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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.