News / Science & Technology

South Africa's First Smartphone to Hit Shelves in 2014

A woman, draped in a cloth with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela, uses a mobile phone during Mandela's funeral at his ancestral village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, south of Johannesburg, Dec. 15, 2013.A woman, draped in a cloth with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela, uses a mobile phone during Mandela's funeral at his ancestral village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, south of Johannesburg, Dec. 15, 2013.
x
A woman, draped in a cloth with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela, uses a mobile phone during Mandela's funeral at his ancestral village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, south of Johannesburg, Dec. 15, 2013.
A woman, draped in a cloth with an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela, uses a mobile phone during Mandela's funeral at his ancestral village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, south of Johannesburg, Dec. 15, 2013.
Smartphones are growing in popularity in South Africa, but their expense and the cost of contracts have meant only a fraction of the population can afford them.

One South African plans to change that by introducing the first indigenously designed and manufactured smart phone, aimed at attracting lower middle class consumers.

South Africans love their mobile phones. According to a recent Afrobarometer report, 93 percent of South Africans have one.

But 80 percent of these phones are feature phones, simple handsets with a number keypad, which can be used to dial numbers and send text messages.

Dr. Thabo Lehlokoe wants to change that.

Early in 2014, his company, Seemahale Telecoms, in partnership with manufacturer CZ Electronics, is bringing a new smartphone to South Africans that will retail at around $230.
 
"There's a lot of people that are currently on feature phones, but would love to have a smartphone but can't afford to have one on the current pricing. We then noticed that there is actually a band, a niche band that we can come in and support," Lehlokoe said.
 
Apple's iPhone will cost a consumer about $1,000, without a two-year contract that would typically lower the phone's price. A buyer will pay about $800, without a contract, for a Samsung Galaxy.

Consumers like Terrence Mathoma say it is expensive, but South Africans - who can afford it - are tempted by high-end brands.

"For R2500, well the phone has to appeal to a lot of people for us to buy it…..
My phone, I had to take it out on contract because they wanted something like R8,000 up front, and then you look at taking it out on contract, you look at the packages which they give you," he said. "It weighs out it being better to take it out on contract. As opposed to having R8,000 up front. That's a lot of money."

Locking into a contract can also be expensive, as phone minutes and data plans are costly. For $47 a month, one iPhone contract buys you 75 minutes per month and 200 megabytes of data.

For most lower income South Africans, a contract is not in the cards. Instead, they just buy pre-paid minutes.  And that is where Lehlokoe is aiming his new phone.

"The idea was that we were trying to make this thing relevant for our market," he said.
 
He is hoping the price - at just $238 - and the fact that the phone is designed and manufactured in South Africa, will be selling points.

"There’s a lot of people that actually appreciate the fact that when these phones are manufactured here. We are going to be creating a lot of jobs locally - that on its own is a serious value add that the other guys cannot provide," he said.

The phone will be manufactured in Midrand, a suburb north of Johannesburg, and the factory should employ a couple of hundred people to start.  

Lehlokoe hopes the phone will bring more South Africans online - in a country where two-thirds of adults have never used the internet.

Tshepang Makofane, a smartphone owner, said he would like to see more opportunities for the poor to access information.

"Smartphone penetration in South Africa is really huge. I'm more interested in the low end, the people in the low end LSM getting access to all this technology. I think it's like a great opportunity for them to come on board as well," said Makofane.
 
Dr. Thabo Lehlokoe is hoping consumers in that market feel the same way.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs