accordance with local electricity standards. This should eliminate those cases of USB cables that simply don’t charge, fry after a few days or weeks of use or maybe wouldn’t connect your device to a PC.
  • Interestingly, having 4G support on phones sold in Kenya isn’t a must, be it Safaricom and Telkom’s 800MHz or JTL’s 700MHz. The CA says that “preferably,” vendors should include support for 4G LTE frequencies 700MHz and 800MHz on bands 4 and 5, respectively. This means that JTL’s Faiba 4G could get life under the new CA guidelines, but given this requirement is optional, it remains to be seen which vendors will include support for LTE on 700MHz. Also, it’s worth noting that normally, 700MHz would be on band 28, but the CA has placed it on band 4 for the Kenyan market, which is a little strange. But hey, we don’t make the rules!

You are probably wondering when these rules will go into effect. Well, the CA says they’ll be enforced once published in the Kenya Gazette. If you want to check out the full set of guidelines, here’s the PDF file.


Header image source: CA Kenya’s Facebook page

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