Wait, BlackBerry is growing?

 ·23 Oct 2013
BlackBerry Z10 leaked photo

Despite a turbulent time in the global smartphone market, BlackBerry remains a relevant and popular brand on the African continent, according to new data from the IDC.

Smartphone shipments to Africa were up 21.5% year on year for Q2 2013, and now account for 18.0% of the overall African mobile phone market’s volume, according to the latest insights from advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

Referencing its most recent Middle East and Africa Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, IDC noted that Samsung currently dominates the African smartphone market, recording 52.1% unit share for Q2 2013.

Surprisingly, however, BlackBerry also improved its position on the continent by almost three percentage points on the previous quarter “as the brand still retains a high level of popularity in the Africa region due to its cheaper data packages”.

However, with 17.8% share of the market’s volume, it trails Samsung by some distance.

“We are picking up a similar trend in the South African market,” said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. “There is still momentum in low-end BlackBerry devices, or what we refer to as the Curve market. That is a youth audience for whom the combination of BIS and BBM remain a compelling value proposition.”

However, Goldstuck stressed that this is a narrow segment of the market, and its growth will taper off as the cost of data for other smartphones comes down, BBM becomes available on all platforms, and the “cool” factor attracts younger users to Android devices.

“BlackBerry remains the most commonly used smartphone OS in South Africa, and is still growing, but very slowly, whereas Android growth is explosive. We have seen more than a doubling in Android phones in use in South Africa in the past year, and that will be repeated in the coming year, taking Android to the number one position during 2014,” Goldstuck said.

Other vendors in Africa

According to IDC, LG has been trying to gain a foothold in the African market but its products have not been very successful with the masses, and the vendor accounted for less than 2% of the African smartphone market in Q2 2013.

Sony, on the other hand, has reinvented itself with its new lineup after buying out Ericsson’s share in the company, the IDC said. The Japanese vendor’s midrange and high-end devices are pushing hard against the offerings of the market leaders, with its unit share increasing constantly, up from 0.3% to 3.4% year on year in Q2 2013.

Nokia continues to dominate the feature-phone market, despite the well-publicized difficulties it has encountered in making a comeback in the smartphone space. The vendor accounted for 58.5% of the feature-phone market’s volume in Q2 2013, down only slightly on its performance in the corresponding quarter of 2012. Samsung trailed in second place with 13.6% unit share.

“There is a huge gap between the leaders and the rest of the market players for both smartphones and feature phones,” said Simon Baker, program manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA.

“As a continent, Africa requires a very significant commitment in terms of local offices and resources in order to build out a presence and logistical capabilities across so many countries.”

While the task is seemingly putting off smaller players, Hamza Saleem, a senior research analyst for mobile devices at IDC MEA believes there is room for nimble regional brands that pick just a few countries on which to focus.

“They can source Android smartphones at very competitive prices from a host of Chinese manufacturing plants and launch them under their own brands,” Saleem said.

“The most prominent such brand is Tecno. It started off with relatively simple phones but is now offering more sophisticated smartphones and is very active in West and East Africa.”

IDC forecasts the African smartphone market to double in volume over the next four years and account for close to a third of all handset shipments to the continent by 2017.

More on BlackBerry and the IDC

BBM for Android, iPhone frenzy

BlackBerry is dead – analyst

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