Feature phones were once a commodity but that tag has been taken away by the smartphones. However, there is still a market for feature phones. There are still people in this world struggling to buy a phone, use the internet and do everything privileged people like us think is a necessity. The only necessity for those people is to earn food so that they can live. In any case, if their lives become better, they cannot afford a $1000 iPhone.
There is a market here to tend to and there are companies working towards it. People who live just above the poverty line is also a market, which brings out mixed feelings within a human that is present in me.
That said, Mobile World Congress had some lavish phones to look at, it had a EUR 2200 foldable phone which dazzled the audience at the MWC. Then there were phones with buttons, yes, there were phones with buttons on show at the MWC in Barcelona. A French company is not running behind anything foldable or cut in-screen cameras, it has made a simple phone which has buttons, supports 3G and is called a smart feature phone.
This device is not powered by any of the Snapdragon chip but is based on a Linux program which sits over a failed Operating System in the name of FirefoxOS. This has helped the phone with buttons act as a smartphone. It will be easy to understand and the connectivity will be good. These kinds of devices help in reducing the digital gap between people in developing nations. There is a connectivity divide as there are people with smartphones and people with no phones at all.
Such phones will do extremely well in countries in Africa. The price of this phone is around $20 which is nowhere close to what people pay for a phone nowadays. That said, KaiOS which develops such phones has over 50 million devices all over the world. The company wants to sell and be on as many as 150 million devices all around the world.
The expansion strategy is simple, the company is entering different countries in Africa and partnering with MTN, a network provider in Africa makes them available in almost the whole of Africa. Orange is already present in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and people in these countries will be able to buy the new phone in April itself. The new smartphone is going to have customized content, voice, and also a language feature. The phone has languages Swahili, Arabic, Portuguese, and French. Google Assistant is also there to help translate any language barriers.
These phones made by Orange are actually manufactured in China. The Beijing controlled Telecommunications Company China Mobile is looking after the same.
KaiOS is having a good time as last year Google invested almost $22 million in the company. The aim of the American giant was to improve feature phones and equip them with some of the smartphone features.
That said, Africa is becoming a market for almost all telecommunications companies. It is a novice market and has a lot of potentials. There are companies quoting billions in prices for the market and it is not a piece of news to people looking for investments and massive returns.