Reason for slow KaiOS Powered Phones sales in Africa

KaiOS smart feature phones boast a huge success in the Indian market and that may continue for a while for now. However, replicating thier Indian success in African countries or other markets poses a great question here? It seems they will need mobile network operators to make them more attractive to subscribers the way reliance Jio did in India.

Kaios and mozilla

What is a Smart Feature Phone

A smart feature phone is one in which a smart operating system runs in the traditional feature phone form factor – a small screen and alpha-numeric keypads. It has Internet connectivity, an app store, and lite, data friendly mobile apps so users can stay connected at low cost and on slower Internet connections.

KaiOS is a smart operating system that has taken India by storm and is now the 2nd largest mobile operating system in that country after Android OS, pushing iOS to 3rd place as Apple continues to struggle in the country.

After playing around with all of the excitement, the numbers, and the prospects of smart feature phones through a mobile operating system like KaiOS, you will eventually come to conclusion that much of its success in India (where it has most of its market share) is due to the work of mobile operator, Reliance Jio.


Thanks to Reliance Jio in India, KaiOS is currently the 3rd largest mobile operating system in the world. And if the platform wants to sell lots of KaiOS smart feature phones and replicate that success elsewhere, it must find a Reliance Jio in every market it has its eyes on, be it in countries in Africa or in South America. It really is that simple.

Let’s have a look at some of the KaiOS smart feature phones selling in markets outside of India.

Nokia 8110 4G In A Fierce Competition

Nokia 8110 4G

It does not help that the first KaiOS phone we have seen on sale in the market in Nigeria, for example, costs more than an entry-level smartphone. That is the Nokia 8110 4G. At N25,000 or $70, most mobile users in the country cannot afford it, and many who can afford it will buy an entry-level Android phone instead. For that price, you could buy a Redmi Go, an iTel P32, or any of the dirt cheap Android phones in the market.

TECNO Mobile recently joined the league of brands that makes KaiOS smart feature phones when it announced the T901. a 4G LTE device.

Kai Technologies has also partnered with MTN and Orange to push very cheap KaiOS smart feature phones in their markets. While it is operator partnerships that will help the course of the platform, neither MTN nor Orange are replicating the game plan that made KaiOS smart feature phones hot cake in India .

MTN Smart Feature Phone For Just $25

MTN Smart Feature Phone

The MTN Smart T phone sells for NGN8,000 in Nigeria. And it isn’t a 4G phone. All you get is 3G. And there are no special data offers to make it juicy for buyers who often cannot afford the average data plan available here. Everything in this picture goes contrary to how Reliance Jio massaged the warmth of love for KaiOS into the hearts of millions of people.

In Nigeria though, MTN gives Smart users free 500MB data monthly for 6 months. That is it. It must be noted that using 500MB on a KaiOS phone is a lot of data compared to say using the same data on an Android phone or iPhone, both of which are data guzzlers. KaiOS is a more data efficient operating system.

Still, 500MB free data for 6 months will not do. Once the freebie is over, MTN Smart users then have to go back to regular data plans.

Orange Sanza

Orange Sanza

Orange proudly proclaimed Sanza, their version of the KaiOS phone that MTN launched as Smart, as “the phone which democratizes access to Internet in Africa”. Orange is pushing Samza in 16 African and Middle-Eastern countries where it operates. But rhetorics are easy. Is Orange putting in the work that Reliance is?

Sanza goes for about $20, which is not a bad price for a phone with its functionality. I do not have access to details of any special data plans that Orange may have crafted specifically for it.

How Reliance Boosts KaiOS Smart Feature Phones Presence In India

Honestly thinking loud, I doubt that the millions of Indians who use a Jiophone knows what KaiOS is. They likely don’t. But they just like their Jiophone because it is the next best cheaper option.

Reliance Jio
Image Credit | Reuters

Why won’t you love a phone that costs next to nothing and still offers you access to superfast 4G, access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, as well as downloading media at ridiculously low prices? That’s what Reliance Jio offers Jiophone users, and that is exactly what MTN, Orange, and any other operator that wants to partner with Kai Technologies need to do.

Here are the key elements of the business model that made KaiOS smart feature phones sells like oxygen in India:

  • Affordability;
  • Accessibility to cheaper data subscription.

Reliance offers pretty low cost data plans for Jiophone users. That’s just the simplest way to replicate the success of KaiOS smart feature phones in India anywhere else. That’s the strategy

Stats: KaiOS Growth

According to StatCounter, as at August 2019, KaiOS recorded a 0.59% share of the global mobile market, taking 3rd place behind Android OS and iOS. And, s at December 2018, it had 1.12%.


If KaiOS smart feature phones are to ship in huge numbers outside of India and grow the platform’s share of the global mobile phone market into a much more bigger slice, It needs more mobile network partnerships beyond what we are seeing in Nigeria and other countries. Which network operators will rise to the occasion?


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