MTN’s smart feature phone, the MTN Smart S, is sitting at South African customs but will be available in stores as soon as it gets through the customs process.
MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa confirmed this at a media briefing after the group’s full year results presentation in Johannesburg.
“The phone is basically stuck at customs at the moment but should be launching in a couple of weeks,” Motsa said.
In November 2018, MTN announced the partnership with operating system maker, KaiOS, as well as China Mobile and chipmaker Unisoc to bring affordable 3G ‘smart feature phones’ to the African market.
MTN group CEO Rob Shuter told ITWeb in an interview after last week’s results announcement that the phone has already launched in Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda.
“The South African shipment is at customs so it’s here but didn’t come in time [for the results announcement]. Most of the markets will launch in the first quarter of the year so that means in the next three weeks or so.”
Journalists were given a sample phone to test, but these had to be brought in from Rwanda because of the customs issue.
The MTN Smart S is a 3G phone and will cost around $22 (R318) to buy and is launching across a number of markets at the same time.
“They were a very important part of the Reliance Jio strategy in India. Reliance Jio really pioneered the smart feature phone as an entry-level data-capable device and it worked very well there and we think it can work [in Africa],” Shuter told ITWeb.
Shuter previously said the telco aims to sell 10 million devices over the next three years. He told ITWeb that MTN hopes to sell between two million and three million devices this year across the group operations.
“Bear in mind that last year, we increased our active data customers by almost 10 million so we are at just under 80 million. There are about 94 million smartphones on the [group] network. So to put it into context, if in one year we added 9.8 million data users, deploying two million or three million [smart feature phones] across the group would make a big difference in the group numbers.
“But it’s an experimental category, so we really just want to get them on the network and see what they do,” Shuter added.
The phone is Internet-capable and comes with a number of social media apps installed, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as the KaiOS app store. It has a front and back camera, dual SIM, MicroSD slot (up to 32GB) and its battery promises to last for three to five days. It is Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS capable and has FM Radio.
It also comes with the key Google applications including search, Google Maps, Google Assistance and YouTube.
KaiOS’ lightweight operating system already has more than 80 million active users in over 100 countries.
As of the end of December 2018, MTN had 233 million subscribers in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East.