I hope some Nigerians will agree with me when I say that many Nigerians like cheap products. If the word cheap sounds offensive, let me put it this way: Nigerians like affordable products with the best possible quality. Many a time, we sacrifice quality for quantity. But a handful of smartphone brands have shown us that cheap is not always bad. With them, cheap is better.
A quick caveat: there is an exception to every rule, so don’t eat my head if you are not one of the rest of us who are constantly bargain-hunting.
Before you tie a noose around my neck, I should at least get a chance to vindicate myself. In a typical conversation between an average Nigerian buyer and a seller, the former would claim to be able to be able to get ten of the item at Aba town for a quarter of the asking price. Of course, the seller would reply to say that he would only get “Chinko” (an euphemism for fake) at that price.
The Nigerian way was and still is to go for the more affordable option even at the expense of quality.
For a while, Nokia, Samsung, and iPhone led the smartphones pack. However, somewhere along the way, Nokia failed to play along with the changing time. When Android and iPhone were making groundbreaking changes to their software and aesthetics, Nokia stuck to what has worked before, thinking it would always work.
Thanks to that philosophy, their demise came quickly and their fame receded.
Can Apple and Samsung end up the same way?
The iPhone is strong globally but has a very tiny market share in Nigeria, so we shall excuse it from this discussion. But Samsung’s dominance here is now being ambiguously weakened by two phone brands that were once labelled as “cheap” and “Chinko”. For people who don’t know, Chinko is another way of saying “Chinese knockoff”.
Recently, I took a survey among my friends who used to be Samsung, HTC or iPhone owners. Back then, it was an insult to suggest to them that they use “cheaper” brands. Some of them went as far as saying that purchasing those brands was like going to the market to buy clothes worn by unknown people halfway across the world.
Guess what? They all now use TECNO, Infinix, Gionee, and Innjoo phones.
The rate at which Nigerians are adopting these budget brands has gone haywire. It is, in fact, hard to go by five smartphone users without coming across affordable high-end smartphones from these new, Chinese brands. Five years ago, that feat seemed unattainable. What happened?
Cheap Is Not Enough
TECNO, Infinix and others started out as budget phone brands. In other words, cheap. At first, the elite in Nigeria in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, all snubbed these brands. But the average Nigerian everywhere lapped them up.
However, TECNO and Infinix knew that cheap wouldn’t be good enough for Nigerians. So with improved UI and specs, a new breed of Cheap phones transcended through the ranks, to the top of the food chain which is now known as “high-end phones.” Both brands now produce and market solid, high-end smartphones.
How did TECNO and Infinix jump their competitors?
Knowing how lucrative the Nigerian industry is, TECNO directed her marketing effort to phones. That alone wasn’t a decisive factor to win Nigeria over. Together with targeted marketing and affordable smartphones, TECNO and Infinix are winning where both Samsung and iPhone are losing.
It is disturbing that a Samsung phone with the same specs as that of TECNO mobile costs triple the amount. However, no one will deny the superior quality of a Samsung phone that shares the same specs with a TECNO phone. Where a Samsung camera shares the same megapixel count and specs with TECNO camera, you will find the former better in pixel resolution and camera precision.
That aside, these China brands tend to deliver on what we need. Battery life is one.
TECNO and Infinix have put in effort that can’t be brushed aside. While Samsung and iPhone have dominated the smartphones category worldwide, in Nigeria, Infinix, and TECNO have gotten a firm hold and are already dominating the mobile market. And they did it by taking away the pain of in-affordability.
When Cheap Is Better
With the economy in recession, many users who used to be able to afford high-end phones no longer can. It is outrageous when a phone costs almost a year salary of a civil servant, may be more.
TECNO, Infinix and others deserve credit for paying attention to what Nigerians want and making them available in affordable packages. We Nigerians want the best things at the lowest price, and TECNO, Infinix and others are meeting that need. With TECNO and Infinix, cheap is better.
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