Our Q1-2020 Market Monitor report has been published. We release one Infographic in each quarter to summarize the mobile handset market activities in a single page.

Some quick observations from the smartphone market:

  • Global smartphone shipments declined the fastest ever 13% YoY reaching 294.9 million units in Q1 2020 .
  • This is the first time since Q1 2014, that the smartphone market has fallen below 300 million units in a quarter.
  • All the regions (APAC, LATAM, Europe and North America) registered decline during the quarter. However, few countries like India (5% YoY) and Russia (8% YoY), grew.
  • China, being the initial epicentre of the pandemic, registered one of the steepest decline (-26% YoY) during the quarter
  • Apple remained resilient even during the COVID-19 as iPhone shipments declined only 5% YoY Q1 2020
  • Huawei surpassed Apple again during the quarter. Over half of smartphone shipments for Huawei are now in China.
  • Xiaomi (7% YoY), and realme (157% YoY) were the only major brands to achieve growth. The expansion in markets outside China for both the brands has paid off
  • Samsung declined 19% YoY during the quarter. With, low presence in China and most of its market hit by COVID-19, the OEM is likely to decline steeper in Q2 2020
  • The share of 5G smartphones increased to over 7% in Q1 2020, compared to 1% in Q4 2019. 5G is likely to help the rate of recovery during the second half of 2020.

Counterpoint 2020 Q1 Smartphone InfographicSome quick observations from the feature phone market:

  • Global feature phone shipments declined 12% annually reaching  83.5 million units in Q4 2019.
  • Feature phone shipments in MEA grew 9% YoY capturing over 41% of the global feature phone shipments.
  • Transsion Group led the global feature phone market capturing over 30% of market share.
  • Alcatel and DORO continue to do well in the US, driven by KaiOS based GoFlip and 7050.

Use the button below to download the PDF version of the Q1 2020 Infographic:

KaiOS Eyes Global Expansion but Replicating India’s Success Would Be a Challenge

KaiOS has been the talk of the town after emerging as the third largest mobile operating system after Android and iOS. According to KaiOS technologies, it has garnered 100 million users over the past few years, with much of its success coming from India with the Reliance JioPhone.

India remains the largest market for KaiOS. However, the smart feature phone segment is now saturating in India. The growth rate is slowing down, and Reliance Jio’s focus may also shift to smartphones, to capitalize on the upgrade ready user-base. Therefore, a natural step for KaiOS is to expand into other emerging markets, especially those that have a similar demographics/economy.

Africa and LATAM are such markets. In LATAM, KaiOS entered the Brazilian market through the launch of Positivo P70S and Multilaser ZAPP. Later this year, it is likely to expand to other markets like Mexico. However, Africa offers a more compelling proposition.

According to Counterpoint, nine out of the top 20 countries with the highest potential for smart feature phones are in Africa. Earlier this year, KaiOS announced MTN Smart, marking its foray into the African market. Soon after the MTN Smart, it launched the Orange Sanza. Launch of both devices was through operator partnerships, something that KaiOS prioritizes. Not only is Orange partnering KaiOS to launch smart feature phones in Africa, but the operator has also participated in a Series B funding.

Partnerships with operators will help KaiOS make further inroads in African countries. In fact, through operator partnerships, KaiOS devices are already available in 22 countries across Africa. Clearly, Africa will be the next most important market for KaiOS after India. However, it might be a bit more challenging for KaiOS to replicate the scale and success it gained in India.

Among other use-cases like elderly population, and users looking for easy form-factors, the primary target consumers for KaiOS are the first-time high-speed internet users. These are mostly bottom of the pyramid population, which either has never experienced a mobile phone or are using traditional feature phones with limited data connectivity. Such users need to be shown the positive effects of data services to prepare them for monetization. Data needs to become a habit for the consumer before it opens up revenue opportunities. Hence, keeping the initial cost of accessibility low and developing relevant content should be the prime focus, and if successfully achieved, it will be pivotal for growth.

