Why Apple Smartphones Are Lagging Behind In Africa

Why Apple Smartphones Are Lagging Behind In Africa

Apple has largely steered clear of the African smartphone market and has a lot of catching up to do as other manufacturers gain ground, according to TheAfricaReport.

Smartphone shipments to Africa grew by 21.5 percent for the year through July with top-end smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia and BlackBerry targeting Africa.

Analysts expected California-based Apple to launch a phone with emerging economies in mind. So far that hasn’t happened.

Apple unveiled its new range of iPhones in September and along with the new iPhone 5s was the iPhone 5c. The 5c retails for about $100 less than the 5s, but at $549 for the 16GB version and $649 for the 32GB version, it remains out of reach for the average African consumer.

The pre-paid mobile market dominates in most African countries outside South Africa, meaning customers can’t rely on financing for their devices, according to TheAfricaReport.

In the 5c, Apple left out fingerprint-recognition and slow-motion video recording mode that come with the 5s. This means that when Apple introduces new features to future operating systems the 5c’s hardware might not be powerful enough, according to TheAfricaReport.

Despite a range smartphones below $100 flooding Africa, Apple’s is not the only one targeting wealthier Africans.

But a number of alternatives to the iPhone might be better suited to African conditions, according to TheAfricaReport.

Nokia’s latest, the Lumia 1020, will retail for around $600 and uses Windows Phone 8. It also has a dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU and features a massive 41MP camera. While Nokia has not made significant inroads with its new Windows Phone 8 operating system, its products have been good sellers in Africa.

Samsung’s Android flagship Galaxy S4 retails contract-free for $579 – $30 more than the 16GB iPhone 5c – but Samsung has not skimped on functionality.

In terms of market share, Samsung has squarely cornered the African continent, bringing with it a solid support structure and customer service. According to recent data from market researchers GfK, Samsung products make up 52 percent of the continent’s devices.

The South Korean manufacturer is one of the few electronics companies with an active Africa-focused strategy that includes products built for African conditions and call centers where staff speak a number of African languages.

“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,” said Simon Baker, program manager for mobile handsets at market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC). “Samsung, with its broad range of consumer electronics products and unwavering ambition, has been able to achieve just that, in the same vein as Nokia did before it.”

By contrast, Apple’s online store is available in just 20 African countries — mainly those where its partner France telecom’s Orange operates.

Several other manufacturers have been gaining ground.

Sony put extra effort into marketing its mid-range and high-end devices – such as the Xperia models – and increased its market share from 0.3 percent to 3.4 percent year-on-year for the second quarter, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), a market intelligence firm.

BlackBerry’s future is uncertain due to financial issues. In September, the Canadian handset manufacturer reported a net loss of $965 million for the second quarter of 2013 and accepted a takeover bid from its largest shareholder.

Africa, particularly Nigeria, has been one of Blackberry’s largest growth markets, but a regulatory filing in October showed that handsets running Google’s Android operating system were winning its market share in emerging markets.

The BlackBerry Z10, launched in January, runs on the long-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system and is selling for $620 with MTN in Nigeria. It is uncertain where and when the BlackBerry Z30, launched in September, will be available in Africa.