Thursday, 14 March 2019 08:11

Analyst firm expects 400m feature phones to sell in 2019

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Analyst firm expects 400m feature phones to sell in 2019 Courtesy Nokia

A shade over 400 million feature phones will be sold globally in 2019, the analyst firm Counterpoint Research has predicted, adding that shipments of this class of device are expected to cross a billion units by 2021.

In a blog post, the company's research director Peter Richardson said the growth would take place in India and the Middle East/Africa region, with about 75% of the market being taken up.

A feature phone is a candy bar or flip phone with basic features. It has a browser, Twitter and even Google Maps, but has no touchscreen and has physical buttons for the dial pad.

“India and the Middle East/Africa region will see cumulative shipments of around 800 million feature phones out of more than one billion global feature phone shipments over the next three years," Richardson said.

"Globally, the feature phone segment is forecast to generate around US$16 billion cumulatively in wholesale hardware revenues over the next three years.”

He said a sizeable portion of the growth in India could be attributed to the revival of the Nokia-branded feature phones and the popularity of the Jio Phone which was able to support smartphone-like features in a traditional feature phone form-factor.

The Jio Phone has been made available by Reliance, one of India's big companies, and claims to have the biggest 4G network based on mobile data use.

Counterpoint said one of the main reasons for the rise of feature phone shipments was the affordability.

“There are more than three billion people across the world who live on an income of less than US$2.50 per day," said associate director Tarun Pathak.

"This segment can neither afford a smartphone nor the data services demanded by the growing advancement in smartphone use-cases.

"Thus, a feature phone, coupled with basic mobile services has been the go-to offering for these users to communicate and connect. Most of these users are prevalent across Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America.”

Pathak said network operators also had a business case to sell feature phones, as most of them were looking for people to upgrade from 2G or 3G to 4G.

“The problem is most of these users still cannot afford a 4G smartphone. Therefore, operators and the mobile industry players need to offer 4G VoLTE feature phones and move users to the more efficient 4G network,” he added.

The increase of 4G capability in feature phones would contribute to increased sales, Counterpoint said.

Additional factors that were leading to the take-up of feature phones were that they were more resistant to breakage and used technologies like push-to-talk to cope with the environment. Battery life was another factor.

Research analyst Varun Mishra said: “The emerging markets of India and Nigeria have the greatest number of people without access to electricity. However, the phone remains an important part of people’s lives in these regions as well.

"Amid the dearth of electricity, in some cases, the user is dependent on public charging stations (shops giving facilities to charge phones in return for a payment). Long battery life becomes crucial in such situations.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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