After years of struggle to maintain a firm footing in the South African market, Taiwanese consumer electronics and smartphone manufacturer HTC has announced its re-entry and rollout of devices from mid-October 2020.
HTC began as a white label manufacturer and is linked to the release of several smartphones for Google, including Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel 2. The brand is also accredited for the Android-based HTC Dream in 2008.
It first entered South Africa in 2002, with Leaf International serving as distribution partner, targeting the high-end mobile phone sector. It quickly gained popularity as one of the best smartphone brands for the business and professional use at the time.
Now, the brand is preparing to re-engage the South African market through a new alliance with telecoms technology and channel management services provider, Evercomm. The target strategy this time will be the entry-level and mid-level markets.
Evercomm (backed by the Evermarc group) has offices in South Africa, China, India and Dubai, and provides retail, distribution and warehousing management solutions.
Established in 2015, Evercomm has built up experience within the mobile device and connectivity market having also launched its own cellular brand, Hurricane Mobile. It also became an approved partner of Google to import GSM-approved smart devices into South Africa and the SADC region.
Affordable, not cheap
In an exclusive interview with ITWeb Africa, Craig Kidson, spokesperson at Evercomm, confirmed that the company has secured exclusive rights to relaunch the HTC mobile phone brand in South Africa, as well as the neighbouring African countries and Indian ocean islands, and the pending release of the Wildfire series of HTC phones, including HTC E Lite, HTC E1, HTC E1 Plus and HTC E2.
The company is convinced HTC’s promise of affordable whilst still retaining quality, is an effective strategy to compete with the likes of Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, LG and Hi-Sense.
The Wildfire series will compete against the lower-to mid-range competitors, with the first phone to debut at around R1649 and the last to be launched for 2020 will retail at approximately R3699.
Kidson acknowledges that the smartphone market in South Africa and Africa remains ultra-competitive and many of the main operators have already secured major market share, but believes the timing for re-entry remains a great opportunity.
“It would have been better, if we were, I guess, end of September – but in order to launch any product effectively, we need to tick all the right boxes regarding planning with the networks, and successfully completing all the required stringent tests with them, in order to make sure we comply with all their criteria, which we have done now.”
“HTC was a good fit for us… four years ago, when they left, they didn’t leave on a bad note, it has always been a quality product, very good value. And of course, bringing it back into South Africa in the old position it was in, was a bit tricky because you are up against the more dominant and established brands who currently dominate that share, being Samsung, Apple and Huawei … so we thought ‘let’s still bring good value for money’ and offer the HTC range starting with both the prepaid proposition as well as the entry level post-paid offering, and see what value we can drive there,” Kidson continues.
Evercomm is currently in discussion with all network operators in South Africa, but cannot divulge more details as negotiations are ongoing.
The company is under no illusions as to the level of local competition that exists and says it has a lot of hard work ahead of them to establish HTC as a household name.
According to StatCounter Global Stats, as of July 2020, Samsung leads in mobile vendor market share in Africa with 33.66%, Huawei with 17.64% and Apple with 11.08%.
The IDC’s newly released Global Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Africa’s smartphone market remained flat in Q2 2020, experiencing just 0.1% growth QoQ, while the region’s feature phone shipments declined 10.6%.
Evercomm has set its immediate target at 5% share per month within the next 24 to 30 months.
Kidson adds: “The biggest brands are Samsung and Huawei, however there are other brands we going to compete against like Hi-Sense, Nokia, LG, Tecno, Vivo and OPPO. A few of these brands are relatively new entrants to the SA market and therefore, not as recognised in the SA market at this stage. We have been selective in the space we intend to play, which is more geared towards entry-level to mid-level for post-paid deals and mid-tier for the prepaid line up. The prepaid story is not very different for the African countries.”
In terms of technology innovation and R&D to keep up with evolving trends, like 5G, Kidson asserts that the brand is known to have a strong strategy regarding 5G development and research.
On the AI development front, HTC unveiled its artificial intelligent platform in its healthcare division, to accelerate AI innovations in the field.
“To echo this sentiment, we will be launching all our HTC products with AI face unlock and fingerprint access which will both significantly increase user experience and prove to be extremely competitive,” says Kidson.