More Kenyans are buying very expensive smartphones and television sets than ever before, a shift that has seen the dealers stock them.
A spot-check by the Business Daily at various Samsung and Apple stores in Nairobi shows that demand is high. Some of the popular brands are Samsung QLED which retails at Sh749,995, Samsung Z flip 4 (Sh143,000), and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 which goes for Sh257,000.
An employee at one of the Samsung stores who sought anonymity says that high-end products are selling like hotcakes. This is despite the harsh economic times first caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw millions lose their jobs and firms shut down and lately by the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, signalling that the upper-income brackets may have been least affected.
Charles Kimari, the director of Samsung Electronics East Africa Mobile Experience Division says demand for the high-end devices is especially high among businessmen and those occupying C-suite positions.
He, however, says that most purchases are from companies and businesses.
“We recently launched our latest foldable series; Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 and having just concluded our preorders ahead of the official launch in the market. The uptake has been very positive. Our preorder target was achieved by week two,” he says.
Social media influence has also played a role as younger wealthy Kenyans desire what is new in the global market.
“Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a device that has seen a lot of demand from Generation Z [buyers in their mid-20s] who are content creators. This is a generation that uses smartphones to express their personalities and the Galaxy Z Flip series is perfect for that due to the versatility of the accessories,” he says, adding that the smartphone has recorded over 50 percent more sales compared to last year.
“Due to the smartphone’s ability to flip into different positions, it becomes the content creators’ device of choice. With a Galaxy Z Flip 4, a content creator does not need a tripod because the phone folds. One does not also need a secondary party to take their photos; they simply fold the phone, place it on a surface and use the in-built smart timer to take photos or record videos.”
While millennials [buyers in their 30s and early 40s] love TV and home appliances, Mr Kimari says, Generation Z is into trendy smartphones.
Mobile phone brands such as Samsung's Galaxy series and Apple's iPhone are premium products associated with influential and wealthy individuals. Not only have orders for smartphones gone up but also for the expensive TVs and home appliances.
Since people started working from home, a trend occasioned the pandemic, Mr Kimari says purchases of home appliances also went up.
“This started with the purchase of modern washing machines, followed by TVs because people who were not spending time at home soon realised that what they have in their homes was quite outdated. The recent weather changes in Kenya have also contributed to an increase in washing machine sales. Kenyans are now upgrading to washer-dryers because clothes were taking longer to dry due to the cold weather,” he says.
Consumers keen on shifting with technological advancements have also boosted the sale of pricey smartphones and home appliances.
“There has been a great evolution in terms of technology, we have moved from LED TVs to smart TVs and now to Neo QLED TVs that integrate your viewing experience with your washing machine and smartphone. Kenyans are what we call “early adopters” they embrace new things quickly and new technology is just one of these things,” Mr Kimari says.
“Internet connectivity is also another reason why people are willing to purchase high-end products. Home internet connectivity now allows Kenyans to subscribe to content-streaming service providers like Showmax, Netflix, and HBO. To enjoy the quality of the content on these platforms, one needs a high-end TV and this has dictated purchase decisions made by Kenyans,” he adds.
Companies have also made the acquisition of these products easier by allowing customers to buy products in installments. This enables them to pay monthly or weekly while using them.
Samsung, for instance, has partnered with companies like Badili Africa and Aspira Kenya to enable customers to buy TVs and smartphones.
“For instance, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 which retails at Sh257,000, and the Z Flip 4 which goes for Sh143,000 are available through the Samsung trade-in process. Badili Africa takes in the customer’s used smartphones, assigns a value to it and the customer has the choice to top up and get any of the above phones,” he says.
Foldable phones, which were common in early 2000, have also made a comeback, but in the luxury segment.
“No one has launched a foldable smartphone in the world with the high success rate that Samsung has. This has taken extensive research and development,” he says.