In India, the JioPhone’s launch price was US$20, which was refundable if the user returned the device after three years. This made the device almost free. It was also coupled with dirt cheap data rates. Further, there were a host of services at cheap prices which democratized internet usage in India.

Exhibit: Reliance Jio Ecosystem

The vertical integration of Reliance Jio and the application ecosystem played a key role in customer stickiness. This translated into an increased average revenue per user (ARPU). The same will be very difficult for any other operator around the globe to replicate.

In order to achieve scale in the African market, smart feature phones need to be cheaper than even US$20. Entry-level smartphones, available at a marginally higher price in Africa, can be a viable alternative. Also, smartphones remain a more aspirational product for Africans. KaiOS powered device has been launched at a lower price in other countries like Indonesia, where the device was launched as US$7 offering a much higher value proposition to consumers.

There is also a need for content and productivity applications to build user stickiness for the system. KaiOS has already been successful by striking the right partnerships across many players in the value chain and key partners. For content and productivity applications, developer partnerships are equally important. Many users are new to the app ecosystem. This offers a promising new market for developers – especially if they can develop relevant local content and services, something often missed by larger app developers in the mainstream app stores. Mobile payments could be one of the avenues which can be explored, especially in Africa.

The smart feature phone has carved out its place between a feature phone and a smartphone, as an affordable solution for high-speed internet access. With the success of JioPhone in India, many mobile industry stakeholders have renewed interest in tapping into the potential opportunity of upgrading feature phone users with a smart feature phone. The success of the segment depends on the balance of the three most important factors – device affordability, internet affordability, and relevant content. Partnerships among device OEMs, operators, KaiOS, and other ecosystem players will remain a key to achieve this balance. The smart feature phone ecosystem represents a US$28 billion revenue opportunity over the next three years – a number too significant to be ignored.


Please click here for our in-depth analysis of the smart feature phone segment.


Increasing Smartphone Adoption Drives Growth in Middle East and Africa

  • MEA Smartphone market grew 6% YoY in Q1 2019.
  • Over 70% of the total smartphones sold in the region were in the sub-US$150 price segment.
  • There is an increasing transition of users from feature phones to smartphones.

 New Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Beijing, San Diego, Buenos Aires –May 30, 2019

 The smartphone market in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 6% year-on-year (YoY) in Q1 2019, while the feature phone segment declined 6% (YoY), according to Counterpoint Market Pulse. Overall handset market grew 1% YoY.

Commenting on the smartphone market growth, Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, said, “There is an increasing transition of users from feature phones to smartphones in the region. Availability of affordable devices, the growing ecosystem of refurbished devices, and increasing internet penetration are fuelling the switch to smartphones, especially in the African Region. In the larger African countries, like Nigeria and Kenya, smartphones remain the primary medium to access internet services. There is also increasing popularity of the mobile money ecosystem, which is driving further smartphone adoption.  Price remains a key factor for smartphone adoption. Over 70% of the total smartphones sold in the region were in the sub- US$150 price segment. “

Transsion Group dominates the handset market in MEA, commanding a 19% market share in the smartphone segment and a 71% market share in the feature phone segment. Affordability and localized offerings underline the dominance of the Transsion’s brands. Features like longer battery life and optimized cameras for local needs make them a popular option. The brands also have a deep distribution network in Africa.

A large section of the population in MEA still uses 2G feature phones. Commenting on the feature phone segment, Varun Mishra, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research said,” Although declining, feature phone remained relevant in the MEA and contributed to 34% of the total handsets sold during the quarter. In terms of shipments, MEA has surpassed India to become the largest feature phone market globally in 2019. Factors like the dearth of infrastructure, affordability, literacy, and ease of use continue to make feature phones a viable option in the region.”

