300% Smartphone boom for Africa and Middle East in Q3 2014 – IDC

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), Africa and the Middle East are experiencing a smartphone boom. IDC research shows that in Africa and the wider Middle East beyond the GCC and Turkey, the number of smartphones sold in Q3 2014 was up 300% year on year.

idc_logo“We are in the midst of a boom,” says Isaac Ngatia, a research analyst at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. He adds that “The technology levels are more basic than those seen in the GCC and 4G phones remain relatively uncommon, but many consumers are now getting their hands on a smartphone for the first time.”

The market intelligence firm says that the overall smartphone market in these regions is rapidly expanding, with growth rates picking up over the last two quarters.

Key examples include Tecno in Nigeria and Kenya, whose smartphone shipments were up 269% year on year in Q3 2014, and Q-mobile in Pakistan, which has more than half the national market and posted growth of healthy 42%. Smartphone shipments in these poorer countries are expected to expand a lot further in the next couple of years, as they still account for less than half the total handset market.

IDC’s latest figures indicate that GCC shipments of 4G LTE handsets have increased more than four times over the last year and are now close to accounting for one half of all smartphones sold in the region.

The market intelligence firm’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker shows that smartphones now make up 75% of the phones shipped in the GCC, with buyers increasingly moving toward 4G handsets as the market matures.

“The GCC is less than a year behind the market development already seen in Western Europe,” says Simon Baker, program manager for IDC’s handset research in Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “However, the market is further behind the U.S., where 4G already makes up three quarters of the smartphone market.”

“It is a very different kind of market from the Gulf,” adds Baker. “Cheaper phones are the ones selling in high volumes, and prices are tumbling; the average price paid is not much more than half that in the GCC.

The brand situation is different too; beyond Samsung and Chinese brands like Lenovo, Huawei, and ZTE that are making a push in the region, many of the bigger players just focus on single countries or sub-region and aren’t well known beyond them.”

There are also a number of brands in this market that typically focus only on distribution and marketing, and mainly source their phones from the production catalogues of independent manufacturers in China. “It is a different sort of brand from the international names the handset industry is usually associated with, and as a model it is working very well at the moment,” says Popal. “These regional brands are able to offer Android phones sourced from China that have the larger screen sizes and functions of models from the big international names but at much lower prices.”

IDC’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker® provides a unique insight into the forces shaping the handset and smartphone markets in Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa. The smartphone market is growing rapidly across the region, but while it already takes the lion’s share of mobile phone sales in more developed markets, in poorer countries and where mobile operators do not subsidize phone purchases on usage contracts, feature phones are still the majority of sales in units sold.