R999 smartphones are here (with data included), but hyperbole is strictly optional

Like almost every tech writer on the planet, I’ve been predicting that smartphones will fall in price dramatically over the next few years. Here’s a good example of that in action.

Kalahari.com are offering the cheapest model of their new Gobii smartphone for less than R1000 and throwing in 200MB per month in data for a year from MTN. By the look of the specs its roughly as powerful as the iPhone 4, but with less storage capacity. It’s running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), so it’s just behind the latest release (4.4 and up AKA KitKat).

smartphone_image.jpgIf you’ve never heard of Gobii I don’t blame you. It’s Kalahari.com’s house brand, produced (I suspect) in China like virtually every other phone on the planet. They claim the 7-inch Gobii tablet, launched in February this year, is their “biggest seller” and I suppose we’ll have to take their word for it.

I can’t vouch for the build quality, or the reliability of MTN’s data network, but these phones have the potential to connect a lot of people to the internet for the first time. Granted it won’t be a super-premium experience, but any kind of connection at all will be a revolution for a lot of South Africans.

I’m not entirely convinced that selling something on Kalahari.com is the best way to get people online for the first time (sort of counterintuitive, right?) but the fact that they’re throwing their weight behind it is encouraging.

They’re almost definitely not the first to do this in South Africa (launch a <R1000 smartphone I mean), but they’re the first to do it at such scale. Even if they just displace a lot of Blackberrys and older semi-smart phones, it will be good for the local mobile publishers and service providers.

Now all we need to do is get the damn networks to improve their QOS. Seriously Vodacom? I can’t get 3G in Parkhurst? It’s not exactly rural, despite what the hipsters might want to believe.


I’m usually extremely skeptical of anything sent to me by PR agencies. It’s often boring, sometimes inaccurate and almost always unsolicited. But this release caught my eye. Here it is in all its hyperbolic glory if you’re interested. It mentions Dave Duarte, that handsome devil, and that’s probably what convinced me to actually read it and not just delete it. I’m probably a Duarte slut as a result. So sue me.