Some days ago, Seyi Taylor threw open the question of how long it will take for Android to own the Nigerian smartphone market? Observing things from the position that BlackBerry OS currently owns about half of the market, you might wonder if this supposed Android domination is a given. I believe that it is.
In my response to that question, I mentioned that when you step into any mainstream phone store in Lagos, for example, right now, you have the BlackBerry section representing BlackBerry OS, and then the Samsung, LG, Motorola, Huawei, Tecno and HTC sections all together representing Android. It is not just the numbers. There are quite a number of low-end Android smartphones that cost much less than the lowest end BlackBerry device. The cheapest BlackBerry smartphone in the market right now costs over N20,000, while there are already N13,000 Android smartphones sitting on shelves in the same stores.
Android will own (read: dominate) the Nigerian smartphone market. Make no mistake about it. BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones will share the smaller chunk of the cake.
How soon it will happen? It is difficult to say, but this change of ownership is in progress already. This time next year, we might be looking at sub N10,000 Android smartphones from the nameless and faceless Chinese makers. When that happens, the fight would be over. The Chinko makers are the ones that keep changing the game at the bottom of the pyramid. To use Android is free. Once those guys get the hang of Android and start churning out Android smartphones, it is a done deal. The Nigerian smartphone market would firmly be in the grip of Android.
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There is one huge factor that keeps BlackBerry as a very attractive option – data costs. On Saturday, I had a discussion with Nicole, the MOBILITY BlackBerry Group administrator, about the future of smartphones in Nigeria. We were agreed that the iPhone was sentenced to a small corner forever. We were agreed too that Android would own the market eventually. We talked about BlackBerry OS 10 (she is a BlackBerry lover to the core), and while we both hoped that RIM would pull things off, the truth is that BlackBerry 10 would take off with flagship products only, and it would take time for it to trickle down to the low-end segment.
However, Nicole did mention that regardless of how OS 10 goes, so long as the superb BlackBerry Internet Service tariffs were in place, she was going to always own and use a BlackBerry. We talked about the huge cost savings of using a BlackBerry smartphone. This point is key to BlackBerry’s hold on the market.
I have observed that in the last few weeks of reviewing the Lumia 610 and 920 here, as well as when I announced that the Galaxy note II was heading this way, a regular question that people asked is about data consumption. Clearly, the costs of internet usage on mobiles is a critical factor. As much as some people would love to switch to a different platform, the attraction of “no-worry” internet usage for N1,500 per month is too much to pass for a huge number of people.
To Infinity And Beyond!
Despite that factor, the odds are huge against BlackBerry OS retaining its hold on the Nigerian smartphone market. I predict that within a 2 – 3 year period, the Android domination of the Nigerian smartphone market would be complete. Deep down, I suspect that it might happen even faster than that.