Every other time we have covered Safaricom’s frequent open days, where the company offers its customers a wide selection of devices at discounted rates, there’s been one brand that always offers the cheapest smartphone. That brand is Neon, Safaricom’s own in-house basic Android smartphone effort in partnership with China-based hardware partners.
As would be expected of any basic smartphone, more so one that often goes for sub-Kshs 5,000, Neon smartphones are as basic as basic gets. In fact, on any other day, they’re not worth writing home about since their primary goal is to provide the masses with an option they can readily afford and not to break any performance records or to flaunt the latest features like notches no one asked for.
While the Neon smartphone range has since expanded beyond the Safaricom Neon Kicka, its poster child, to include the likes of the Safaricom Neon Sky, the Safaricom Neon Pulse and the Safaricom Neon Turbo 7 (heck, there’s even a tablet), by virtue of its pricing, love it or hate it, the Kicka remains an interesting proposition.
This is why it is interesting to note that the latest iteration of the 3-year-old Safaricom Neon (Kicka) includes something we’ve been keeping an eye on since it was announced last year: Android Go.
The Safaricom Neon Kicka 4, currently listed on sale on Safaricom’s e-commerce site Masoko, arrives rocking Android 8.1, Oreo (Go Edition).
This is important because since the very first iteration, the Kicka has been limited to a meagre 512 megabytes of memory, just to enough to handle calls, SMS and very light web browsing, very little storage, a tiny battery and a grainy, tiny TFT display.
The Neon Kicka 4 is not any different as it retains much of everything that people who are not the target market of the device would never want to touch with a 10-foot pole: 4GB internal storage (expandable up to 32GB via a microSD card), 512MB RAM, 1,500mAh battery, a 4-inch display, single-SIM slot, 2MP main camera and a VGA selfie shooter.
As such, it means a lot that at least that hardware is complemented by software it is meant to work with like Android Go. Sure, as far as my experience goes, Android Go does not deliver the most desirable Android experience and, in my opinion, falls short of what Google promised, but that’s a good start. Something like the Neon Pulse would really shine with it.
At Kshs 3,500, the Safaricom Neon Kicka is effectively the cheapest Android Go smartphone in the Kenyan market, beating itel’s A32F, a much better (but pricier) device in every aspect.