France-based multinational operator Orange announced that it will start selling a 4G version of the Sanza feature phone starting in December. Priced around US $28.00, the new Sanza XL will initially arrive in six markets across Africa, as well as in Jordan, expanding to more countries starting in 2020. The launch is a collaboration with Itel Mobile, part of China-based handset maker Transsion Holdings.
Like its predecessor, the Sanza XL is powered by the KaiOS operating system, enabling access to over 200 apps—WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and Google Assistant, among others. Its principal advantages include a larger screen (2.8 inches across) and voice recognition, as well as an improved 2-megapixel camera and 4 GB of internal memory.
The six African countries in the December launch are Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali and Senegal.
We have noted on a number of occasions that it is in the interest of mobile operators to do all they can to get devices into the hands of customers and potential customers in order to maximize the use of their networks services and related offerings. In many cases, this imperative takes the form of discounting smartphones or promoting low-cost smartphones, so that as many users as possible can use mobile data. Because in less-developed economies, there are more users who do not yet use data, the budget smartphone is the main tool in this campaign to expand usage.
However, it should not be forgotten that there are plenty of potential users in developing countries who not only do not use the mobile internet, but do not even have the funds to be able to afford data plans. Moreover, they may have a low comfort level with regard to electronic devices of any kind and may need to be brought along gradually if they are eventually to adopt more advanced technology.
The Sanza handhelds are designed to target these demographics. Essentially, they are feature phones that are capable of accessing certain internet-based services via modified interfaces that do not require a data connection. Originally the Sanza phone was only 3G compatible. Now it is being offered in an upgraded form that is capable to connecting to 4G/LTE signals. Even though 3G is still prevalent in developing markets, lack of ability to receive 4G signals would make the device far less practical in terms of the services it can access.
The new Sanza device being offered by Orange has a voice interface that allows users who are not fully literate or who are not yet comfortable with the keyboard to use the device. Again, this functionality provides a wide-open gateway for users to enter the world of mobile apps. Orange has the size and scope to operate in countries across the Africa and Middle East markets; an extremely inexpensive device that allows the use of apps that are essential to social media today will enable the operator to gain a potentially large contingent of subscribers at the entry level who can in the future be upsold to data services.