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.
- 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.
- Many of those that do purchase smartphones eventually either underuse it or just carry it for the recognition factor and nothing more.
- 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
- 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.