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You don’t need to buy a R10k phone

Author: Hadlee Simons Updated: 12:15 23-02-2016

"How are people able to buy these high-end phones on prepaid?"

That's the refrain every time I visit the Orange Store website or page through a cellular network's leaflet. And each page shows phones at unbelievable prices.

Of course, contract deals are far more palatable for many, as the cost gets broken down into chewable chunks and networks often subsidise part of the cost.

Still, you often find people getting a contract purely for the phone. If given the choice, many would go prepaid.

But something wonderful has been happening over the past year or two. We're seeing great phones coming in at lower and lower prices.


Super cheap phones are decent

You see, smartphones have come in at under R2000 (and under R1000) for a while now.

It's only really been in the last two or three years that solid sub-R1000 offerings have been launched.

We saw this with Kalahari and its Gobii range (although those phones had dodgy screens), MTN and its R499 Steppa and Vodacom and its R550 Smart Kicka. But of course, in this bracket, you'll expect a little slowdown and a naff camera experience, for starters.

But ramp up your budget to the sub-R2000 category and you'll find smartphones that are moving closer to high-end smartphones of a few years ago.

Take a look at the Vodacom Smart 6, Xiaomi's Redmi 2, the Lumia 535 and the Motorola Moto E as great examples in this regard.

But if you want a top-end experience, you'll still have to spend R10 000 or so, right? Well…


Mid-range pricing for high-end phones

The past 18 months have also seen the emergence of quality high-end smartphones that don't carry a Samsung/Apple/Sony price tag.

Xiaomi has made a killing by selling hardware at closer to cost price than just about anyone else, launching its Mi 4 locally for R3999 (and about to reveal the Mi 5). And for the price, you get a speedy Snapdragon 801 chip, 3GBs of RAM, a 13-megapixel camera and a 8MP selfie shooter.

OnePlus is another company that made its name by selling flagship specs at a more palatable price. The company's $299 OnePlus One arguably popularised the idea of a cut-price high-end phone, delivering a quality experience on all fronts.

Last year's OnePlus 2 is pricier than the original (originally at $389), but a recent discount takes the model to a permanent $349 price point. Still a far cry from the likes of Samsung and Apple's high-end phones.

People also forget that despite charging top dollar for their phones these days, Huawei made a splash by launching a high-end phone (the Ascend P6) at a great R4999 price.

This trend is continuing with upstart companies like WileyFox, with the top-end Storm model packing an upper mid-range Snapdragon 615 chip, 3GBs of RAM and a 20MP camera. All in a package that costs R4800.

Then there are the hordes of other Chinese smartphone manufacturers, such as Oukitel, Gionee, Elephone and more all waiting in the wings. It's only a matter of time until these unique and bargain-priced offerings make their way to the African continent.

Perhaps the two biggest hurdles for these companies would be after-sales support and getting rid of the unwarranted "Chinese phones are crap" perception that so many people cling to.

Are flagships soon to be a thing of the past?

This then begs the question: Will the flagship die out?

Well, if the iPhone's continued dominance is anything to go by, flagship phones aren't about to die out at all. Much like the PC scene, it seems like there'll always be a market for the super-expensive offering.

But you can bet your bottom dollar (and only a dollar) that the high-end phone market will see a ton of consolidation over the next few years. In fact, even Apple is realising the need for a lower-priced device to keep its marketshare stable, in the form of the iPhone 5c (and the rumoured iPhone 5se).

Either way, the next time you upgrade your phone, you won't need to choose the R12 000 name-brand for a flagship experience.

Published: 09:45 17-02-2016

Posted by on February 17, 2016.

Categories: Features, Technology

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