Orange is partnering with Google as it seeks to reactivate its presence in several countries in the Middle East and Africa region. The partnership will see the French telecommunications company which has a huge presence in the region, introduce a low-end smartphone powered by Google’s mobile operating system, Android.
The smartphone, the Orange Rise 31, will be bundled with texts, voice minutes and internet data plan (500MB) as a package for at least three months. The package will cost not more than $40 (about Kshs 4,000).
The Orange Rise 31 Special Edition smartphone will have entry-level specifications and targets mostly first-time smartphone buyers; people moving from feature phones. These are mainly the young people. According to the United Nations, young people (15-24 years) account for over 20% of the African population while at least 65% of the continent’s people are under 35 years of age. Smartphone penetration on the continent is still at a low but is rising very fast with sales of feature phones shrinking by 20% year on year. Ericsson projects that by the year 2020, 80% of all mobile data traffic from the African continent will be from smartphones.
The device will have a 4-inch display, a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash, 8 gigabytes of onboard storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 1,500mAh battery and run on the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
The Orange Rise 31 Special Edition is the latest effort by Orange to tap into the low-end segment of the market which is huge in Africa and has been the driving force for many new entrants into the smartphone market including Tecno, Huawei, GTel, Infinix and others.
Orange’s latest efforts are as a result of the end of its relationship with Mozilla Foundation, the custodians of the Firefox Operating System, a mobile platform that powered its low-cost Klif smartphone. Firefox OS has since hit a dead end on mobile and lives on on the televsion and Internet of Things devices.
Firefox OS’ failure to capture the imagination of the low-cost smartphone buyer was as a result of lack of access to most popular applications like WhatsApp (it was a hustle to get it working on a Firefox OS device like the Orange Klif) and generally being bundled on devices that had inferior feature sets when compared to their Android equivalents. Now Orange has shifted sides and is ready to take the competition head on. Will it succeed this time round? Only time will tell but going Android is an exciting step.