Posted by: fastforward on Apr 27, 2011
What brand was your first phone? Was it one of those virtually indestructible Nokia 3310s, complete with the classic polyphonic ‘Nokia tune’? Or an Alcatel, Motorola or an Erikson (before they gained the ‘Sony’ prefix)? Many of these brands are now fading into relative obscurity or fighting for survival in an even more competitive market. It’s a market whose future may be dominated by a strange little green robot, a company named after a fruit and a phone which resembles some variant of berry.
Recent statistics show that 41% of Americans who bought a new cellphone in the last six months opted for a smartphone. Smartphones now account for 28% of the mobile phone market in the country (yes, only 28% of mobile phone users in the US have a smartphone, despite the general perception that everyone in the street has an iPhone in their pocket). Parts of Europe actually have a higher smartphone penetration – for example, 33% of Italian and 37% of Spanish mobile phone users have a smartphone. On this side of the sea, 16% of South African cellphone users have a smartphone, and it’s predicted that will rise to 80% by 2014.
If smartphone penetration jumps 64% in the next three years, which smartphones will we be using? World Wide Worx found that 24% of respondents said their next phone would be a BlackBerry, while 3% said they’d buy an iPhone. Where is Android in all of this, you wonder? The little green robot is, well, pretty much everywhere.
Unlike Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system (OS) and Apple’s iOS, Android isn’t limited to a specific brand or phone manufacturer. Pick up any catalogue at a local network provider’s store, and you’ll see for yourself. Manufacturers like Sony Erickson, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and LG are running Android operating systems on their devices.
Nokia entered in to a deal with Microsoft to run Windows 7 on its smartphones, after Nokia CEO Stephen Elop so poetically described the company’s current Symbian OS as a burning platform which Nokia plans to leap from, with haste. Since Nokia is currently the most widely owned cellphone brand in South Africa, with 51% of users running their phones on that very same Nokia Symbian OS, this could have an impact on which smartphones South Africans will own in the future. Will brand loyalty triumph, or will Nokia simply sustain the ‘feature phone’ (non-smartphone) market?
Realistically, it doesn’t seem as though Apple will have the same success in South Africa as it does in overseas – while the iPhone still holds a large portion of the smartphone market, it is already losing ground to Android in the US. With the high costs of the iPhone in South Africa (the cheapest iPhone contract costs R479 per month), it is unlikely that Apple will be able to compete with more affordable smartphone packages on a large scale.
BlackBerry is currently the most popular smartphone in South Africa, as the cheap(er) contract costs and flat data rate have ensured that millions are now spending their days BBM-ing and looking at their phone’s blinking red light. Cell C and Vodacom admit it is their top selling smartphone, and this general trend seems unlikely to change in the near future, as BlackBerry packages are offered on more networks for less money. But if international trends are any indicator, it could soon be Android’s turn in the rainbow nation. With so many different manufacturers now offering Android phones, will BlackBerry be able to sustain their hold on the smartphone market in the distant future?
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