A new “smart feature phone”, unveiled by MTN and partners at the annual AfricaCom conference in Cape Town last week, will allow customers to upgrade from a feature phone with only voice and text capabilities, to a fully connected handset with fast, 3G internet.
The announcement was made by the CEOs of MTN Group and KaiOS Technologies, along with the executive vice presidents of China Mobile Communications Group and UNISOC. They said it would be the world’s first 3G smart feature phone in Africa, powered by KaiOS.
“As MTN we are proud to be part of this partnership that supports our ambitions to deepen digital inclusion in our markets,” said Rob Shuter, group president and CEO of MTN. “This initiative contributes to the achievement of one of our key goals to provide affordable data enabled handsets to our customers, and by so doing, remove some of the barriers to mobile internet adoption in Africa.”
The new smart feature phone runs on KaiOS, an operating system for smart feature phones, and includes the following features and services:
* Fast internet access through Wi-Fi and 3G
* Bluetooth connectivity and GPS for navigation
* Google Assistant and other smart services
* The KaiStore, home to apps and localised content
* 2 cameras, as well as music and video streaming services
* Long-life battery life, with a 2000mAh battery
* Dual SIM support
“With 834 million people still unconnected to the internet in Africa, today’s launch with MTN, UNISOC and China Mobile stands to have a significant impact on communities across the continent,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “MTN has one of the largest customer bases in the region. Coupled with KaiOS, we’re taking an important step toward closing the digital divide on the continent.”
KaiOS powers close to 50 million smart feature phones globally, including in the USA, Canada, India, China, and several countries in Europe. It has overtaken iOS as the second most popular mobile operating system in India (based on data usage) .
The 3G smart feature phone will initially be available from MTN in Nigeria and South Africa, followed very shortly by the other MTN operations in Africa as well as the Middle East. The new product will retail between $20-$25.
Li Huidi, EVP of China Mobile Communications Group , said: “As the largest Telecom Operator in China, we have made fruitful attempts at rapidly promoting business development through device customization. We hope to share our experiences in this regard with international operator partners, and help them expand market presence through device customization, thus delivering the dividend of reliable mobile networks to more users.”
MTN said the product will help convert African 2G users to 3G, allowing African people to enjoy high-speed mobile networks. The new smart feature phone is powered by the UNISOC SC7731EF chip, the first 3G smart chipset, with up to 256MB RAM. The device has a 2.4” screen and 256MB/512MB RAM/ROM. It will be available starting from the first quarter of 2019.