Opera partners for cheap phones in SA

2011-08-31 12:05

Cape Town - Fast-growing cellphone brand Mi-Fone has partnered with Opera to launch cheaper smartphones in SA.

The partnership mean that the popular browser will be pre-installed on the mobile devices and potentially allow users cheaper access to the web in developing markets.

"Fixed-line infrastructure in Africa is not the preferred means of accessing the internet, so being able to provide this solution, combined with our high value and low-cost handsets, will be a significant market differentiator," said Alpesh Patel CEO of Mi-Fone.

Africa is seen as a key market for device manufacturers and cost to access the internet is a critical factor in determining users' preference for smartphones.

The phone uses Google's Android operating system and the internet giant said that its focus is on the mass market, rather than high-end devices.


"If we look at the market today, iPhone has a very strong position in the upper 2% of the world. But we're not looking at that market, the real success lies with the other 98%," Brett St Clair, head of Mobile at Google South Africa told News24.

Dubai-based Mi-Fone has sold one million devices in three years and uses the Google Android operating system along with the pre-installed Opera Mini browser to access the web.

Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Research In Motion that have marketed high-end smartphones to rival Apple's iPhone, but the Mi-Fone devices are cheap by comparison to tap a huge potential mass market on the continent.

"We are delighted with this partnership and believe it will assist us in leading the market for low-cost handsets in Africa," said Patel.

The Opera Mini browser dominates the cellphone platform because its technology allows websites to use a much smaller data footprint than native browsers.

In Africa particularly, the cost of data is expensive compared to Europe and developed markets and price is an important consideration for internet users.

"Opera believes that internet access is a universal right, and being part of bringing that to Africa is key for us," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software.

The smartphones range in price from R500 to R1 500 and are available in SA at Ideals, selected Cellucity stores and the company website.

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