Kenya has seen a number of high profile device releases. Last week, we got to see Samsung’s latest premium smartphones in the Galaxy S20 series go on sale locally. All three devices in the series have prices that range from between Kshs 90,000 and Kshs 130,000, way above the reach of most Kenyans.
As if that is not enough, today, Friday, March 20th, Samsung’s other pricey device, the Galaxy Z Flip, goes on sale in the country. As of the last time we checked, that device is supposed to cost a whopping Kshs 160,000, making it the preserve of a few.
The premium smartphone market in Kenya is one that Samsung knows far too well and has dominated ever since the exit of Nokia.
In 2019, Samsung continued to dominate accounting for 56% of premium smartphone sales in the country. Its lead, however, is being threatened by Chinese brand Xiaomi which has figured out how to undercut the competition with attractive pricing for its premium devices. According to Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi is the brand to watch in the premium smartphone space.
While the premium devices that command insane prices do a good job of shining the spotlight on the cutting edge of technology in the mobile world, it is the basic low-cost devices that drive Kenya’s smartphone market.
According to the latest data from Counterpoint Research, in 2019, the number of smartphones sold in Kenya that cost Kshs 10,000 or below accounted for a whopping 72% of the smartphone market.
Over half of those were from China’s Transsion Group which has a significant footprint not just in Kenya but in the whole of the African continent with its three brands Tecno, Infinix and itel.
The rise in fortune for the Transsion Group brands is attributed to the increasing number of Kenyans upgrading from feature phones to smartphones. Given the affordability of Tecno, Infinix and itel smartphones, most Kenyans are turning to the Transsion Group brands for their first smartphone experience.
Six out of the top 10 best-selling smartphone models during 2019 came from brands owned by the Transsion Group
Having been in the market for over a decade now, the Transsion Group brands, like Tecno, have been around long enough to develop a brand following and loyalty that Counterpoint Research deems as one of the factors that drove growth and interest in their devices making them the biggest beneficiaries of the Kenyan smartphone market’s 10% growth in 2019.
While that is so, it is Samsung that leads the pack when it comes to driving LTE adoption in the country with 20% of the LTE smartphones sold in Kenya in 2019 coming from the Korean company. Tecno and Infinix followed closely with 16% and 15% shares of the LTE smartphone market in the country last year.
Safaricom’s entry-level smartphone brand Neon placed 6th in smartphone sales last year. As of the last time we heard about their sales numbers, Safaricom reported selling over 600,000 units by the start of Q4 2019 [see update].
While American chipmaker Qualcomm dominates the local premium smartphone market that is dominated by Samsung and Xiaomi, it is Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek that is the market leader in Kenya among all spectrums of the smartphone market – high-end, mid-range and low-end.
“MediaTek SoCs led in 2019 with 60% market share, driven primarily from smartphones in the price band $50-$100.”
As per Counterpoint’s findings, the need for bigger displays on devices (6-inch), bigger batteries and more storage are key trends in the Kenyan smartphone market. Devices with 32GB onboard storage were the most popular in 2019 with those with more – 64GB and 128GB – also growing at a high rate.