By Martin Ekpeke Google in an ambitious move to penetrate the African mobile handset market last week launched the Android One in a continent that has 20 percent of the smartphones going for less than a $100. Google said the essence of the launch of Android One is to push high-quality, affordable smartphones to as many people as possible in Africa.
In Nigeria here, most people do not ask what Android is, their first concern is price. Then, they will ask can I do Whatsapp, Facebook and share pictures with my friends? The software inside the phone is not really an issue
But market observers said the Android One, embedded on the platform of the Infinix Hot2, which goes for N17,500 may have come a bit late to the market. They believe China got here first with affordable smartphones taking the place that was previously occupied by featured phones in the continent projected to close in on 1 billion mobile subscriptions in the next four years. “It does appear Google is coming very late with the Android One in a market currently dominated by the cheaper Chinese smartphone,” said Ugo Chinezie, a handset seller in the popular Lagos Computer Village. He said there are generic handsets with older and slower versions of Android OS available for as little as N12,000, claiming two third of the smartphone market. No doubts, the Google’s Android One smartphone is one of the best in the market now and should be able to compel consumers, as we say in ‘Naija’ to ‘Fachy’ the Chinese alternatives. It boasts of the latest technologies that ordinarily should appeal to the consumer. It runs the latest Android operating system (Lollipop 5.1.1) and can be upgraded to future versions of the OS, unlike some of its competitors from China. But those who should know said having the best of technology is not a guarantee that Google will be able to fly with this innovation. The average smartphone user in Africa is not brand craze; all that concerns him is a handset that has a camera, some other features and most importantly offer him a route to the Internet. “In Nigeria here, most people do not ask what Android is, their first concern is price. Then, they will ask can I do Whatsapp, Facebook and share pictures with my friends? The software inside the phone is not really an issue,” another reseller stressed. Affordable smartphones with added features are gaining traction in emerging markets such as Nigeria. Even mobile operators are aware of this, and are continually seeking deals with device manufacturers to make lower-priced smartphones tied with voice and data bundles widely available to their subscribers. MTN Nigeria for instance, which formed part of the Android One partnership has its MTN Smart S720i and Smart Mini S620 smartphone going for N10,000 and N8,000 respectively. According to MTN, the two smartphones come with state-of-the-art Android 4.2 OS plus loads of preloaded applications and freebies with one year warranty on purchase. The Andriod One was launched in Lagos on the platform of the Infinix HOT 2-X510 smartphone, which happens to be the first device to run on the Android One solution in Africa. The phone will have accompanying data offers from mobile operator MTN, and is available via Jumia, an online retailer. Starting from Nigeria, Google said the phone will be available in five more African countries like Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Morocco very soon. Google said the idea is to bring more people in Africa to the Internet. According to Caesar Sengupta, Vice President, Product Management at Google, the driving force behind the launch is, today, people don’t just visit online, they live online. “Today, Africans are using the Internet in very unique ways, they are leveraging on the Internet to boost economies, thereby living a better, richer lives and create opportunities for themselves and their communities,” he told a large crowd of tech enthusiasts in Lagos, Nigeria. He said 33 percent of the world’s population are on the Internet, 1 billion Youtube video views per day, 100 billion searches on Google each month and over three billion Internet users across the world. He revealed that over 4 billion people will be online by 2017, and that Google’s attraction is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.