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Smartphones: 4G phones grow in popularity as Africa’s market recovers in 2017

4G phones grow in popularity as Africa's smartphone market recovers in 2017

Drop in prices for entry-level 4G phones and an increase in the number of 4G networks across the continent are the driving forces for the growth in 4G devices.

Africa's smartphone market recovered from two consecutive declines to post quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) growth of 4.4 percent in Q3 2017, according to the latest insights released today by International Data Corporation (IDC).

During the period, 4G-enabled smartphones grew in popularity with shipments increasing by 5.5 percent quarter on quarter to account for majority share of the smartphone market at 52.9 percent.

According to IDC's research, drop in prices for entry-level 4G phones and an increase in the number of 4G networks across the continent are the driving force for the growth in 4G devices.

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This pointer was revealed in the global technology research and consulting firm's Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, which shows that smartphone shipments for the quarter reached 21.7 million units, spurred by ongoing economic recoveries in some of the continent's major markets. Year on year (YoY), shipments were down -5.5 percent, but this still represents an improvement on the YoY performance seen in the previous two quarters.

In the feature phone space, shipments totalled 33.7 million units, down -3.6 percent QoQ after increasing for the three previous quarters. However, YoY, the feature phone market was up 11.5 percent. Feature phones still constitute a significant 60.8 percent share of the total mobile phone market as they adequately address the needs of African consumers that have limited purchasing power and require a reliable long-lasting mode of communication, particularly those in rural areas.

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Combining smartphones and feature phones together, the overall Africa mobile phone market saw shipments of 55.4 million units in Q3 2017, which represents a slight QoQ decrease of -0.7 percent but an increase of 4.2 percent YoY. There were contrasting fortunes for the continent's two biggest markets, with Nigeria seeing shipments increase 1.7 percent QoQ while South Africa suffered a decline of -8.0 percent over the same period.


Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC said "the Nigerian economy is slowly coming out of recession and we're seeing signs of steady improvement in consumer demand for mobile phones."

"However, consumer spending remained slow in South Africa during Q3 2017 as many consumers opted to delay their purchases until Q4 when major campaigns take place around Black Friday and the lead up to Christmas. In addition, an unstable currency and challenging economic environment do not present favourable conditions for a surge in mobile phone shipments in the country," concluded Ramazan.

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa's overall mobile phone market to grow 6.2 percent QoQ in Q4 2017, spurred by the increase in demand that typically accompanies the festive season. However, the forecast for the year ahead is not as positive, with IDC expecting overall shipments to remain relatively flat through 2018, with a decline in feature phone shipments and slower uptake of smartphones causing the market to contract -0.5 percent YoY.

The economic downturn of 2017 saw growth in demand for feature phone by consumers in Nigeria.

David Masifon Photo

David Masifon is a Associate at Meets Media, a digital journalist who reports on Media and some other section of our website.

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