Kenyans dump 600,000 feature phones in just three months

There is a growing appetite for modern gadgets that offer a wider array of functions such as internet connectivity.

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Kenyans abandoned the active use of 628,818 feature phones during the three months to March this year in a shift that has accelerated the usage of smartphones whose uptake grew by 886,884 during the period, fresh data shows.

The latest quarterly data by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) indicates that as of the close of March, the number of feature phones in active use stood at 31.2 million, down from 31.8 million as of last December translating to a two percent dip.

The number of smartphone, on the other hand, increased to 34.5 million by March up from the 33.6 million recorded at the close of last year, representing a 2.6 percent surge and reflecting a growing appetite for modern gadgets that offer a wider array of functions such as internet connectivity.

“The total number of mobile phone devices connected to mobile networks was 65.7 million with a penetration rate of 127.5 percent,” wrote CA in the report.

Most feature phones perform basic functions that span making calls, sending text messages, and playing music which makes their pricing cheaper in contrast with smartphones whose capabilities are more complex.

The growing shift in favour of smartphones indicates that consumers are leaning towards gadgets that address new-age needs key among which is internet connectivity whose local demand has grown rapidly in recent years.

During the period under review, the total used international bandwidth rose 1.5 percent to 11,155.2 gigabytes per second (Gbs) up from 10,995.5 in the previous quarter, a trend that CA attributed to the launch of Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency satellite internet in the country.

Smartphone penetration first overtook that of feature phones in the Kenyan market last September when the former hit 32.63 million after users bought 2.9 million more devices in just nine months, while the latter stood at 32.04 million.

The increased adoption of smart devices in the country could also be linked to heightened marketing by phone manufacturers and mobile network operators who have introduced credit offers on the products to encourage more Kenyans in the low-income segment to acquire the devices and make phased payments.

Last October, President William Ruto unveiled Kenya’s first-ever mobile phone assembly plant in a development that was aimed at hastening the adoption pace of the smart gadgets by pegging the retail price at an affordable rate of $40 (about 5,178 at current conversion rates).

A joint study by the Centre for International Private Enterprise and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance in April this year however showed that the locally assembled smartphones were retailing at highs of up to Sh11,500 on account of inhibitive taxes.

During the three months to last March, active mobile (SIM) subscriptions grew 1.9 percent to stand at 68.0 million as of March up from the 66.7 million recorded during the quarter to December. This translated to a SIM penetration rate of 132.1 percent.

“The growth is attributed to customer win-back campaigns run during the reference period,” noted CA.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.