Smartphones play an instrumental role in our daily lives. From surfing social media platforms to accessing information, internet banking, emailing work colleagues, using the device like a GPS system, as well as making phone calls and text messages.
Our mobile phones are our lifeline to modern-day life. Statista claims that between 20 to 22 million South Africans make use of smartphones. This accounts for approximately one-third of the country’s population.
However, the overall number of mobile connections is much higher, with more than 90 million.
This is because feature phones are still popular and widely used through SA. This figure is expected to drop, as Statista claims the number of smartphone users is expected to grow by more than 5 million users by 2023.
Looking at the future of smartphones, Vodacom consumer business unit chief officer, Jorge Mendes said Vodacom is currently looking at selling smartphones which are locked to its networks.
Speaking at a media event in Vodacom World in the Midrand, Mendes explained there are currently no regulations to stop mobile operators from engaging in this practice.
He claimed through locking handsets to its network, Vodacom can offer customers cheaper devices with the option to unlock the device at later point of time for a fixed fee.
But isn’t there a contract between mobile operators to stop this form of practice?
Mendes stated there was previously a gentleman’s agreement between mobile operators that they would refrain from offering network-locked phones.
However, Vodacom sees this practice as a method to subsidise the cost of a smartphone and offer more aggressive pricing, which in the long run can benefit its customers.
He says this practice gives consumers an option to pay R799 for an open device or R599 for a network-locked device.
Currently, this practice is being trialled with consumers, with Vodacom beginning to lock selected devices for one year upon sale to gauge consumers’ response.
Mendes explains the price of smartphones is an inhibiting factor for certain consumers, especially those at the low-end.
As cost is an issue for certain members of the South African population, Vodacom aims to remedy this problem by subsiding devices through an array of processes. This includes network-locking and the deployment of its own devices.
Mendes claims Vodacom has managed to design its own handsets while creating price points which are proving to be attractive for the entry-level.
He says through doing this, a certain amount of pressure is created within the market because of the price point.
By bringing the price through subsidising, the mobile operator can use the price to negotiate with tier-one handset manufacturers.
With Vodacom looking at lowering the prices of smartphones, it seems that a new era of mobile devices is upon us. An era which will pave the way to connect every South African with a smartphone.
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