MTN and Orange announced smart feature phones running on KaiOS in the African market for as low as US$20. Commenting on the smart feature phone segment, Varun Mishra added, “A smart feature phone would help users transition from 2G to 3G/4G in an affordable manner with minimal changes in the form-factor. The network transition and application ecosystem would open new monetization avenues for telecom players and increase the overall average revenue per user (ARPU) of operators in the competitive African market.  Smart feature phone would serve as the middle ground between the feature phones and smartphones. Although feature phone shipments would decline in the future, the smart feature phone segment remains poised for growth. Many users are likely to access high-speed internet first time through a smart feature phone. Fostering a partnership model among ecosystem players, like KaiOS, would drive the initial access cost down, which would help increase internet penetration in the region and thus provide long-term profitability.”


              Exhibit 1: MEA Smartphone Market Share                  MEA Feature Phone Market Share

Source: Counterpoint Research Market Pulse Q1 2019


Market Summary:

  • The top five smartphone brands captured 49% of the market.
  • Samsung led the smartphone market by volume, capturing one-fifth of the total smartphone market in Q1 2019. However, the sell-through for the brand declined 23% YoY in MEA.
  • Huawei was one of the fastest growing brand driven by the Y9 and P20 Lite. The brand grew 27% YoY. HONOR also grew 122% YoY, albeit small base. However, the future for both Huawei and HONOR remains uncertain amid the current US-China trade war.
  • Sub-US$100 segment captured 55% of the total smartphone market. Premium segment (US$400 and above) captured single-digit market share in the price-sensitive MEA market.
  • Close to one-fifth of the smartphones in the MEA region are still 3G. Although the transition is happening from 3G to 4G, as 4G capable handsets become more affordable and network availability increases.
  • Feature Phones contributed to over one-third of the total sell-through in Q1 2019.
  • iTel and Tecno lead the feature phone segment together, capturing over 70% of market share. Tecno defied the feature phone segment decline and grew 15% YoY.

The comprehensive and in-depth Q1 2019 Market Pulse is available for subscribing clients. Please feel free to contact us at press(at) for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press inquiries.


Analyst Contacts:

Tarun Pathak

Varun Mishra

Follow Counterpoint Research

More than a Billion Feature Phones to be Sold over Next Three Years

Globally, the feature phone segment is forecast to generate around US$16 billion cumulatively in wholesale hardware revenues over the next three years. India remains the largest market in terms of potential feature phone volumes followed by Bangladesh and Nigeria. 

Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego

March 13th, 2019

In contrast to the smartphone market, which contracted for the first time in 2018, the feature phone market has continued to grow over the last three years. Latest research from Counterpoint Research estimates that in 2019, a little more than 400 million feature phones will be sold globally. Further, feature phone shipments are expected to cross one billion units by 2021.

According to Peter Richardson, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, India and the Middle East Africa region will drive the growth of the global feature phone market by capturing nearly three-quarter of the market share in 2019. “India and the Middle East Africa region will see cumulative shipments of around 800 million feature phones out of more than one billion global feature phone shipments over the next three years. Globally, the feature phone segment is forecast to generate around US$16 billion cumulatively in wholesale hardware revenues over the next three years,” Peter says.

Exhibit 1: Cumulative Feature Phone Shipments Opportunity by Geography (Millions of Units)


While India remains the largest market in terms of feature phone volumes, it is closely followed by Bangladesh and Nigeria. In Africa, growth is led by brands like itel and TECNO.

Much of the growth of feature phones in India has been driven by the revival of the Nokia-branded features phones and the popularity of the Jio Phone, a smart feature phone which packs a chipset and an operating system that can support sophisticated smartphone-like features in a traditional feature phone form-factor. The Jio Phone uses KaiOS as the operating system. KaiOS has also been expanding its reach in Africa. At the recently held Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, KaiOS announced partnerships with African operator Orange to launch KaiOS-powered smart feature phones priced at US$20 across 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

There are several reasons why feature phones are the preferred mobile phone in many markets globally, despite the tremendous adoption of smartphones. An important factor is affordability. The bottom of the pyramid population across the world simply cannot afford a smartphone.

