Chinese television, refrigeration and smartphone manufacturer Hisense is making strong headway in the entry-level and midrange smartphone segments in South Africa, and is eyeing at least 10% market share, in volume terms, by the end of the year.
That’s according to Liam Faurie, head of mobile product planning and marketing at Hisense South Africa. He was speaking to TechCentral at the launch of the company’s Infinity H30 and H30 Lite models on Tuesday.
Hisense entered the mobile phone market in South Africa in 2015. That year, it sold 307 000 devices. This increased to 1.8 million in 2018, Faurie said, by appealing to the value segment — feature phones and affordable smartphones.
“Everyone knows Hisense for providing TVs and fridges. Not many people know the company as a mobile brand,” he said, adding that Hisense is the number one TV brand in South Africa from a volume perspective and is also first in refrigeration.
Last year, Hisense opened a factory in Atlantis, Cape Town, which produces more than 800 000 TVs and fridges annually for South Africa and neighbouring countries. The 50 000m² facility created about 600 direct jobs.
Hisense has achieved success in the lower end of the phone market, where it’s the largest-selling prepaid brand through MTN and second through Vodacom, according to Faurie.
But the company is increasingly pushing into higher-value segments of the smartphone market. The new Infinity H30 includes many of the specifications of R15 000 phones two years ago but will retail for just R5 700 (the Lite version is R3 000).
The H30’s main selling points are its 6.5-inch full-HD+ display and large 4 530mAh battery. It has a MediaTek Helio P70 octa-core processor paired with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and runs Android 9 Pie.
In 2017, Hisense launched the Infinity H11, which Faurie described as the company’s “breakthrough device with a borderless display”. It followed that up in 2018 with the H12, which, he said, enjoyed 200% sales growth on the H11. “We put H30 into the market at start of June and we are already 300% up on where the H12 was last year.”
As the competitive environment in the midrange segment intensifies, Hisense has said it will also offer a free screen replacement for first 12 months for both the H30 and the H30 Lite.
The company won’t yet launch its global flagship, the U30, which has a (Samsung-made) 48-megapixel camera, in South Africa. Faurie said the country “isn’t quite ready” for it. “Next year we’ll see — we need to get the H30 going before launching a more expensive product.”
Hisense, which is headquartered in Qingdao, China, has a deliberate focus on emerging markets. Its expansion into Southern Africa is spearheaded by its South African office.
Asked for his views on the US decision to prohibit the supply of key components and software to bigger Chinese rival Huawei, Faurie said the company hasn’t been affected. But he added: “Nothing good will come from this. It’s not good for the industry.” — © 2019 NewsCentral Media