Why Kenya Has More Smartphone Users Than Feature Phone Users

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Latest insights from telecommunications regulatory body, CA Kenya shows that the country saw more users switching to smartphones from feature phones.

The latest quarterly statistics from the body reports than we have 32,631,924 smartphone users relative to 32,040,928 feature phone users. Smartphone users grew by 1,838,529 from the last quarters 30,793,395 users.

There’s has been an interesting uptake of smartphone users which also led to growth of 4G subscriptions in the country. Currently 4G subscriptions sit at the top at 23.9 million subscriptions followed by 2G and 3G at 14.7 million subscriptions and 10.2 million subscriptions respectively.

5G still has a long way to go and it just cracked above the half a million mark – it stands at 509,737 subscriptions. It still behind other countries in Africa like South Africa and Nigeria – each having 5 million subscriptions and 1.8 million subscriptions respectively.

But there’s a silver lining in the clouds. According to MediaTek, analysts expect Kenya to account for more than half of Africa’s handful of 5G mobile subscriptions in 2026.

While 5G has been the talk of town, Kenya’s top telcos haven’t forgotten about increasing the rollouts of their 4G networks across the country. There are over 103,000 3G/4G Base Station Transceivers in the country.

Telkom Kenya has expanded their 4G coverage to the Coast and Lower Eastern regions which means they serve Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Taita Taveta counties. The expansion also stretched to Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, and Kajiado Counties.

Safaricom 4G

Safaricom reports that 2.26 million 4G devices were added to their network raising the number to 13.2 million 4G devices while their 4G network coverage is at 97% with 6,232 4G stations.

3G subscriptions have been on a decline as more users switch to 4G powered smartphones.

Some 4G phones are also available at affordable prices under 10K.

Leasing telcos in Kenya recently partnered with Shenzhen TeleOne Technology(China) to locally assemble entry level 4G devices. The networks involved are Safaricom and Jamii Telecom who now have the Neon Smarta and Neon Ultra already available in the market.

The Neon Ultra which we’ve reviewed goes for Ksh 8,999 while the Neon Smarta goes for Ksh 6,999. It’s with noting that these phones come with Google’s apps like Gallery, Meet, YT Music, Drive, YouTube, Maps, Assistant, Chrome, Calendar, Files, Gmail, Play Store, Keep and the Google App.

Safaricom which is still Kenya’s number network also has the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo program which means you can buy the phone at official Safaricom shops or partner stores by paying a deposit and then paying Ksh 50 daily.

Purchasing through this program allows you to get a daily bundle of 5 minutes of talk time and 120MB data while buying the the Neon Smarta gets you 100MB of data and 5 minutes daily.

Lipa Mdogo Mdogo made over 1 million Kenyans to move from 2G feature phones to 4G devices. This program isn’t limited to the Neon series but other smartphone companies have also been involved including TECNO, Infinix, Itel, and Samsung.

Smartphone companies have also launched affordable 4G-capable devices under 15K, 20K and 25K for those who want more powerful handhelds in their pockets.

Other Insights:

  • CA reports that September had 67.1 million mobile subscriptions which is an increase of 683,160 new subscriptions over the last quarter.
  • The number of mobile money agents and mobile money subscriptions also grew to 338,209 and 38,065,435 respectively.
  • Safaricom still leads in total subscriptions at 44.1 million(43 million prepaid subscribers) compared to Airtel’s 18.9 million(18.8 million prepaid subscribers). Telkom, Equitel and JTL stood at 2.1 million, 1.5 million and 456K subscriptions respectively.
  • In terms of mobile money market share, MPESA is still king at 97% followed by Airtel Money at 2.9% and Tkash at 0.1%