Hisense woos SA with top-featured cheap smartphones

Hisense is targeting a number of new smartphones for the South African market. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Hisense is targeting a number of new smartphones for the South African market. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - South Africans shouldn't have to pay a premium price to get a good-looking smartphone, says a manufacturer.

Hisense has announced a new crop of smartphones that the company will launch in SA on 25 November.

The new devices are expected to cost around the R3 000 mark, but they have a more refined feel when compared to competing devices.

Model names and numbers are not yet available, but Hisense revealed an iPhone lookalike smartphone, a phablet and a Bluetooth enabled phone.

The Bluetooth device is intended as a companion to the larger phablet, but Hisense officials told Fin24 that it will work with any Bluetooth smartphone or tablet.

Cost has emerged as a major issue and established electronics giants have seen an erosion of market share as consumers opt for cheaper devices.

"Mature markets face limited growth potential as the markets are saturated with smartphone sales, leaving little room for growth with declining feature phone market and a longer replacement cycle," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Dual SIM feature

In addition to Hisense, lower cost manufacturers such as Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE and others have grabbed market share, particularly in developing countries where consumers are far more price sensitive than in the West.

"Huawei smartphone sales grew 85.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to maintain the No 3 spot year over year. Huawei has moved quickly to align its organisation to focus on the global market. Huawei's overseas expansion delivered strong results in the fourth quarter of 2013, with growth in the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Europe," Gupta added.

This tiny Bluetooth phone works with any large smartphone to make calls and send text messages. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

However, while people may buy cheaper phones, the competitive nature of the market has seen manufacturers racing to differentiate themselves.

Huawei has the highest rated secondary camera on its Ascend P7, Acer offers smartphones for under R2 000, and Lenovo competes on a pure Android platform.

And Hisense may not have it all its own way. A number of players are eyeing the South African market with a view to expansion into Africa and a potential customer base of nearly one billion people.

Hisense has taken the view that dual SIM is ideal for the SA market because it gives consumers the flexibility to switch between operators based on cost of data and coverage. A refined look may also add status, while not breaking the bank.


But this has also put the company in a difficult position in SA because while operators have a history of ranging dual SIM devices, they are not keen to do so.

Manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung and Acer have declined to officially range their dual SIM devices in SA.

Hisense mobile phones are available from takealot.com, MWEB and Telkom Mobile, and it is unlikely that the new range will be in your local MTN or Vodacom store.

Check out the video of the new Hisense smartphones coming to SA.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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