The customised phones, which will be priced at KSh.10,200 and sold exclusively in Safaricom retail shops, will help Huawei to get a larger share of Kenya’s smartphone market. Kenya’s smartphone market is at present dominated by Nokia and Samsung.
The two firms are relying on the smartphones’ prices, long battery life, high-speed processors, a store with locally made apps, clubbed with Microsoft Windows‘ functions such as email, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to boost its sales.
Africa has many low-end users who only make calls and send text messages, but its young and tech-savvy population buys higher-end handsets.
Louis Otieno, the legal and corporate affairs director for Africa Initiatives at Microsoft said that they wanted to ensure that they put smart and affordable devices into the hands of young Africans.
Mr Otieno, while speaking at Tuesday’s launch of Huawei 4Afrika in Nairobi, which took place concurrently at Cairo, Abidjan, Lagos, and Johannesburg said that the availability of broadband access made a case for smartphones.
The phone is a customised version of the Huawei Ascend W1 that was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. It has a four-inch (10cm) touch screen and a five megapixel camera and can be on stand-by for up to 420 hours.
By targeting Africa, Microsoft is trying to build on momentum that it recently gained through its partnership with Nokia. The company sold 4.4 million Lumia Windows smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year, which went up from 2.9 million in the previous quarter.
Microsoft is trying to cut the dominance of Android-powered devices in the market by expanding the device portfolio of its Windows Phone mobile operating system currently used by Nokia in its Lumia series and the Taiwanese maker HTC.
Paul Garnett, the director of technology policy at Microsoft, said that they hoped to expand their partnership with other device manufacturers.
Data from the consumer research firm GfK reveals that about 366,000 smartphones were sold in Kenya in the six-month period till November 2012, accounting for 16 per cent of the total handset sales, which stood at 2.3 million.
Nokia is the market leader with about 43 per cent share of the market having sold about 1.7 million devices in Kenya in 11 months till November last year.
Samsung accounts for 20 per cent or about 780,000 devices sold last year followed by the Chinese brand Tecno which sold 16 per cent.
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