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By Arthur Goldstuck


Tecno smartphones to shake up SA market

It’s a major African smartphone brand and now it has arrived in SA in hopes of shaking up the market.

It is a household name in Nigeria and competes with the biggest brands in the world in Kenya, yet Tecno is literally and figuratively foreign to South Africa.

That is about to change, with the first launch of a Tecno handset here. Transsion, the Chinese company that manufactures Tecno, made its formal move into SA on 5 March.

It announced three handsets, led by the Tecno Camon 12. The smartphone is likely to put the brand on the SA map, especially given the price tag for a high-specification handset.

For less than R3,000 upfront, it offers a triple-camera on the front, comprising a 16MP auto-focus, 8MP wide-angle and 2MP depth-sensing lens, and a 16MP selfie camera with an f/1.8 aperture, meaning its great for low-light conditions. The front and rear cameras shoot video in high definition (1080p) at 30 frames per second.

The triple camera uses artificial intelligence (AI) for scene detection, as well as AI HDR, for optimising common shooting scenarios. The secondary lens offers both 120° super wide-angle shots and 2cm extreme macro photography.


A 4000mAh battery promises at least a full day of typical use, but probably more. Storage comes in at 64GB and RAM at 4GB RAM, meaning smoother performance and more capability for simultaneous activity and fast gameplay.

It looks good, with a colour gradient on the back shifting from gold to sky blue. Curved edges and a glossy finish mean it is smooth and comfortable to hold.

Ultimately, the phone represents the dramatic shift of high-end features to low-end phones. It means that the low-end – phones costing less than R3,000 – now look like phones that previously were firmly in the upper reaches of the mid-range, or phones costing up to R10,000.

This has two implications for the near future: features typical of the mid-range will soon reach the entry-level of phones costing less than R800. Features currently found in high-end flagship phones are steadily making their way to the low end.

Tecno Camon 12 Pro.

For the average user, after using a handset like the Camon 12, it will be difficult to justify buying a phone that costs more than five times the price.

Jasper Zhan, marketing head of Transsion in South Africa, says that’s precisely the intention: “As Tecno Mobile, bridging the digital divide has always been at the core of our business.

“We believe in delivering devices that allow our consumers to enjoy the benefits of a smartphone without compromising on quality, connectivity, access to the internet or breaking the bank.

“Affordability for our consumers is key for us to ensure that the African market has access to smartphones. As a mobile phone manufacturer, we have ensured that the African market enjoys affordable premium smartphones.”

One-time Huawei marketing head Yudi Rambaran, now head of sales for Transsion in South Africa, says the company has sold over 124 million mobile phones globally, growing strongly since it shifted its market entirely to Africa in 2008.

“It only makes sense for South Africa as the most progressive country in Africa to also enjoy the same benefits as the rest of the continent,” he says. “We have had several requests from the South African mass market for access to our smartphones.”

Transsion’s research and development centres are located in Shanghai and Shenzhen in China, but the company also works closely with local research and development teams in Nigeria and Kenya. It has manufacturing facilities across the world, including in Ethiopia.

South Africa will discover Transsion initially through the Camon 12, Camon 12 Pro, and Camon 12 Air. Each has a slightly different emphasis, with the R2,499-priced Air having a marginally bigger screen but less storage and RAM, and the Pro at R3,999 offering more RAM but a single 32MP selfie-camera.

The comparably priced phones from rivals Samsung and Huawei offer considerably lower specifications. So, if consumers get past their loyalty or even love for specific brands, Tecno will make major inroads in SA.

Tecno Camon 12 Air.

Transsion’s trio of brands

Transsion is the manufacturer behind three brands that find their primary markets in Africa. These are:

• Tecno, its premium smartphone brand, “giving the masses access to latest technology at accessible prices, allowing the consumers to reach beyond their current limitations”.

• Itel, an entry-level and reliable mobile phone brand for everyone, with a mission “to provide budget-friendly mobile communications technology to everyone. It democratises technology by giving entry to technology and connectedness to consumers without prior access to it, allowing them to get closer and benefit from their social connections.”

Its range includes smartphones, tablets, and feature phones.

• Infinix targets young users, as “a premium, online-driven smartphone brand”, committed to “providing the most cutting-edge technologies, bold and stylish designs, keeping consumers on trend and up-to-date”.

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