Phones a Typical Kenyan Might Have Owned in the Past

There could be some who owned all of them


smartphones in store

Mobile phones have been used in Kenya for a relatively short time in comparison to the country’s age. Safaricom and the now called Airtel started their operations almost 20 years ago and we have seen the telecommunications sector grow in leaps and bounds and now for example Safaricom is the largest company in Kenya by market capitalization.

During this period, we have seen Kenyans buy several phones from different companies and over time we have seen Kenyans have a liking to a particular set of phones from different brands. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but there is a chance you might have seen a family member or a friend or a random stranger with this phones listed.

Nokia 1680

Nokia 1680

This phone came out in 2007* and it was one of the most popular Nokias of its time It was a basic phone that ran on the Series 40 platform Nokia used for their feature phones.

Why this phone was so popular is kind of easy: The price and word of mouth. It was not the best looking Nokia but people could afford it and people bought it because they saw others with it.

Nokia C3

This phone came way later than the Nokia 1680, around 2010. It featured a ‘Blackberry’ style’ body with a QWERTY keyboard and a relatively ‘large’ screen for the time. It also had a relatively huge battery for a feature phone at the time (1380 mAh) which gave it rather good battery life.

Add the fact that it looked good and made you feel like you owned a smartphone (and it wasn’t a smartphone), this phone became really popular, especially with young people.

Nokia 5130 Xpress Music

This was a surprise hit to be honest. It was an Xpress Music branded phone which as Nokia’s sub-brand of Nokia phones that were geared specifically for music.

It had a normal candybar frame with a normal screen and a pretty normal 2MP camera (for the time) and I believe it was popular just because it was affordable. Just like the Nokia C3, it was more popular with the younger folk and Nokia was essentially cannibalizing itself at this price range.

Motorola C113

This phone was popular because it was cheap. It had a weird design where it had a rounded top and a normal rectangular bottom. Since price is usually one of the top considerations for a Kenyan buying a phone, at its prime, you could see this phone everywhere with people and it was a success in its own right.


This was one of the cheapest phones you could buy from Safaricom. It was made by Huawei and it has become part of our pop culture. The name has transcended to mean inexpensive phones that are not smartphones that are used by people when they go out partying (since they don’t want to lose expensive phones) as well as using them for MPESA transactions.

Huawei IDEOS

This was another incredibly popular Huawei phone and we can regard it as the first cheap Android smartphone for the masses. It sold so well in fact it was reported that it sold over 350,000 units the first 6 months. You could attribute to the really good pricing (Around Kshs 8000), the funky coloured removable backs and its ‘cool’ factor at the time.

Samsung is the biggest phone manufacturer currently and back then, it was trailing behind the likes of Nokia in terms of sales. They have had some success selling some phones which ended up being quite popular and here are some of them.

Samsung Corby

This was an incredibly popular phone by Samsung and it wasn’t a smartphone at all. It was a feature phone with a touchscreen and colourful backs at a sweet spot in terms of price. Just like any phone in this list, that was the recipe for success and that is how it became popular with young people.

Samsung Galaxy Y

This phone was released at the time IDEOS was popular in the market. It had a smaller screen relative to the IDEOS and just like the Huawei, it ran Android. They were targeted for young people and coupled with the pricing, over time you’d see people using them. It was not as colourful as the Corby, but it still managed to have customers due to the fact that it was inexpensive and run Android.

Tecno P3

I believe Tecno properly penetrated the market with this phone. It was an inexpensive phone just like the other phones in this list and it was a genuinely nice phone. I remember at the time seeing it with a lot of friends at the time and bought it and worked flawlessly until the day I sold it to get another phone. It was one of those first Tecno phones I saw with people that ran Android since at that time, the company was known for its inexpensive feature phones.


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