Smartphones are great tools of productivity, multimedia and internet access but are not always the best choice – at least not in Nigeria at the

What happens when you cannot afford a Smartphone?

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Smartphones are great tools of productivity, multimedia and internet access but are not always the best choice – at least not in Nigeria at the moment anyway. The cheapest Android phone that you can get is around 25 to 29 thousand Naira (I stand to be corrected) and that for the everyday Nigerian is not cheap.
[Editor’s note: There are N19,000 Android smartphones in the market]

Feature phones are most times seen as irrelevant and not special. In the media, especially on the American blogging scene, feature phones are seldom mentioned because all they cover and post rumors or reviews about are smartphones with only few that do feature phones at all.

THAT will not work in Nigeria and I have reasons to back that up. Here are a few.

  1. In a country of over 155 million people with a recent statistic saying that a huge majority depend on less than $2 dollars a day, using any kind of smartphone poses a challenge because they are out of reach for most people.
  2. Many of those that do purchase smartphones eventually either underuse it or just carry it for the recognition factor and nothing more.
  3. Blackberry was recently stated to be the number one smartphone OS in Nigeria ahead of Android, Symbian and iOS – and for good reason too. There is the incentive of the Blackberry Messenger that keep the owners connected and most Blackberries purchased are either London used or bought second/third hand.

    At an event recently held in Lagos sponsored by BlackBerry makers, RIM, a representative said that they do not accurately know the amount of BlackBerries in Nigeria because most were imported as used devices, so the devices still register as foreign
  4. The prices of most of these uber-super smartphones cost more than an average Nigerian is willing or able to shell out for a mobile device. Even most people that use Blackberry carry mid range to low end models.

So what happens when you cannot afford a smartphone? Simple: you should consider a good feature phone that suits your needs.

The most painful aspect about this scenario is that Nigerian developers still fail to take advantage of the gold mine that is Java/feature phones.

A very good example of an app that is taking advantage of this is the popular 2Go chat client. Note that this app is not even Nigerian.

A good look around the interface reveals that it is bare-bones. There is nothing spectacular about this app, yet its popularity in the country is undeniable.

Feature phones are often times overlooked or marginalized but in our Nigerian economy today, they rule. Smartphones will only continue be used by a little fraction of the mobile phone community in Nigeria.

Anyone serious about mobile in the Nigerian market needs to explore the feature phone market extensively. That is where the numbers – and the money – is.


  1. Thank you for these insights. American developers are too caught up in iPhone and Android without realizing that there is a whole world of people out there who do not use expensive phones.

  2. What happens when you cannot afford a Smartphone?

    Practically speaking, you save with a view towards buying it.

  3. What happens? Well you will be like EyeBeeKay when you cannot afford a smarthphone. Oh wait, I forgot- the 5800 is a smartphone.

    Sorry EyeBeeKay, I thought the question was “What happens when you cannot afford a new smartphone?” I was not reading properly, just like you.

  4. some feature phone like the Tecno T8 wifi will beat some android phone interms of data management.more importantly it keeps millions od nigerians, indians other afrocans connected on the internet 247

  5. Keweno,

    If you earn N7,000 per month (which is more than the average of $2 per day), I would like to know how you intend to save up for a smartphone.

    Game plan, please?

  6. I do not find the revelations or statistics shocking. I think most people are usually misled because they base their marketing planning on Lagos. Organisations should think beyond Lagos, and think 155 million Nigerians.

  7. Very nice write up…most Nigerians don’t use a smartphone. it amazes me when a new product is announced and the manufacturers claim its low end and when it gets to Nigeria, it cost over 40k here…very that low end?

  8. I am perfecting my plans to kidnap this glendaROBOT for €500 only. ITs creators would be glad to have IT back to re-examine its faulty circuits.

    Kidnapping IT will serve two purposes..

    I will be able to replace my ageing and cadaverous Nokia 5800….
    with two brand new Nokia 5800’s

    Then i will finally be able to take this unrepentant glendaROBOT apart, see what makes IT tick (just for curiousity), pulverize IT, incinerate IT and finally flush IT down a toilet…

  9. @glenda ewoo that was harsh o
    With 7k you can’t even buy a feature phone sef. House rent food people you will help transport with that salary people save to buy a nokia torchlight phone.
    Is it not why to use a bb in nigeria is a status

  10. I have found out that, within limits, choosing to afford most things is a matter of prioritization.

    OF course, a man who earns N7,000 a month has no business eyeing a smartphone. That is the least of his worries.

    For low_income societies, manufacturers are better off giving them what the majority can afford.

    If you can not afford a smartphone (as against choosing not to afford it), you go with what you can afford- dumbphone.

    No point eying that Ferrari Testisterone if your station in life is not at that level!

  11. Buy what you can afford. Don’t stretch yourself, not worth it.
    Utilize it well. I mean all the features.
    If it’s torch light, it’ll be handy in darkness, may even save your life.
    Alarm clock, may save your job
    Reminders and calendars, may save your relationships (ie birthdays, anniversaries and all that)
    games: snake, sudoku etc to but your brain cells to use
    all these from a 3.5k nokia phone.
    6.5k you get a loud music and basic web browsing and 2go chat etc etc

  12. Hmmmm….I’m seriously saving for my next smartphone.

    And if any of my current smartphones get damaged or stolen, I’ll rather wait and get enough money to buy a new one, rather than manage a feature phone. I kid you not.

  13. Eye.bee.kay:

    There are no more “brand new” 5800s. That model was phased out years ago. It was replaced by the X6 which was also phased out.

    Stop pretending that your device is still being manufactured by Nokia.

  14. The truth still remains that symbian phones are cheaper and better for us in Nigeria because most of the so called expensive smartphones we carry, we hardly use the expensive features that we paid for!

  15. I have a couple of friends who don’t WANT smartphones and are despairing that they are being offered touch screen phones!

    The Nokia Asha range and others will work for those who want a smartphone quality but don’t have BB or Samsung Galaxy money. Not everyone wants to check email on their phone or surf the net, not everyone likes or wants a smartphone.

  16. In this case you try which will give you smartphone features on your feature phone!

  17. Eye.Bee.Kay. Please take it easy with Glenda! She has some fans here O! *wink*. Even if she is a robot as you claim, does it necessitate that you “pulverize IT, incinerate IT and finally flush IT down a toilet…” ? That’s a rather harsh statement, don’t think? Looks like there isn’t any love lost between you too. She brings in some humour or wit here (though at your expense {lol}). Let’s not lose that!

    I also strongly support Glenda in urging you to upgrade the 5800!.

    By the way, Spacyzuma has said everything. I’d rather do without a phone and save to buy a smartphone than do with a dumb or feature phone! Just saying, but mean it. Mixing a smart and feature phone for me isn’t a bad idea though!

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