Demand for entry-level smartphones has begun to rise in Kenya as young consumers go for devices that offer large storage, high-speed internet, fast processor and quality camera output at a lower cost.
The burgeoning youthful customers-currently constituting the highest population of first-time mobile users are driving this demand.
In an increasingly interconnected world, there is heavy usage of internet-enabled phones by youths beyond just communication. Tech-savvy young consumers are now than ever using smartphones to shop, play games, organise events and meetings as well as virtual classrooms.
“As a result, we are seeing a surge in sales from our entry-level segment, a pointer that reflects a growing demand for functional devices that are also affordable,” said realme Kenya PR & Marketing Manager, Mildred Agoya.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) in June 2022 revealed that feature phone shipments declined 31.6% YoY as smartphones gained 12.7 per cent driven by the launch of new smartphones with rich features including high-speed internet.
Smartphone shipments in Kenya now account for 72 per cent of total shipments, driven by entry-level handsets with price bands of between $100 – $200 US and mid-range of up to 450 US dollars.
A pandemic-induced push for cashless transactions, contactless meetings and migration of many businesses to online platforms including social platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook, Li said have also accelerated the shift from feature phones and helped to grow the size of the entry-level smartphone market.
“We began experiencing this shift at the height of the pandemic, It is now growing bigger post-pandemic and showing no signs of stopping fuelled by the high cost of living that has significantly reduced consumer purchasing power,” said Agoya.
According to GSMA’s The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2021 report, Sub-Saharan Africa with 40 % of its population under the age of 15, young consumers owning a mobile phone for the first time will remain the primary source of growth for entry-level smartphones.
GSMA data shows the number of unique mobile subscribers will rise by 4.5 per cent to 613 million as smartphone ownership is projected to grow to 61 per cent by 2025 from the current 49 per cent. The rate of 4G adoption is also forecast to nearly double to 33 per cent over the period.
realme, the youngest and fastest growing smartphone brand globally is consistently working on its business strategy to create a favourable ecosystem for the growing young users to hop into their smartphone upgrade ladder.
Two months ago, the brand announced plans to increase its research and development budget by 58 per cent to bolster technology innovation and the quality of smartphones with designs that appeal to young customers.
“This means you can expect even more exceptional Number Series phones moving forward, as our Number Series is our essential product line, packing essential tech into a stylish package with an accessible price tag,” Agoya says.
The brand new plan to increase the research budget together with “market cultivation” a strategy to grow shipments to 1 million for each of its 15 core markets, helping it reach its aspiration of providing products with a comprehensive superior experience for young consumers.
Already, realme has had a first of its early wins, In the first quarter of 2022, it broke its annual 5 million sales volume mark for the first time globally, driven by the sale of entry-level phones in Kenya and other markets.
The success of realme entry-level phones is attributable to its C-series models that have over the last two years improved in terms of size, weight, design and quality.
The latest models now feature among others, right angle bazel design, anti-slip design, side lock fingerprint, quality cameras, high-speed internet and larger batteries of up to 5000mAh.
realme C35 is the latest in the series to launch in the market and is the first phone in the country to feature an FHD screen. It runs on a Unisoc Tiger 616 chipset paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB UFS 2.2 storage.
In this line, a number of models including C33, C11 2021, C25Y and C2Y are in the market- all 4G powered.
IDC attributes affordability of entry-level smartphones to Chinese vendors, with Transsion brands – Tecno, Itel and Infinix – controlling 48% of the shipments. the corporation places Samsung second, at 25%, while another Chinese brand, Xiaomi, takes the third slot with 6.6%.
“realme is also fast rising to enter this top league as we continue to work on meeting the dynamic and rising needs of the youthful market,” said Agoya.
A comparative estimate analysis by Canalys released in November 2022 ranks realme in the fourth position with a 3 per cent share, after Transsion (49 per cent), Samsung (33 per cent) and Xiaomi (6 per cent). The Q3 estimates show only realme moved up the ranks and had the largest annual growth (71 per cent) in shipments.
Agoya added that the newest addition to the C series is the realme C30s which is the only entry-level smartphone with a side finger print sensor under Ksh.11,000. This sets the market trends and fulfilling current consumer needs of quality, style/design and pricing.