Transsion Holdings, the mother company for popular mobile phone brands Tecno, Infinix and itel, led Africa’s smartphone market in the second quarter of 2019, a position it has been in and out of since 2017.
With a market share of 37.4%, Transsion beat Samsung (27.4%) and Huawei (8.7%) to the top position in a quarter that saw the smartphone segment on the continent continue to gain the ground it lost in the first quarter of the year.
Samsung’s back-to-back releases of its Galaxy A budget smartphones is credited with its continued dominance (it had the highest share of the market by dollar value at 40.3%, followed Transsion (21.9%) and Huawei (12.2%)).
According to global technology and research firm IDC, 52.2 million mobile phone units (smartphones and feature phones combined) were shipped in Q2 2019, a drop from the 53.1 million units shipped in Q1 (a 1.8% decline quarter-on-quarter). Out of those, 47.1% were smartphones, an increase of 1% from the previous quarter.
Feature phones, which account for the bulk of the mobile devices shipped in Q2 (58.3%), had their shipments drop by 3.7% from the previous quarter even with prices for feature phones continuing to drop.
Just the other day, market leader Tecno announced a new feature phone running on KaiOS, the Tecno T901, which brings with it apps like YouTube, Google Maps, Google Assistant and YouTube as well as features like Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G network connectivity, features that have previously been the key attraction to budget smartphones that are popular on the continent.
Feature phones remain an integral part of the African mobile phone market due to poor network infrastructure across large parts of the continent, particularly in rural areas, and the ease of use of these devices.
According to the IDC, despite a decline of 1.8% in feature phone shipments between the start of 2018 and the end of the second quarter of 2019, they will pick up in Q3 2019, rising by 0.1% to total at least 30.5 million units thanks to the addition of apps like the ones users of the Tecno T901 will have access to and the feature phones’ legendary battery-saving capabilities which allow them to be perfect backups for smartphones.
The boom for the feature phones won’t last long, though. According to George Mbuthia, a research analyst at the IDC, the segment may have already seen its best days.
“The feature phone segment will continue to decline gradually over the longer term as the continent’s telecommunications infrastructure improves and the market embraces positive policies like tax reductions for mobile services and devices. Such developments will enable consumers to access more affordable connections and better devices, thereby driving the market’s transition to smartphones.”
While the feature phone market will see negligible growth in the current quarter (Q3), it is the smartphone market that will see the most growth. The IDC projects that the market will grow by 4.7% which will see the number of smartphone units ships stand at 22.8 million. All this is thanks to “Africa’s increasingly tech-savvy younger generation”.
Another factor fueling the continent’s increasing smartphone adoption is 4G thanks to the drop in prices of 4G-enabled devices, as is evident in the local market. With over 70% of the smartphones in Q2 being 4G-ready, the IDC forecasts that they will rise in popularity to account for at least 74.4% of all smartphone shipments by the end of next year.
Much as the conversation in other parts of the world has already shifted to 5G, the continent is not expected to be part of that conversation in the short term as the first such networks are not yet expected in the continent’s other big smartphone markets besides South Africa (Nigeria and Egypt).
Nigeria is the continent’s biggest smartphone market followed by South Africa and Egypt.
While the continent’s first commercially-available 5G smartphones are expected to be released this quarter, even by the end of next year they’ll still be negligible entities with no more than 0.4% market share.