I’m totally hooked on smartphones, so I’m never going to go back. But if you’re still sticking to a dumb-phone, what do you like about it? Is it the long battery life it offers, or the fact that it doesn’t attract thieves to snatch it away from you? May be that dream smartphone you desire is not yet in your price range of affordability. Kabiriti, Katikikiki and Ka-tourch; This was an avalanche of the most popular Chinese dumb-phones that sold like hot-cakes by telecom operators in Uganda in the mid 2000s. Radio and TV commercials of these phones were basically a household anthem during the mobile network communication boom. It’s the same period that mobile subscriber base grew exponentially as different carriers lured and struggled to put mobile phones in hands of every Ugandan, by selling them at crazy low price. Such campaigns kicked off a massive exodus that saw and embraced mobile communication technology by the masses at affordable prices.
Fast forward to today, with the boom of mobile Internet, crazy fast smartphones, the advent of social media and cool apps, it’s becoming a necessary evil to transition from a feature phone to a Smartphone. After you see most of your friends sending WhatsApp and Facebook messages to each other on the go, you start to wonder why SMS was ever a worthwhile messaging platform in the first place. SMS is now days left to receive those annoying network promotional messages and reminder wedding meeting invitations. This new era of communication has caused a grave shift in how people especially the youth communicate in Africa and causing a dump-phone oblivion this side of the Sahara.
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE
Last year, according to a Gartner report, smartphone sales surpassed feature or dumb-phones sales globally accounting for over 53.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales Samsung being the top-dog manufacturer. In addition, smartphone sales grew 36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and accounted for 57.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter, up from 44 percent year over year. This is a clear indication that smartphones are slowly phasing out dumb-phones a trend which is also evident here in Uganda at least in the urban areas where high-speed data networks exist. Gartner further reports that the increase in smartphones sale was led by growth in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe, where smartphone sales grew by more than 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. This means more people in developing nations especially here in Africa are now getting connected to the internet and thus the high affinity for smartphones.
THE NEXT ‘G’ WILL NOT FAVOR DUMB-PHONES
Voice and data mobile networks (2G,3G and 4G) keep evolving, dumb-phones are rapidly left behind, especially if you have to enjoy those fast blazing speeds while on the move. The only upper hand that legacy 2G networks have over 4G networks is the tried and tested circuit-switched voice technology, but that will soon become a story of the past once networks start rolling out Voice over LTE (VoLTE). We have all heard of 5G networks promising speeds of up to 1Gbps by 2020 from companies like Huawei and Samsung. Will 2G networks still be existence by then? The obvious answer is yes, as this technology has proven its self robust for the past 23 years and thus keeps dump-phones clinging on to their dear lives. The next ‘G’ will not favor dump-phones. All the current mobile communications technologies can do what 2G does and better, and the only way these feature phones can survive in a smartphone’s body is if phone manufacturers do what they did for 2G devices. We need to see a genuine 3G capable device at $10 price range and when that happens it will be goodbye dumb-phone forever.
Where as we still see a big part of our population here in Africa still using feature phones, it’s getting clear day by day that we shall soon forget that they even existed in the near future. If you’re in the market for a smartphone, you’ll probably continue to get more options at competitive prices, as mobile networks and manufacturers continue trying to one-up each other. But feature phone buyers like our parents, people in remote villages or the elderly should expect to learn, to embrace smartphones in the near future and will find fewer choices as manufacturers continue to shift production to smartphones. Do you personally think dump-phones will be extinct anytime soon, if so when? Leave us a comment below.