Switching on to a new level of mobility

Deon_Liebenberg__regional_director_Sub_Sahara_Africa_for_Research_In_Motion__South_Africa.jpgConsumers around the world are adopting smartphones in their droves as they seek to achieve the optimal work / life balance and make the most of every minute of the day.

According to Gartner, the popularity of the smartphone is such that global sales already exceed those of laptops. By some predictions, there will be more than 300 million smartphones in circulation in 2011.

This is the picture painted by Deon Liebenberg, regional director Sub-Sahara Africa for Research In Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry® solution. He believes that technology consumers have caught on to the fundamental benefits of smartphones because it allows them to make the most of their time.

Today those using a smartphone have the ability to access and regulate, manage and control any aspect of their professional and personal lives at the touch of a button in a single, affordable device, says Liebenberg. In the past, a consumer would’ve needed to carry a notebook, digital camera, cellphone, and portable media player to do everything they can do with a smartphone today.

Recent research from IDC positions RIM, with the BlackBerry platform, as the sixth largest mobile phone manufacturer worldwide. It has partnered with three hundred and seventy five carriers in one hundred and forty countries throughout the world. It is now aggressively growing its coverage of the African continent.

African mobile subscribers are adopting smartphones as eagerly as their counterparts in other parts of the world. Nigeria, for example, is a booming market for high end mobile solutions, bolstered by the launch of a MTN pre-paid offering adds Liebenberg. Cameroon is the latest area ticked off by BlackBerry on its list of successful engagements.

“We have launched in over fifteen countries across the continent – we have physically formed a partnership with local carriers and gone to market in each of these territories. We are using South Africa as the hub, for our expansion plans into Sub Sahara Africa. In terms of emerging market development, this continent represents one of the largest opportunities,” adds Liebenberg.

One of the reasons the company’s strategy to penetrate Africa has been so successful is because of the careful identification of its target market. BlackBerry is adjusting its model to the starkly different market dynamics in developing markets, and pursuing a broader base of consumers with its offerings.

“In parts of Africa, people are experiencing the Internet for the first time ever via smartphones. These are huge markets that are thriving on the concept of smartphone technology. In South Africa there are in the region of forty million plus users of mobile phones but less than ten percent of the population has access to the Internet,” Liebenberg continues.

Compared to notebooks and desktops, the smartphone offers lower barriers to entry in terms of cost and computer literacy. It also offers true mobile connectivity.

“Not everyone has access to the Internet, but almost everyone has access to a mobile phone. Even though literacy is an issue, people know how to make phone calls, which makes it easier to learn how to access the Web and email on a smartphone,” Liebenberg says.

“Affordability is also a major challenge, but we believe that the value is there for the user. We ask ‘what would you pay for unlimited Internet access, unlimited email and on-device browsing? The next natural transition is the introduction of flat rates for services,” he says. “BlackBerry offers this today.”

“Mobility is in the palm of your hand. It allows you to take those couple of minutes of downtime during the day that we all have every single day, and convert it into productive time. And here’s the punch line – so that you can have more time to do what you want to do,” he concludes.

Chris Tredger for ITNewsAfrica.com