According to recent reports, Google and South African low-cost retailer, Pep Stores, are in talks to build an Android version that would better fit the needs of the local smartphone users.
While this at first seems an unlikely match, the tech giant first got in touch with Pep during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 2013. Pep is Africa’s largest mobile phone retailer relying on low-cost smartphones running the Android mobile operating system such as the Huawei Ascend Y220 that goes for about R450 (US$45), and the MTN Steppa for R500 (US$50).
Within the last 12 months, Pep’s smartphone sales have rocketed by a massive 13%.
According to a report published on Business Day Live, though there’s been a massive uptake in smartphones in South Africa and the greater region, the biggest barrier to unlocking the devices’ full potential is expensive data.
“Pep and Google are working together to come up with Android propositions that are more Africa-friendly,” Pep Stores cellular executive John Edwards revealed this week. “They are working on a user interface that will let the user control his data usage.”
During Google I/O developer’s event last month, the tech giant showcased Android One as a new initiative that would see the first low-cost, yet capable smartphone manufactured in India with a cost price of less than US$100.
Google first shared this vision when it launched the latest version of its mobile OS, Android 4.4 KitKat last year, when Google’s senior vice president, Sundar Pichai said, “As we get on our journey to reach the next billion people, we want to do it on the latest version of Android.”
Interestingly, popular South African retailer Mr Price recently launched its own mobile virtual network operator that offers a selection of low-cost devices as well as attractive monthly data deals. Grocer giant Pick ‘n Pay has also been in talks with telecom giant MTN in efforts to release a SIM card that focuses on Mobile Money and a customer rewards system.