At $140, is Mara X Really a Smartphone for the African Mass Market?

Mara X

Mara XMara Corporation entered the smartphone market with the Mara X budget device earlier this year. The company also makes Mara Z, their flagship smartphone. Mara announced that they were going to produce these phones in Africa early last year to serve the continent and export to other countries too.

In the announcement, Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group said that the manufacturing plants will be located in two African countries. The company set up shop in Durban, South Africa in 2018 and another one recently in Rwanda early this year. There is limited information on whether that happened and if they actually exist.

The phones are available in Rwanda and Uganda but in this post, we’ll be breaking down Mara X and what value it brings to the table – is the phone worth it and how does it compare with the rest of its competition?

The Mara X packs a 5.5″ display protected by Gorilla Glass with oleophobic coating, Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition, Dolby Audio 5.1 that delivers ‘cinematic’ sound, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, an octa-core 1.5Ghz MediaTek MT 6739 processor, a 3500mAh battery, 4G VoLTE(It doesn’t support Faiba, probably Safaricom’s), ViLTE and VoWi-Fi support, a 13MP single rear lens and a 5MP front-facing camera for taking selfies. Check out the rest of its features here.

The phone brings a lot to the table but when stacked against the competition, a lot is left to be desired.

The Mara X joins an already competitive market both in terms of price and specifications.

There is not only much cheaper Android Go smartphones if you’re making the switch from feature phones to entry-level smartphones. There are also cheaper devices under the Ksh 15,000 budget(Mara X starts selling from $159 according to their website) with better features from the likes of TECNO, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Nokia, OPPO and Infinix.

Here are some of the devices that compete in the same price category:


The OPPO A1K packs a 720p 6.1″ display presented in a slim 19.5.9 aspect ratio, a single rear 8MP camera and a 5MP selfie camera, 4000mAh battery, 4G support, 2GB RAM and 32GB onboard storage, MediaTek Helio P22 processor.

You also get ColorOS 6.0 on top of Android 9.0 Pie.

The OPPO A1K goes for Ksh 12,999.

Infinix Hot 7

Infinix Hot 7 packs a 720p 6.2″ display in an 18:9 aspect ratio, 4000mAh battery, 4G support, a rear fingerprint scanner, 2/3GB RAM and 16/32/64GB of onboard storage. You get Android 8.1 Oreo Go edition and Android 8.1 Oreo with XOS Honeybee on top for the Pro version. You also get a Quad-core 1.3 GHz Mediatek MT6580P Processor that powers the phone.

Optics-wise, you get a single 13MP rear camera and an 8MP camera. The Pro version gets an extra 2MP rear camera.

Read our full review here. You can get the 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage for Ksh 11,200.

Xiaomi Redmi 6

The Xiaomi Redmi 6 comes with a 720p 5.45-inch display in an 18:9 aspect ratio, Android 8.1 Oreo, 3GB/4G RAM and 32GB/64GB internal storage, dual 12MP + 5MP cameras and a 5MP selfie camera and Helio P22 Processor.

Read our first impressions and full review. The Xiaomi Mi Store sells the 3GB RAM/32GB internal storage variant for Ksh 12,200, the 3GB RAM/64GB internal storage variant for Ksh 14,100 and the 4GB/64GB internal storage variant for Ksh 13,500.

Nokia 6

Nokia 6 packs 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage, Android 7.1 Nougat, 16MP rear camera, and 8MP selfie camera, 4G support and a 3000 mAh battery sells for Ksh 14,583.

Nokia 5.1 Plus

Nokia 5.1 Plus is another Nokia offering that features dual 13MP and 5MP rear cameras and an 8MP selfie camera, Android 8.1 Oreo but is getting the Android 9 Pie update, 4G LTE, 3/4GB RAM, and 32/64GB internal storage and 3060 mAh battery.

The Nokia 5.1 Plus goes for Ksh 14,899.

TECNO Camon 11

The TECNO Camon 11 was launched late last year and rocks 6.2″ 720p HD display in a 19:9 aspect ratio, Android 8.1 Oreo, MediaTek Helio A22 processor, 3GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage, dual 13MP and 5MP rear cameras and 16MP selfie camera, 3750 mAh battery and Faiba 4G support.

You can get it for Ksh 13,700.

Tecno SPARK 3

This is TECNO’s latest budget smartphone that comes in two versions: an ordinary one without 4G LTE, 2GB/16GB memory combination, as well as a Pro version with 4G(Faiba supported), 3GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage.

Other specifications include dual 13MP and 2MP rear cameras and an 8MP selfie camera. You get Android 9 Pie and 3500 mAh battery.

The regular Spark 3(2GB RAM/16GB onboard storage) goes for Ksh 9,499 and the Pro version(2GB RAM/32GB onboard storage) for Ksh 14,000.

Read our full review of the TECNO Spark 3 Pro here.

Huawei Y6 Prime 2019

The Huawei Y6 Prime 2019 is another contender that packs EMUI 9.0 on top of Android 9 Pie, 13MP rear camera, 8MP selfie camera, 4G Support, 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage and a 3020mAh battery.

You can get it for Ksh 12,275.

Infinix S4

The last device here offers more value for money as it packs a 6.2 inch HD display with a resolution of 720 by 1500 pixels with 2.5D glass covering, XOS v5.0 Cheetah on top of Android 9.0 Pie, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 3GB or 6GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage, triple rear camera set-up that features a 13MP standard sensor, an 8MP wide-angle sensor and a 2MP depth sensor aligned vertically next to the quad-LED flash, 32MP AI-powered selfie camera and a 4000mAh battery.

You can get it on Infinix Mall for Ksh 14,999

Read our full review here. We even compared it with the Huawei Y7 Prime 2019 that retails for Ksh 15,999.

Should you buy it?

There is a lot of work to be done with the Mara X smartphone to attract the attention of African smartphone buyers, especially in the cut-throat budget category. The main question that these Mara Phones beg is that when did Africa’s mass purchasing power rise that much for us to start being sold underwhelming phones with these high prices.

The Mara X is Mara’s first-gen product and the company should figure out a way to balance their offerings for the next iterations and bring them with affordable prices. From the specs the Mara X ships with, it doesn’t add up that it should cost Ksh 14,000 – at the least, the offerings match a device that should be selling around Ksh 10,000.

Unless you’re a first adopter, the Mara X is a smartphone device that should be skipped as the market already offers devices that pack more features for even less money.

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