MTN smart feature phone finally available in SA

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The MTN Smart S is finally available at selected MTN retail stores and major retail partners.
The MTN Smart S is finally available at selected MTN retail stores and major retail partners.

MTN's new 'smart feature phone', the Smart S, is now in South African stores.

This after MTN announced, in November 2018, a partnership with operating system maker, KaiOS, China Mobile and chipmaker Unisoc to bring affordable 3G smart feature phones to the African market.

The phone already launched in Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda last month but was held up at South African customs for a few weeks, delaying the local rollout.

MTN has now confirmed the phone is available at selected MTN retail stores and major retail partners.

The mobile operator believes the launch of the affordable phone will further open the world of mobile Internet connectivity to even more South Africans.

The price point, of R249, is cheaper than the $22 (R313) ITWeb was previously told the phone would cost.

"We are living in a country where affordability of smart devices is one of the biggest barriers to Internet access. By introducing this cutting-edge device at such an affordable price, MTN will help its customers, particularly students, small businesses and others that may have avoided traditional smartphones due to the cost, to become part of the information society at an accessible price," says Jacqui O'Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa.

The MTN Smart S device, powered by KaiOS, is Internet-capable and allows users to access popular apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Google Assistant. 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.

MTN has bundled Smart S with a monthly allocation of 100MB of data valid for 30 days, for the first six months, and 1GB of WhatsApp bundles, valid for 20 days, for the first six months.

According to Pew Research Centre, South Africa has 51% smartphone penetration, which contributes to the country's relatively high Internet usage of nearly 60% compared to its peers in the region.

"MTN already subsidises handsets in South Africa by over R1 billion per year, to make smartphones cheaper for our customers, but we know there is a market for an even more affordable option for mobile Internet access, which is the gap the MTN Smart S fills. The introduction of the Smart S, coupled with the attractive bundles we have on offer, will advance our ambition to further democratise the Internet, helping to provide access to all South Africans," O'Sullivan adds.

She says the device comes at the right time, as MTN last week launched the MTN Chat recharging channel, which allows customers to top-up airtime and data bundles via instant messaging platform, WhatsApp.

MTN group CEO Rob Shuter previously said the telco aims to sell 10 million Smart S devices over the next three years. He told ITWeb in an interview last month that MTN hopes to sell between two million and three million devices this year across the group operations.

As of the end of December 2018, MTN had 233 million subscribers in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

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