Microsoft smartphone launched in Africa

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The Chinese telecoms company Huawai has launched a Microsoft Windows-run smartphone for the African market.

Picture: Huawei

Picture: Huawei

The Chinese telecoms company Huawai has launched a Microsoft Windows-run smartphone for the African market. The product has been developed in conjunction with software giant Microsoft as part of its 4Afrika Initative.

The new smartphone will be initially available in Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Angola, Morocco and South Africa. Pricing for the units is still to be disclosed.

Gustavo Fuchs,  Microsoft’s director of Windows Phone division in the Middle East & Africa, told the BBC: “Our aim is to be the most affordable Windows phone in Africa. At first we are making the product available across the southern market. We’re looking at the biggest channel for each country. In South Africa, it’s operator-led, in other markets like Nigeria and Angola there’s a mixed environment and in the Ivory Coast they are only sold at retail.”

“Affordability is important but without the right local content we believe a lot of users will not see the benefit in the change from a basic feature phone to a smartphone. If you look at current penetration compared with the US or Europe, which is around 50%, in Africa the average is very close to 10%, less in some parts.”

Recent research suggests that over 350m Africans own a mobile phone, a figure that is increasing all the time, meaning the continent is set to be a key battleground for telecoms companies over the coming years.

The timing of a smartphone lauch is apposite, too, as mobile devices are the primary tool for the spread of internet usage.

Last year, technology expert Toby Shapshak said: “In Africa, hundreds of millions of people will experience the internet for the first time on a 2-inch cellphone screen. Probably in black and white. And probably only as text. They may not even know they are using the internet. Google, for instance, offers search and Gmail via SMS, the text message service that is still the most popular form of communication.”

Mr Fuchs says that “the 4Afrika Initiative should make tens of millions of smart devices available across the continent in the next couple of years.”

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