SA smartphone vendor takes on big players

Mobicel is taking on established South African smartphone vendors. (Mobicel)
Mobicel is taking on established South African smartphone vendors. (Mobicel)

Cape Town - Local phone maker Mobicel is preparing to debut a new smartphone range in South Africa and take on big players in the industry.

The local company plans on Wednesday to launch its latest Android device, dubbed the Air, at an event in Sandton, Johannesburg.

"We endeavour to continuously introduce more feature packed devices to the market at affordable prices," Mobicel founder Ridhwan Khan told Fin24.

"Most of the big brands have moved away from the sub-R2 000 market - we plan to increase our range in this space and robustly fill this large gap," Khan added.

Mobicel is a small mobile phone player in SA as the company specialises in selling low cost handsets through its distribution channels with the Edcon group.

"There's a definite gap in the market. People are hungry for affordable products with a great user experience, and our vision has always been focused on delivering exactly that," Khan said.

Price point

The timing for a lower cost device in SA may be right as local pricing for top-range smartphones has been rising.

On Monday, mobile network Vodacom announced that it plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy S6 for just over R12 000. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S6 Edge is planned to be sold for just over R16 000 by Vodacom.

A weak rand means South Africa is vulnerable to high prices for international phone brands which are manufactured outside of the country. The rand has weakened over the last five years from levels touching R7.5 to the US dollar to around R11.81 this year.

The Mobicel Omega X tablet is powered by a quad core processor. (Mobicel)

However, the likes of Sony and Samsung have also moved to meet the demand for cheaper smartphones with slightly lower cost devices in the Xperia M4 Aqua and A series.

And earlier this year Vodacom announced plans to start selling its Android powered Smart 4 Turbo LTE smartphone at a price of R1 499 in SA. Meanwhile, Microsoft this year has also launched its Lumia 535 in South Africa - a dual-SIM Windows Phone device that costs R1 699 on prepaid and R149 per month on contract.

Manufacturer support

But price is not the only factor driving the smartphone market in South Africa as consumers also want a functional device that is backed by manufacturer support, Khan told Fin24.

"We live and breathe our motto 'You Deserve Better' and make a conscious effort to ensure our brand offers this.  We are embarking on an extensive campaign that will offer aspirational products to our consumers and have aligned our product line to cater for all market segments," said Khan.

Part of that drive is a distribution agreement with The Foschini Group, as well as operators MTN and Cell C.

Khan, originally from Polokwane, lacks no ambition in terms of how he sees Mobicel developing as a brand.

"It's not just about selling a device. We're not just shifting boxes. We're here to build a brand… to build a legacy."

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