How And Why Nokia Is Losing The African Market

Nokia was the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones in 2011, with global device market share of 23% in the second quarter. However, if you know one thing or two in the technology industry, then you agree that statistics are not something any Tech business leader should hang on. It’s a common thing in the Tech industry to find one industry leading player today, file for bankruptcy the next day. Kodak knows this better when it did just that late this month.

Even though Nokia is currently holding this prestigious  position, it swings on the balance.  On the smartphone end, Nokia is struggling to keep up with the cut-throat competition from Apple’s iPhone and iOS and Google’s android Mobile operating systems. Smart phone vendors like Samsung, HTC, LG,  Huawei, ZTE whose handsets ship with Android won’t give Nokia any breathing space either. Nokia has had it’s own mobile operating systems Symbian – currently in the code playing ground for developers (I mean it was open sourced) and it has tried other mobile operating systems like Maemo, MeeGo all of which can’t compete against iOS and Android. Worse still, Nokia has partnered with Microsoft who have been trying to make a desperate come back by shipping its smart phones like Nokia Lumia 900 with windows Phone OS. Even though analysts and tech enthusiasts like it, the phone has not yet won the hearts of smartphone consumers.

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A snapshot of phones sold at a shop in downtown Kampala

Closer to home where Android and iOS are still buzzwords in the ears of many people,  Nokia is losing out even on the low-end phones to vendors I  can’t even name (they’re nameless or bear the Nokia brand but are far from being genuine Nokia phones!). The Nokia phone is no longer the delight of many phone owners. Although there are some genuine phone brands from China and India, there are also a lot of counterfeit Nokia phones, seemingly high-end flashy phone models on phone shelves in down town Kampala. The counterfeit , cheap Chinese phones (my apologies if you own one) with a memory card, flashy but not so good graphics that don’t conform to international standards is what I see some mobile phone owners holding. I dare you to setup internet settings or install a Java app on it. But they make calls, text and play music to the delight of consumers and Telecoms alike. Moreover there are no  government regulations to stop these phones on the market. Whatever the case, Nokia is struggling to cope up with the fierce competition set by these vendors and it may soon lose it all together.

Nokia is hard-pressed on the smart phone and low-end phone markets globally and you can read this interesting post by Simon Kaheru. But I have some solutions for Nokia especially for the low end phone market specifically here in Africa – Uganda;

1. Maintain excellent phone battery life.
What’s the use of a fancy Droid (A droid is any Android powered phone in case you’re wondering) with 3G, GPS, camera, accelerometer, Bluetooth,     Wi-Fi, if it becomes as good as a small brick in a matter 6 hours or less? That describes my Droid, which is why I have a second low-end phone which goes for almost a week without needing any power socket juice. Nokia phones are well  known for battery life longevity that’s second to no other phones.

2. Dual/Tri  SIM card support
There’re about five Telecom operators in Uganda and mobile subscribers keep on oscillating from one to another depending on who’s offering “PakaLast” or the cheapest call rates/promotions while maintaining one default operator they can’t get rid of. The Chinese phone vendors know this trend so well, they produce dual, tri and even quad Sim card phones for these subscribers. It’s not until recently that Nokia finally showed up to the match with it’s dual Sim card “Nokia Dabo Dabo” phone(Nokia X1 -01) with easy SIM swap. Nokia needs to bring more of such contenders to ring to avoid a bloody nose. Currently I don’t know of any Droids (or if they’re there, then they’re rare) with dual sim card support which is a big win for Nokia. My Friends and family  like my droid, but am consistently asked if it supports more than one sim card and the answer is a disappointing big No.

3. Improve Multimedia experience
Ugandan music industry is grown so fast and so successful that now it’s common to see some CDs of some local artists in people’s home media libraries. Now mobile users want to have their music on their phones and this means more memory requirements perhaps in Gigabytes or at least micro SD card support.  When I went upcountry – Kumi for my Christmas vacation, I was so stunned that my tribesmen deep in the rural areas knew about a memory card! Most of them own counterfeit Chinese phones which have or support memory cards and they have music and images on them. An equivalent Nokia model (if you found one in the shops) is twice or even thrice the cost of these counterfeit phones. Nokia has to realize these consumer tastes and begin dancing to the music of it’s old or prospective clients.

Even though today’s Nokia is not the same as that of 7 years ago when I was a proud owner of my Nokia 1600. it still has a global presence and an incredibly strong brand that’s noticeable anywhere in the world. This means Nokia still stands high chances of beating it’s competitors but must acknowledge and play to the tune of its consumers and differentiate itself from its competitors.

  • Anonymous

    NOKIA NOKIA NOKIA, i have never owned a nokia fone coz of its limited fuctionality at avery high price.

    i dont need to have a fone for 5 years. No, two years at most is good enough.

    Nokia ought to check the prices VS quality Vs fuctionality

    Thanx David and simon

    Steve