The South African smartphone market is in for a robust festive season, with a host of new products likely to drive massive sales for the last quarter of the year. New Windows 8 devices and the Apple iPhone 5 in particular are likely to drive record handset sales for the local telecommunications industry.
That’s according to Tim Walter, Executive Head: Strategy and Business Transformation. He says that Nashua Mobile has seen a sharp increase in smartphone sales as feature phone users begin to make the switch and more tech-savvy users keep upgrading to the latest technologies from their suppliers of choice.
The South African smartphone market has been dominated by BlackBerry smartphones to date, largely because of the flat-rate BlackBerry Internet Service that gives users unlimited on-device Web and email access for just R60 a month. BlackBerry smartphones have also included some attractively priced full-featured models. However, BlackBerry no longer has the market to itself with Android, iOS and Windows devices all making inroads into its market share, says Walter.
Nashua Mobile has seen good sales for the Apple iPhone 4S over the past year, considering the cost of the device, says Walter. Many consumers have been eagerly waiting for news about the iPhone 5 and these dedicated Apple fans are likely to snap up the new device at any cost when it releases in South Africa.
“Despite the fact that the iPhone 5 has drawn some criticism for a lack of jaw-dropping new features, it is still likely to be the most aspirational device on the market. It is sleek, powerful and beautifully put together,” says Walter.
At the high-end, Apple’s most credible competitor is the Samsung Galaxy SIII, which compares very favourably with the iPhone 5 in terms of raw specs such as the camera, processor power, and screen size. It’s a touch more affordable than the iPhone and runs the slick Android 4.0 operating system.
Strong marketing from Samsung, paired with its excellent specs and relative affordability, have made this one of the most popular high-end smartphone in South Africa, says Walter. Even the launch of the Apple iPhone 5 is unlikely to change that, he adds. HTC and Sony have also brought attractive Android devices to South Africa.
Jelly Bean – the next release of the Android operating system – is on the horizon. If it delivers on its promise of an even smoother and more beautiful Android interface, it will help Android grow even stronger in South Africa. The only dark cloud on the horizon for Android is the ongoing patent disputes case between Samsung and Apple, which could have the long term ramification of driving the cost of Android devices upward as Android handset manufacturers make deals with Apple to license its technology.
Given the strength of Apple and Android in the global market, many users are tempted to see the smartphone market as a two-horse race. But Walter says this would be a mistake with the energy that Microsoft has invested in revitalising Windows as a mobile platform. Nokia is betting its smartphone strategy on Windows, and will be a formidable force combined with Microsoft.
With the recent announcement of the Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia and Microsoft have rounded off the Windows product portfolio with a device that can compete with the Galaxy III and the iPhone 5 at the top-end. Walter says that with a beautiful interface and snug integration with Microsoft desktops, Lumia devices will be attractive for many users, especially in the professional market. We don’t know yet when the Lumia 820 and 920 will be available in South Africa, but Nashua Mobile is seeing demand pick up for earlier Lumia models.
Looking further ahead, Walter says the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 platform in the first quarter of 2013 will be important for South Africa’s smartphone market since it will determine whether BlackBerry can keep pace with its competitors. But whatever happens then, one thing local smartphone fans can be sure of is that there will be no shortage of devices to choose from as the smartphone market continues to grow and evolve.