Despite much of the attention being focused on smartphones that retail for thousands of rand, the E250 is popular with mostly young people because of the low cost associated with it, wrote Arthur Goldstuck managing director of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.
South Africans have access to a widening range of smartphones including Xperia devices from Sony Ericsson, BlackBerrys from Research In Motion, Lumia from Nokia, and even iPhones from Apple through their local distributor.
Samsung offers it latest Galaxy range as premium mobile devices that often have price tags more than some budget laptops, but the E250 feature phone retails for around R350 on prepaid and users are able to listen to the radio and MP3 music, play some basic games and browse the web.
Some of the manufactures have noticed that the South African market is price sensitive and have included browsers that reduce the download data footprint to control costs.
Nokia has retained a focus in both lower spec feature phones as well as smartphones.
"We're all in with both: We have a mobile phones division and a smartphones division and we are really committed to both," Patrick Henchie, Nokia head of product for South and East Africa told News24.
Nokia has a legacy of cellphone dominance and even though the company is struggling to break in to the leading sales figures for smartphones, it is still a significant player in the feature phone market.
"Opera Mini figures for June 2011 showed that, of the top ten handsets using the Opera Mini browser in South Africa, number 1 was the Nokia 5130, number 5 the Samsung E250i, and number 10 the original E250," Goldstuck said.
Feature phones may not have access to the extensive smartphone ecosystem, but they are increasing in user functionality.
"The line between the smartphone and the feature phone is actually blurring. You're getting a feature phone with a qwerty keypad, with push e-mail, with social network integration, with the ability to download applications," Henchie said.
And smartphones are much more data hungry than feature phones which adds to the appeal of smart devices like BlackBerry.
"In South Africa, it's more than just the service they offer, BlackBerry has become such a brand name, similar to kind of Apple. People are buying the BlackBerry... it's become the cool thing to have," said Sony Ericsson Southern Africa marketing manager Colin Williamson.
RIM offers an unlimited data package with BlackBerry devices for R60 a month, but few other manufactures offers a similar service.
In the US, a user sued the AT&T network after he was threatened with "data throttling" on an unlimited plan.
A judge in Southern California on February 24 awarded $850 to iPhone user Matt Spaccarelli because AT&T reduced his download speeds in an attempt to manage usage on its network.
The E250 was launched in 2006 and has sold 30 million worldwide.
- Follow Duncan on Twitter