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Telecoms: Is Apple’s iPhone 5c worth it?

By Charlie Fripp in Johannesburg
Posted on Friday, 13 December 2013 13:37

With Apple lagging behind competitors like Samsung in the Chinese, Indian and other emerging markets, analysts expected that the California-based company would launch a phone with these emerging economies in mind.

So far they have been wrong.

Apple unveiled its new range of iPhones in September, and alongside the new flagship iPhone 5s was the iPhone 5c.

Apple Iphone 5c (iOS 7) 16GB model costs $549

Samsung Galaxy S4 (Android) 16GB model retails contract-free for $579

Nokia Lumia 1020 (Windows Phone 8) 32GB only, costs around $600

BlackBerry Z10 (BlackBerry 10) 16GB model costs around $600

The 5c retails at around $100 less than the 5s, but at $549 for the 16GB version and $649 for the 32GB variant, it remains an aspirational product and one that is out of reach for the average consumer in Africa.

Although the exact retail prices in Africa are still to be released, the pre-paid mobile market dominates in most African countries outside South Africa, meaning customers will have to front most of the money for their handsets.

If the price is within your reach, is it worth ditching your current handset for the ‘fun’ version of the iPhone?

Besides coming in a choice of four juicy colours or white, the touch-screen-based smartphone makes use of a dual-core 1.3GHz Swift central processing unit (CPU) and triple-core graphics processing unit with Apple’s new iOS7 operating system.

However, this is held together by an Apple A6 chipset as opposed to the A7 from the iPhone 5.

In the 5c, Apple also left out the fingerprint-recognition system and the Burst iSight camera and slow-motion video recording mode that come with the 5s.

This leaves the possibility that when Apple introduces new features to future operating systems the 5c’s hardware might not be powerful enough.

And re- member, the 32GB 5c is the same price as the 16GB iPhone5s.

Shop around

Despite a range of sub-$100 smart-phones currently flooding Africa, Apple’s are not the only phones targeting the more affluent end of the market.

But a number of alternatives to the iPhone might be better suited to African conditions.

Nokia’s latest flagship model, the Lumia 1020, will retail for around $600 and makes use of Windows Phone 8.

It also has a dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU and features a massive 41MP camera.

While Nokia has not made significant inroads with its new Windows Phone 8 operating system, it has been moving up the aspiration ladder and its products have been good sellers in Africa.

Samsung’s Android flagship Galaxy S4 retails contract-free for $579 – $30 more than the 16GB iPhone 5c – but Samsung has not skimped on its functionality.

In terms of market share, Samsung has squarely cornered the African continent, bringing with it a solid support structure and customer service.

According to recent data from market researchers GfK, Samsung products make up 52% of the continent’s devices.

The South Korean manufacturer is one of the few electronics companies that has an active Africa-focused strategy in terms of products built for African conditions and help centres where members of staff speak a number of African languages.

“As a continent, Africa requires a very significant commitment in terms of local offices and resources in order to build out a presence and logistical capabilities across so many countries,” explains Simon Baker, programme manager for mobile handsets at market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

In his analysis, “Samsung, with its broad range of consumer electronics products and unwavering ambition, has been able to achieve just that, in the same vein as Nokia did before it.”

By contrast, Apple has largely steered clear of the African market.

Its online Apple store is available in only 20 countries on the continent, mainly those where its partner France Telecom’s Orange is an operator.

The smart money

As smartphone shipments to Africa increased by 21.5% year-on-year for the second quarter of 2013, according to data from IDC, several other manufacturers have also been gaining ground.

IDC says that Sony has been putting extra effort into marketing its mid-range and high-end devices – such as the Xperia models – and as a result it managed to increase its mar- ket share from 0.3% to 3.4% year-on-year for the second quarter.

Financial trouble at Canadian handset manufacturer BlackBerry has left its future in doubt.

In late September, the manufacturer re- ported a net loss of $965m for the second quarter of 2013 and accepted a takeover bid from its largest shareholder.

BlackBerry had seen Africa, particularly Nigeria, as one of its biggest growth markets, but a regulatory filing published in October showed that handsets running Google’s Android operating system were winning its market share in emerging markets.

The BlackBerry Z10, launched in January 2013, runs on the long-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system and is retailing for N100,000 ($620) with MTN in Nigeria.

It is unclear yet where and when the BlackBerry Z30, launched in September, will be available in Africa. ●

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