Sometimes we use terms like “phone years” to draw the line between the normal calendar everyone follows and the life cycle of mobile devices. Six months may be like a year and a half in “phone years”. Phones age quickly. As such, their makers replace them quickly. While there are notable standouts like the flagships that go a full cycle (i.e 9-12 months), low end and mid-range devices are updated according to market dynamics. Or in the case of some of the devices below, they just happen to be on the wrong side of things as businesses change ownership and entire product lines are axed.
Obsolescence, emerging issues like acquisitions and changes in strategy lead to otherwise noble devices being left in the cold. While the consumer can easily move on to the next big/better thing, the merchant down the street can’t do exactly that unless they’ve cleared stock.
Here are the phones that ought to be off the shelves:
1. Nokia X family of devices
The Nokia X family of devices came to existence so as to lure users into the Microsoft ecosystem. Many argued that Project N (the codename for Nokia X internally at Nokia back then) was something that was the remnant of things the old teams had been working on prior to the Microsoft buyout and that we wouldn’t see it. Then it happened in not just one or two variations but three! Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL.
The three devices marked Nokia’s entry into the Android world. Since the switch to Microsoft’s ecosystem was already ongoing at that time, the Nokia droids obviously had little to do with the Google Android most of us are familiar with and more to do with the Microsoft philosophy. They were even bundled with generous offerings like free Skype calls, One Drive storage etc. They were to be cheap and introduce first time smartphone owners to the world of Microsoft services. Well, we can’t be sure how far they got with the conversion bit. All we know is that the Nokia X family proved to be popular in markets like India and probably wasn’t doing badly off here in Kenya.
The Nokia X family lived to see another day when the Nokia X2 running on the Nokia X 2.0 platform was unveiled just four months after the first generation of Nokia X devices hit the market. Only that one month later, Microsoft pulled the plug on the X platform and that was the end of the road for the budget smartphone.
2. Blackberry Playbook
This forsaken (sorry) device is on our list simply because it has refused to die. It still pops up in some shops. It is not as popular so unless a salesman actually makes an effort to woo you to pick the Playbook at a store or even online, you may not even notice it exists. But it does and therein lies the problem. It’s the year of our Lord 2015 and not 2010. It is not the most successful of Blackberry products and if anything its is a painful reminder to Blackberry fans of the opportunities the Waterloo-based company missed. Blackberry has since discontinued the device but not the blind ambitions of its super fans who may still want to grab one if they can get it. We are considering getting one for Eric on his next birthday since there are no signs it is going off the shelves of the few online retailers who have it in stock any time soon. We’ll help them clear stock in time for the apocalypse.
These two mobile devices are perhaps the ones I hardly ever understood. Even their platform: Asha. What was the point again? To act as entry level devices to the smartphone world? For the price of the Asha 501, 503 or any other similarly-specced Asha device, you could get a more capable dirt-cheap no-name Android device from the factory floors of Nanjing or Shenzhen. While Nokia’s strategy with other Asha devices that went for the half the price of the 501 and 503 is understandable, the price of these two in an age where sub $100 smartphones were finally a reality was their main undoing. Trust me, you don’t want to have these in stock.
For a moment, Mi-Fone looked set to take the Kenyan market by storm. They had impressive devices of their time. Then things happened and the company folded its local operations. You can still grab a Mi-Fone powerbank next time you’re shopping at Nakumatt and happen to pass by FoneXpress but don’t be tempted to grab a Mi-Fone eeeer phone (sigh). You’ll be stuck with a brick that has very outdated software and hardware and will never see any love from its makers.
The Lumia 800 was the first Windows Phone device in the market. The Lumia 900 was the smartphone that cemented Microsoft’s new mobile platform’s presence in the industry and was meant to take on the likes of the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S2 in the US market. The two have since sunk in the pecking order and disappeared completely from the market and Windows 10 Mobile being what everyone is looking forward to, they are no longer at the back of anyone’s heads. Still, you should not be shocked if you find some very old stock in a dusty corner somewhere in town.
This wearable device represented what Samsung hoped would be a very successful future. Well, the company is still doing a decent job pushing hard. It even held off launching a new smartwatch in order to rethink its smartwatch strategy and come up with something fresh in the market. We’re still waiting to see what they will do but definitely it won’t be the direction the Galaxy Gear took. The Galaxy Gear had the misfortune of being a first generation device but then again somebody had to do it, right?
Safaricom is stuck with some deadwood in the form of Galaxy Gear stock and they are disposing it at a throwaway price: Ksh 5,000. The Galaxy Gear started selling at Ksh 25,000 in Kenya when it launched in 2013. Siblings like the health-focused Gear Fit, the second generation Tizen-running Gears and the curved standalone Gear S have since robbed it of its shine.
After the hugely successful Lumia 520, Microsoft moved fast to line up an upgrade of sorts: the Lumia 530. That was never to happen as it was quickly updated with the Lumia 535 taking its place. The Lumia 535 is every bit a slight update of the 530 that actually matters. A bigger battery, more RAM, two cameras and thinner.
Well, there isn’t much to say about this one other that it is way past its sell by date. If you desire a decent music-centred experience at a cheap price then look no farther than the Tecno Boom J7.
It was every bit interesting. I used it for quite some time and was impressed by its awesome battery life. It’s washed up display and not-so-outstanding camera however were its main undoing. Still, it looked out of place in the Kenyan market and anyway is outdated. Samsung already moved on and while it never introduced the Galaxy Mega 2 in Kenya, there are capable devices that are priced in the same range like the Galaxy A and E series devices.
This phone was meant to be the successor of the successful Huawei U8150 IDEOS. At its peak, the U8150 was said to have sold well over 300,000 units through Safaricom in the Kenyan market. I doubt the Y100 even got anywhere near half that many units. While it was heavily marketed, it was every bit frustrating and a big disappointment. You’re on your own if you still have this somewhere on your shelves.
I am not sure if there has ever been a phone more annoying than this one. It was introduced into the Kenyan market by Samsung as an exclusive and we really had high hopes for it. Coming from previous devices in the same price range as the S3 Lite like Intel’s YOLO smartphone, the first generation Huawei IDEOS and Nokia’s Lumia 520, it promised much but totally underdelivered. The user experience was horrible. You can probably wade through a flooded Nairobi street faster than you could swipe left on the homescreen of this device. It’s little wonder that it disappeared from the market and we really feel for anyone still having uncleared inventory of this little nuisance. We are sorry.