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Budget smartphones saved us from pandemic induced shut-downs

By Mildred Agoya | September 13th 2021
By Mildred Agoya | September 13th 2021

As the Coronavirus pandemic upended and disrupted our lives an influx of budget smartphones saved many from a complete shut-down.

Majority of us still enjoyed staying connected with families, friends and managed to start some gigs in the digital economy with partners miles away- to beat the adverse effects of the deadly virus.

The role of smartphones in maintaining social distance and isolation might have been overlooked but the fact is that they played and continues to play a significant role in helping people stay in touch even when under lockdowns.

DataReportal’s Digital 2021 shows that 99.7 per cent of Kenyans aged between 16 and 64 and with a connection to the internet owns a smartphone – most of these are entry-level budget phones with premium features.

According to the report, Kenya currently has approximately 21.75 million internet users (40 per cent of the population) and are the majority driving demand for these smart handsets.

Even more interesting are statistics of the country’s fast-rising mobile penetration. Between January 2020 and January 2021 mobile connections grew by 11 per cent to 59.2 million, surpassing the total population of 54 million.

This means one person now owns more than three sim cards - to suit the dynamic needs of customers.

A key driver pushing Kenyans to buy multiple sim cards is the desire to leverage a diverse range of products and services offered by different service providers.

In the tough pandemic year, Kenyans had the ability to swap between mobile service providers in search of affordable data and voice plans.

In July, search engine Google shows that financial apps were the most downloaded by Kenyans pointing out a dire need for credit to either fund small businesses or sort out a domestic or medical emergency.

In the process smart handsets though played a significant facilitative role in boosting financial inclusion by offering more capacity to hold more mobile finance apps-72.9 per cent of Kenyan's aged 15 and above now have a mobile money account.

Social apps like TikTok and Whatsapp, those used for shopping like Jumia and lifestyle apps also topped Google’s list of most downloaded android supported apps.

The Digital report shows 15.59 million Kenyans shopped online and spent Sh111 billion (USD1.1 billion) in 2021 with annual growth in the total value of the consumers’ goods e-commerce market rising by 65.8 per cent. On average, the report says the annual spend per user on online consumer goods was Sh7,000.

This again is a reflection of how significant entry budget phones that costs between Sh11,000 and Sh15,000 helped people to access goods online and still maintain the country’s vibrant party and social life.

These key developments give a clear picture of why most Kenyans have smartphones that accommodates more than one sim card- thanks to the entry of budget smartphones in the country a few years ago.

Over the last four years, the local market has experienced a boom of entry-level smartphones ending periods when one would buy knock-offs.

Entry-level smartphones now offer unmatched performance and have sleek features with slight or no noticeable difference with premium handsets.

The writer, Mildred Agoya, is the PR and Marketing Manager at realme Kenya

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