The smartphone market is saturated causing confusion over which model is the best to purchase. Phones look the same and have similar hardware, so what do you factor into your buying decisions? Some would argue it’s all down to the software, some put a camera as a top priority and others want the widest selection of apps. Of course, battery life is also crucial, and if you live in South Africa, price is typically the first factor above everything else.

Shaun Durant, GM for HMD Global Southern Africa

I chatted to Shaun Durant, GM for HMD Global Southern Africa; the company who has been bringing us vanilla Android Nokia phones for the last few years – and no doubt making the uber geek happy. His advice is practical and not geared towards buying Nokia phones only, but rather any smartphone today. 

How has the decision to buy a smartphone changed over the years?

As higher end phone prices keep rising, consumers are less concerned about getting the latest in this range and are taking a more critical look at the functionality they personally need in their devices – really focussing on value buying in the lower to mid-range space.

In addition, people are also using their devices for longer. Where a bi-annual upgrade was the norm a couple of years ago, we’re seeing device lifespans being extended. And I believe this will be even more true in the short to medium term, as conscience spending will overtake the consumerism culture in favour of preserving income.

That is also why we’ve seen a positive trend in the feature phone space – consumers are still looking for basic features, that keep them connected. Being able to make and receive calls and SMS’s still ring very true with a significant part of our market and with a Nokia 105 for example, it delivers almost 15 hours talk time and almost 26 days standby time on a single charge. This is supported by a quality hardware build synonymous with Nokia.

What are the top factors to consider when choosing a phone?

It’s no longer just about the out-of-box device specs, but more about how the user experience evolves over its lifetime with updates, upgrades and new experiences.

Certainly, consider the out-of-box device specs and link this to what you need. Key among these are battery life, screen size and processing power, because simply put – your device only delivers if it is up and running and enables an efficient user experience in daily consumption.

This is followed closely by its operating system version, and operating system upgrade frequency. This element speaks volumes with longer device lifecycles. Regular operating system upgrades ensure your phone keeps getting better over time – in terms of overall performance and battery health management. With Nokia Smartphones, it just keeps getting better.

A critical consideration is a device’s propensity and promise around security upgrades – this cannot be stressed enough. Cybersecurity is the glue that holds the many different components of the digital age together. And with news of breaches becoming more commonplace and cybercriminals becoming more sophisticated and brazen, it has become even more important to make device security a top priority.

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With these basics in place, the way you use your device becomes an important consideration to guide additional decisions.

For instance; if you are a heavy user of apps and games, prioritise storage capacity – consider investing in a phone with over 4GB of RAM allowing you to run more applications at the same time – while devices with at least 2GB of RAM is enough for everyday usage.

If you use your device to stream short form videos, or even full-length feature films, other factors such as processing speed, or even screen size will be determining factors – which is why we’re seeing a shift towards larger screens with higher resolutions. Similarly, if you largely use your device to capture real time action for your friends and followers, the camera quality will also be a top priority.

How important is price to the South African market?

With the majority of South Africans feeling the effects of economic uncertainty and looking for ways to tighten belts, getting value for money will remain a top priority in 2020 and beyond – regardless of whether they choose a smartphone or feature phone.

Consumers are looking for a high-quality experience at an affordable price, ensuring that all their needs are met without breaking the bank.

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Do you think security updates should be taken seriously?

Absolutely. And it should be an ongoing consideration. Cyber criminals are dynamic and ever evolving, which is why security measures need to remain front and centre.

Although people are starting to think more cognitively about security on their devices, it is critical to continue the education process and to encourage them to adopt a zero-trust approach and take the appropriate and necessary precautions to reduce their risk of exposure.

Device manufacturers also need to play their part. At HMD Global, we realise this and are constantly working on ways to help customers stay up to date with security. This includes message driven campaigns and competitions centred on running the latest software patches on our devices.

That is why Nokia phones lead in the regularity of software and security updates among the top Android smartphone brands, with 94% of our portfolio updated to the latest Android version within a year of its release.

What about the selection and availability of apps?

This is subjective and depends on who you speak to.

But because the need and demand is so varied, I personally believe in maximum flexibility – if you want apps to run your day from taking a mindful moment before your first coffee, to tracking your daily activities and efficiencies, or helping you unwind before bed – you need to be able to custom make that experience for yourself. The array of Android Apps available in the App Store are there for all to see and leverage.

With this in mind, a massive benefit we offer on all our smart devices is the delivery of a ‘pure Android’ experience, the way Google intended – no bloatware, skins, UI changes or unnecessary apps are pre-loaded on our devices. This not only maximises storage potential out of the box, but allows our consumers the freedom to enjoy all the latest Android innovations and only install 3rd party Apps that they want and need.

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Why is it inadvisable to buy “grey” goods/imports?

There are two significant reasons. The first is an aftersales/care support one. Buying our devices through approved and established channels in country allow for a seamless aftersales service experience with approved care facilities and partners in country.

The second speaks to the operator technical specifications which are approved as such in the software build released. This triggers timing, frequency and relevance of all software updates. In addition to this, service settings such as VoLTE are specific to local operator requirements.

Thank you for your time and insights, Shaun.