“There are more than three billion people across the world who live on an income of less than US$2.50 per day. This segment can neither afford a smartphone nor the data services demanded by the growing advancement in smartphone use-cases. Thus, a feature phone, coupled with basic mobile services has been the go-to offering for these users to communicate and connect. Most of these users are prevalent across Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America,” says Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research.

There is also a business case for network operators to push feature phones. In most markets, network operators want customers to upgrade from 2G/3G to 4G networks. “The problem is most of these users still cannot afford a 4G smartphone. Therefore, operators and the mobile industry players need to offer 4G VoLTE feature phones and move users to the more efficient 4G network,” says Pathak.

Counterpoint Research believes the rise of 4G capability in feature phones will be one of the key trends moving forward which will allow the feature phone segment to remain relatively resilient in the medium term.

Further, there are also several use cases that are driving the sales of feature phones. For example, industry segments like construction require rugged devices with technologies like PTT (Push-To-Talk) to cope with the hostile environment. Feature phones offer a viable alternative for this segment.

Similarly, there is also a need for longer battery life. Varun Mishra, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research explains, “The emerging markets of India and Nigeria have the greatest number of people without access to electricity. However, the phone remains an important part of people’s lives in these regions as well. Amid the dearth of electricity, in some cases, the user is dependent on public charging stations (shops giving facilities to charge phones in return for a payment). Long battery life becomes crucial in such situations.”

Counterpoint Research believes that markets in Africa, especially Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania have the highest potential for feature phones. In terms of the total addressable market opportunity, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa remain the key markets.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in Technology products in the TMT industry. It services major technology firms and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analysis of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are experts in the industry with an average tenure of 13 years in high-tech industries.

Analyst Contacts:

Peter Richardson

Tarun Pathak
+91 997-121-3665

Varun Mishra
+91 991-502-0142

Follow Counterpoint Research

Smart Feature Phones to Create US$28 billion Revenue Opportunity

Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego

February 18th, 2019

As the penetration of smart feature phones increases across the world, new business and revenue opportunities will be created for the entire mobile value chain.

Over the next three years, nearly 370 million smart feature phones are expected to be sold across the world, according to the latest research from Counterpoint Research. This will introduce an entirely untapped customer base to high-speed internet, apps and services and in doing so, open a whole host of new business and revenue opportunities for the entire mobile value chain.

According to Neil Shah, Research Director at Counterpoint Research the revenue opportunity from increasing sales of smart feature phones is expected to be in the region of US$28 billion over the next three years. Shah adds, “This will be enabled by a potential of more than 300 million smart feature phone users globally by the end of 2021. Software & Services alone will contribute to 71% of this near- to mid-term revenue opportunity, or around US$20 billion.”

Exhibit 1: Global Smart Feature Phone Opportunity Revenues (US$, Billions)

Global Smart Feature Phone Opportunity Revenues (US$, Billions)

A smart feature phone is a device with a traditional feature phone form-factor and design but with a chipset and an operating system which can support sophisticated smartphone-like features such as high-speed internet access along with an application and services ecosystem. A smart feature phone serves as a perfect middle ground between feature phone and smartphone reducing the barriers to access the digital world.

While the trend to migrate to smartphones is strong, less tech-savvy users and first-time users continue to prefer a feature phone form-factor and user interface (UI). In many African countries and India, literacy rates remain well below 70%. For users in such countries, moving to a smartphone is a steep learning curve which is why there are still two billion active users of feature phones across the world. This is the space that smart feature phones will enter.

“The global smart feature phone demand grew 252% year-on-year in 2018 – albeit from a low base, contributing roughly 16% of the total feature phone volumes. While India is the biggest contributor to this demand, major markets that have driven smart feature phone sales include the United States, United Kingdom, South East Asia and Africa. We estimate that smart feature phones will cross more than half of global feature phone volumes by 2021,” says Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research.

