BlackBerry Classic. (BlackBerry)
Johannesburg - Phone brand BlackBerry is hanging onto its strong presence in Africa despite rapidly shedding users in other parts of the world.
This is according to a GeoPoll and World Wide Worx Mobile Africa 2015 study, which surveyed 3 500 mobile phone users in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Uganda.
Results of the survey indicate that Nokia is these African countries' most popular phone brand, as 34% of respondents said they own a device from the Finnish phone maker which is owned by Microsoft. Meanwhile, 17% of respondents said they own a Samsung handset.
However, researchers said a “big surprise” was that BlackBerry, which is used by 6% of users currently, is expected to rise to 16% in Africa. In South Africa, Nokia leads at 36%, Samsung is at 21% and BlackBerry at 14%, according to the study.
These figures are in stark contrast to BlackBerry’s global market share numbers. According to data from the Independent Data Corporation (IDC), BlackBerry’s share of the global operating system market hovered at 0.5% during 2015, a number that pales in comparison to Android and Apple’s iOS which together had 96% of the world's smartphone OS market in 2014.
A key reason for BlackBerry’s stronghold on Africa’s phone market is attributed to the brand still being viewed as “aspirational”, say the researchers. In addition, older BlackBerry devices are also being handed down among African users.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if it doesn't translate into actual retail figures particularly strongly,” Matt Angus-Hammond, Business Development Lead for GeoPoll Southern Africa, told Fin24.
“The reason for this is that you get the hand-me-down effect, and that's been going on across Africa for a few years now.
"They want a smartphone, but they haven't really got into the market yet. Those people, when they think smartphone, they think BlackBerry,” Angus-Hammond said.
Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director of World Wide Worx, reiterated that BlackBerry remains an aspirational brand at the lower end of the market, but he said that form factor also has its part to play.
“At the same time, new BlackBerry phones are regaining a segment of the market that prefers to have a physical keyboard, and now finds the new keyboards going hand in hand with a better smartphone experience,” Goldstuck told Fin24.
While BlackBerry is hanging onto its African market share, more competition is on the way.
For instance, Apple’s market share is expected to rise from 2% currently to 11% in future in the African countries that were surveyed. Chinese phone maker Huawei is also expected to grow from 3% market share in Africa to 9%, Sony from 2% to 5% and LG from 3% to 5% in these countries.
Meanwhile, Nokia’s lead in Africa’s overall phone market is also threatened by South Korea’s Samsung.
“While almost half of respondents – 46% – reported owning a Nokia as their previous phone, only 34% own one now. And only half of those – 18% – intend buying a Nokia next,” said the researchers.
“The big winner is Samsung, which is currently owned by 17% of respondents, up marginally from 14% ownership previously. When asked what phone will be bought next, the Samsung proportion shot up to 26% - more than a quarter of phone users.”
The study was conducted through GeoPoll’s SMS survey platform. The researchers said the sample size of 700 per country provides a margin of error of 3.7% for each country.