South Africa will soon join a host of other nations that are producing digital devices on home soil, with local needs and budgets in mind and of course producing the much-needed by-product of job creation, while creating fierce competition in this market.
Two black-owned enterprises, Seemahale Telecoms and CZ Electronics have joined forces to put out an affordable range of smartphones and tablets. Although they are by no means producing the first such devices on the continent, this four-piece collection of fully-comprehensive gadgets at undeniably economic prices goes further to take mobile penetration in Africa to new lengths. Seemahale has networking and broadcasting at its foundations and acquired 51% of CZ Electronics which will handle the manufacture from their Boksburg, Johannesburg-based factory.
As part of this initial offer, the company will be releasing two smartphone models – a reasonably priced device with a 4-inch screen and a pricier (although still accessible) option with a 5-inch screen. Both will run Android 4.3 and at R2,500 and R1,200 each, these devices are highly-competitive considering their wide ranges of features. The more expensive version features a dual-core 1,5GHz processor, 960×540-pixel LCD touch screen, 4GB of flash-based storage, 3G connectivity, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and FM radio. The cheaper smartphone also supports 3G networks, has 4GB of storage as well as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS with a screen resolution of 800×480. The tablets will also be available at two price points and are both Android-powered. The 10-inch model has a 1 280×800-pixel display, front- and rear-facing cameras, a sim slot and Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G. The 7,8-inch device has a 1 024×768 panel, also has two cameras, Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G cellular, retailing at less than R3 000, with the bigger model expected to retail at around R3 500.
Seemahale Telecoms incorporates a great deal of user research to make sure that besides the competitive price point, the devices are created in tune with what the customer base really wants, including dual-sim functionality that is popular in Southern Africa. CEO of Seemahale Telecoms, Thabo Lehlokoe (pictures above) was keen to provide the best value for money as well as desired functions – “We are very aggressive because we want uptake in the market. We didn’t skimp on the specs. For the price, it will be one of the better devices out there. We want to encourage people, to make it affordable,” he said, according to TechCentral.
Lehloke’s main focus was bridging the gap between premium and entry-level mobile devices, striking a balance between a good user experience and a good price. The only element of the phones that is imported are the printed circuit boards, otherwise, all other components as well as the manufacturing process of the devices, cables, accessories and printing of the manuals is done in South Africa. Future plans include printing the manuals in ethnic languages and expanding across Africa with the support of major companies like Intel, who have already shown interest in the project. This would create even more than the 100 jobs they will be creating with the first roll-out of between 100,000 and 150,000 devices a month. But as Lehloke is keen to emphasise, they are creating these models with locals in mind so popularity should not be an issue – “We are very clear about who we are targeting and what we want to do.”