Tecno and Infinix are set to take over the Kenyan market, but Samsung still rules. Infinix is the phone brand that completely redefined the low and mid budget smartphones with the launch of Infinix Hot X507 and Infinix Hot Note a year ago. With specs that surpassed those of 2012 flagship from Samsung, the Samsung Galaxy S3 that today still retails at over shs 30,000, the two phones launched at Kshs 8,500 and Kshs 10,000 respectively, and today the Infinix Hot X507 is out of the market whereas Infinix Hot Note retails at Kshs 9,500.
Infinix Hot X507 has since been succeed with Infinix Hot 2 which in turn has been succeeded with Infinix Hot 3 that is retailing at Kshs 8,900 at Kilimall. On the other hand the Infinix Hot Note has been succeeded by the bigger 6 inches Infinix Hot Note 2 that currently retails at Kshs 13,000 in most retail outlets.
Tecno that is also owned by the parent company that owns Infinix, had been the affordable version of Android devices that tried to compete with Samsung, LG and HTC at the high end market segment, but since about three years ago Tecno embarked on a serious production of mid range devices for the African market, having set up a production facility in Ethiopia and Nigeria. By 2012 Tecno had plans to set up a production plant in Kenya but I haven’t heard of that ever since.
To also provide Africans with handsets with great features but at budget price points, Tecno has launched mid range and low budget phones such as the Tecno Y6, Tecno Camon C8, the Tecno Boom J7 and recently the Tecno Boom J8. As both the Infinix phones and Tecno phones went mainstream in Kenya, it was our expectation that by the end of last year the two brands will surpass Samsung in preference by Kenyans. However, according to a Twitter Poll conducted by @KenyaPolls during the launch of Tecno Boom J8, Samsung still rules as the preferred smartphone brand by Kenyans on Twitter.
The Online Review & Poll that goes with the Twitter handle @KenyaPolls asked those who were participating in the launch of Tecno Boom J8 under the hashtag #TecnoBoomJ8 to choose between Samsung, Tecno and Infinix as their favorite phones. 167 Kenyans on Twitter participated in the poll, and surprisingly Samsung emerged the winner having garnered 41% of the votes cast followed at a distant by Tecno Mobile at 31%. Infinix took the third place with 28% of the votes. The percentages imply that combined, Tecno and Infinix now control over 50% of the Kenya’s smartphone market – assuming that players like Microsoft, LG, HTC and the others have had their market share shrink to negligible levels.
— Online Review & Poll (@KenyaPolls) April 2, 2016
Given that 167 Kenyans on Twitter participated in polls against an expected sample size of 384 that would adequately represent a population of 4 million smartphone users in Kenya at 5% Confidence Interval and 95% Confidence Level (click here for sample size calculations), the conclusion that Samsung is the most preferred smartphone brand in Kenya cannot be justified statistically, but still the results points towards what is probably the case – the difference might just be the actual percentages. It could be that Samsung still controls 60% of the Kenyan market – but I highly doubt that.
If and when we receive data on smartphone ownership by brands, we will update this article accordingly. For now we still expect that both Tecno and Infinix will continue to dominate the Kenya’s smartphone sector given their low price points. The fourth player that is expected to be a dominant player in Kenya as the year progresses is the Cubot brand.
This year Cubot launched the Cubot Note S, a 5.5 inches smartphone featuring 2 GB, 13 MP rear camera, and a 4150 mAh battery capable of up to 48 hours at normal usage for shs 8,888 only exclusively at Kilimall. Cubot revealed their seriousness with Kenyan market when they had the Cubot Note S have a unique Kenyan design.
If Samsung does not release serious phones at prices below shs 10,000, especially phones with features that can surpass those of the 6.0 inches Infinix Hot Note 2 and the newly launched Cubot Note S, then expect Tecno, Infinix, and Cubot to be the dominant market players in the coming years. This is because at the high end market segment targeted by phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, there is no more room for accelerated growth in sales as almost every middle class and upper class Kenyan has acquired his or her high end iPhone, LG, HTC or Samsung gadget. The growth in smartphone sales therefore will only happen in the low and mid market segments – those willing to spend no more than shs 10,000 to shs 20,000 on a smartphone, market segments that players like Tecno, Infinix, InnJoo, Wiko, XTigi, and Meizu seem to have understood pretty well.
The saturation of high end smartphone market is not only limited to Kenya. Ever since the launch of Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung has been struggling to break the record set by the sales of Samsung Galaxy S4. This struggle has also been experienced by the other renowned brands like LG, HTC and Sony, and although iPhone sales are still on the growth path largely due to acceptance they had in China, the sales of iPhone 7 and beyond are projected to shrink.
Thus it is upon these smartphone makers to carefully study the success of the many Chinese and Chinese related brands that are so far getting it right in the developing countries including India and the rest of far East Asia and Africa.