One of the key companies that has been driving this growth of smart feature phones is KaiOS. KaiOS is a software platform powering this new segment of phones and helping the digital inclusion of feature phone users with native support for 3G/4G networks as well as a curated app and services ecosystem. Over the last year and a half, eight KaiOS-powered devices have been launched with multiple models launching in 1Q 2019. These models have been launched across North America, Europe, Africa, South East Asia, and India.

Reliance Jio has been fastest to see the opportunity and adopt the platform to acquire tens of millions of 2G feature phone users to its 4G network with its KaiOS-powered 4G smart feature phone. The company’s Jio Phone, is the world’s leading VoLTE-supported KaiOS-based smart feature phone. It was launched at a price of US$20 and is the current exemplar of a smart feature phone value proposition and execution globally. Out of more than 100 million subscribers that Reliance Jio added since the Jio Phone launch in late 2017, the KaiOS powered 4G smart feature phone contributes close to half of those net additions. 

The largest beneficiary from the growth in smart feature phones will be network operators. Existing 2G customers can be moved to a more efficient 4G network. Network operators can then free-up the 2G spectrum and re-farm it for 4G, upcoming 5G or Low Power Wireless Access (LPWA) IoT networks. Further, as customers move to the 4G network, operators can drive voice as well as data revenues increasing their average revenue per user (ARPU).

“Perhaps the biggest benefit of 4G smart feature phone adoption for operators is the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of more efficient technologies with much lower cost/bit metrics with users on 4G/5G networks than on 2G/3G networks. Further, operators have the potential to drive voice as well as data revenues and, in the process, increase the 4G ARPU. It will help operators achieve a return on 4G equipment and network rollouts. We estimate close to US$ 15 Billion in connectivity service revenues will be generated, cumulatively, between 2019 and 2021,” says Varun Mishra, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research.

This report is available for subscribing clients and for purchase on our research portal. Please feel free to reach out to us at press(at) for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press enquiries.


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in Technology products in the TMT industry. It services major technology firms and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analysis of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are experts in the industry with an average tenure of 13 years in high-tech industries.

Analyst Contacts:

Neil Shah
+91 993-021-8469

Tarun Pathak
+91 997-121-3665

Varun Mishra
+91 991-502-0142

Follow Counterpoint Research

Picture Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT): Flickr

KaiOS : Bridging The Digital Divide

Mobile devices have consumed the world. They’re the most successful consumer durable product of all time. Smartphones now get all the attention. In the current evolved state the two major smartphone platforms, iOS and Android) have revolutionized mobile devices by making them smarter through an abundance of  applications and services that satisfy almost any use-case. In the smartphone sector iOS and Android are a duopoly, with Android essentially the only option for anything non-Apple, albeit there are many ‘flavors’ of Android – especially in China.

Beyond smartphones, there are still around half a billion feature phones sold every year. These continue to serve the needs of the roughly two billion feature phones users globally. This is still a huge market catering to a diverse user base many of whom continue to buy and use feature phones in preference to smartphones. The reasons for adherence to feature phones are as diverse as the user base, but include

  • Preference for simplicity
  • Lighter, robust form-factors
  • Longer battery life
  • Lower cost

Some feature phone users also suffer from digital, economic or literacy divides and face barriers to adopt relatively expensive smartphones and data plans. Especially as low-cost smartphones tend to offer poor performance and poor quality.

This is a huge opportunity for the mobile industry, to help bridge the digital divide and enable these users to more fully participate in the digital economy, but on their terms.

A gap exists in terms of offering a solution that can form an ecosystem with different players contributing to bridge this divide.

This is where KaiOS Technologies comes into play with its web (HTML5) based – lightweight operating system with a user interface that can be optimized  for non-touch or feature phone form-factors.

KaiOS is already powering tens of millions of users. It has done this by striking the right partnerships with OEMs and operators across key markets.

KaiOS Key Ecosystem Partnerships so far


Download the complimentary report on KaiOS platform positioning, growth, opportunities, challenges and forecast can be downloaded at our research portal here:


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