BlackBerry Still Relevant, Popular And Growing In Africa

BlackBerry Still Relevant, Popular And Growing In Africa

Wait, BlackBerry is growing?

Despite a turbulent time in the global smartphone market, Canada-based BlackBerry remains a relevant and popular brand in Africa that is growing, according to new data from the International Data Corp., BusinessTech reports.

BlackBerry improved its position in Africa by almost three percentage points in the second quarter and remains popular due to its cheaper data packages, the report said.

However, with 17.8 percent of market share, BlackBerry is trailing Samsung, which currently dominates the African smartphone market with 52.1 percent of market share for the second quarter, according to IDC’s Middle East and Africa Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Smartphone shipments to Africa were up 21.5 percent year on year for the second quarter, and now account for 18 percent of the overall African mobile phone market volume, according to IDC.

BlackBerry is the most commonly used smartphone in South Africa, and is still growing slowly, whereas Android growth is explosive, said World Wide Worx Managing Director Arthur Goldstuck. “We have seen more than a doubling in Android phones in use in South Africa in the past year, and that will be repeated in the coming year, taking Android to the number one position during 2014,” Goldstuck predicted.

There is still momentum in low-end BlackBerry devices, or what Goldstuck refers to as the curve market. “This is a youth audience for whom the combination of BlackBerry Internet service and BlackBerry messenger remain a compelling value proposition,” he said.

However, Goldstuck said that this is a narrow segment of the market, and its growth will taper off as the cost of data for other smartphones comes down, BlackBerry messenger becomes available on all platforms, and the “cool” factor attracts younger users to Android devices.

Other vendors in Africa have been trying to get a foothold with varying degrees of success.

South Korean multinational conglomerate LG Corp., formerly Lucky Goldstar, accounted for less than 2 percent of the African smartphone market in the second quarter. Despite efforts, its products have not been very successful with the African masses, IDC reports.

Sony, on the other hand, has reinvented itself with its new lineup after buying out Ericsson’s share in the company, IDC said. The Japanese vendor’s mid-range and high-end devices are pushing hard against market leaders, and its market share is increasing, up from 0.3 percent to 3.4 percent year on year in the second quarter.

Nokia continues to dominate the feature-phone market, despite its well-publicized difficulties making a comeback in the smartphone space. It accounted for 58.5 percent of the feature-phone market’s volume in the second quarter, down slightly from its performance in the corresponding quarter of 2012. Samsung trailed in second place with 13.6 percent unit share.

“There is a huge gap between the leaders and the rest of the market players for both smartphones and feature phones,” said Simon Baker, program manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA. “Africa requires a very significant commitment in terms of local offices and resources in order to build out a presence and logistical capabilities across so many countries.”

While the task seems off-putting to smaller players, Hamza Saleem, a senior research analyst for mobile devices at IDC MEA said there’s room for nimble regional brands that pick just a few countries on which to focus.

“They can source Android smartphones at very competitive prices from a host of Chinese manufacturing plants and launch them under their own brands,” Saleem said. “The most prominent such brand is Tecno. It started off with relatively simple phones but is now offering more sophisticated smartphones and is very active in West and East Africa.”

IDC forecasts the African smartphone market will double in volume over the next four years and account for close to a third of all handset shipments to Africa by 2017.