Africa is a big market for mobile phones. Mostly the continent uses older handsets, and tech experts are using innovative solutions to squeeze app-level functionality out of SMS level technology. This hasn’t been unsuccessful: mPesa is an SMS based mobile banking brand that has given thousands of people access to banking services who simply couldn’t use them before.
Companies have been trying for some time to launch an entry level smartphone handset that can appeal to the African market, at a price that will achieve mass adoption and it’s beginning to look like Amazon’s ICE 2 is the phone that will finally do that.
Amazon have tried to break into the mobile phone market before with their Fire handset. It wasn’t a success for them, with even the notoriously secretive Amazon voluntarily posting a 170 million-dollar loss on the venture. With the phones costing $650 dollars, reportedly riddled with bugs and lacking access to the Google Play App store, it’s no surprise.
By contrast, the Ice 2 (launching in September) is intended to appeal to a totally different market. Costing only $40, Amazon’s launching the phone in Nigeria which has a booming youth population and a hunger for affordable new technology. The Ice 2 has full access to Google’s App marketplace this time and launches with fingerprint recognition and Google Play Protect, marking this handset out as a handheld computer, not just a platform for Amazon’s digital products.
With services offering secure worldwide top up it’s common for people to send credit back home to their relatives still living in Nigeria and across Africa, so even in poorer communities these handsets will find a user base with enough resources to adopt them.
Many using phones in Africa have to contend with a lack of Wi-Fi networks and expensive data packages. Smart developers who can design lightweight apps that use data economically and provide a useful service will be able to establish a toehold in this emerging market. The ICE 2 is a portent of Africa entering the digital economy’s world stage. We can expect brands like Facebook and Twitter to produce offerings catering to the needs of the market, but also global investors who can see the opportunities emerging in Africa and want to get in on the ground floor.
As a continent, Africa faces problems both unique and universal and the ICE 2 offers a platform for those using technology to unravel them.