We may think that all of the phones in the market are smartphones. But the phone import data shows there is still a significant market for the feature phones here in Nepal. As per the tentative data, feature phones or bar phones accounts for half of the total phone import in Nepal.
According to last year, smartphone penetration in Nepal is around 50 percent. You can read in details about Smartphone penetration. The 2018 import of the phone data also shows around 50 percent of those imported phone to sell in the Nepal market is Feature phone.
Feature phone and functionalities
For most of the tech enthusiasts, it is easy to identify which one is a feature phone or smartphone. There are people who couldn’t find what defines a feature phone. Well, the feature phone is a handset or cellphone that has basic functionalities like call, message, FM radio, media player, low-resolution camera but lacks the advanced features that of the smartphone. Some of the feature phones also have internet browsing capability but still, have limited capability. The feature phone also does not have the ability to install different applications.
As known, the Feature phone is preferred by people who only use the phone for the regular Call and SMS. For some, it is also a matter of affordability as the feature phones do not cost much. Others use feature phone due to their long-lasting battery for 3 days up to a week. As a matter of fact, key features like easy & powerful torchlight and FM radio are mostly used in the feature phone. It is also most likely that the feature phones available here have 2G network support only.
Some people also believe that feature phones have good mobile signal reception than that of a Smartphone. It is also believed that feature phones will catch the mobile signal in remote areas where the signal strength level is quite low.
Some people prefer Feature phones or bar phones due to their affordability, easy usage and long lasting battery.
A feature phone generally costs around 1 thousand rupees to 2 thousand rupees, based on different brands and battery size.
Feature phones have a good reception of mobile signal and best for rural areas??
Feature phone Declining rate
Compare to that of 2017, the demand for feature phone has been reduced and the equal increase in demand for the smartphone. In 2017, around 60 percent of the phones imported were feature phones which declined to 50% in 2018. But the rate of decline for feature phone or demand increment rate for smartphone is still quite less compared to that of other developed countries.
We have found the feature phone penetration declines by 10 percentage points each year. So, we can predict the feature phones in the market will be 40% in 2019, which is still significant. Here we have assumed that the import of phone equals to that of demand in the market.
The Good and the bad impact
Feature phone having a significant market in Nepal has both good and bad impact. It is good for those who import, sell such feature phones and earn out of it. So their demand assures the market. But it is bad for the telecom operators who are investing hugely for the data networks (3G, 4G). The revenue out of such feature phone users is still low considering the data usage that is left behind.
Year of 4G
As we are saying 2019 will be the year of 4G for Nepal, it seems this feature phone import is a big hurdle to catch up the network. Although the operators have invested a huge sum for the 4G network availability in whole of the country, people having such handsets will not be able to use the 4G network.
Jio, a 4G only operator also had the same challenge to bring the hugely invested 4G network to the non-smartphone users. For this, Jio itself brought a feature phone with 4G voice call through VoLTE. They also integrated some of the popular apps in the phone so as to provide better services.
The same model of feature phone may also work for Nepal as 4G will reach to all parts of the country. So they need to bring in those nonsmartphone users to the 4G network using such phones. Another fact is the huge investment in 4G will provide better quality/coverage in voice and data with 4G than 3G or 2G.