This Local Company Is Making A Smart-Featurphone: A “Mbudzi” With WhatsApp!

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A few weeks ago we wrote about Ixar Mobile. At the time we looked at the company’s presence in a very different field from what will look at today – a cellphone repair academy.

Yes, that same Ixar which offers cellphone repairs now offers a smart feature phone – the Pace X which has Kai OS. The nerds amongst you already know what Kai OS is but for the uninitiated Kai OS is a Linux based operating system that “brings the best of smartphones to affordable devices”. At least that’s what the developers claim.

Long story short, what this means is that phones that we commonly refer to as Kambudzi (basic phone) can run WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter if it has Kai OS.

Ixar is offering one such device – the Pace X and for US$35 you get a phone that supports all the apps listed above & more (Google Assistant & Google Maps), has WiFi support and is 3G enabled.

The 0.3MP camera will obviously be forgettable – but you don’t buy a $35 dollar phone for the camera

Founder of Ixar Mobile, Tinofara Mutovongi explained that their target was to sell a device that Zimbabweans can actually afford:

If we convert the salaries of many people in this country, they don’t earn US$90 or above (around the average price of a brand new smartphone). What we’re doing is providing the most affordable alternative to such a device – why spend such a fortune when you can get the same applications and same experience on a cheaper device?

Tinofara Mutovongi

Without having tested the Pace X just as yet – it’s hard to say for sure whether or not these applications will perform similarly to smartphones. Ultimately though, Tinofara makes a valid point and Kai OS’s growing popularity in price-sensitive markets does seem to indicate that there is an appetite for such a device.

When you consider that people looking for a basic phone are already paying in the region of US$20-US$40 for basic feature-phones, one that has WhatsApp in the same price range is definitely more appealing.

Is Ixar manufacturing the phones?

Simply put no. They design the phones – decide what the phone will look like, the specs and functionality of the device and then the device is manufactured in China by a partner.

Ixar’s founder explained that they took this path because manufacturing costs associated with making the devices locally are something they simply can’t afford right now.

Buying the device

Ixar Mobile’s Pace X pre-order page has already gone up and if you pre-order the device it will start shipping around 15 July. Of course, if you’re hesitant to pre-order you can just wait until the device is on sale and your US$35 will get you one unit with colour options including red, blue, white and black.

Update: Ixar Mobile has mentioned that they will no longer be taking pre-orders for the Pace X.

Once the device is out and if the budget-permits we will get our hands on the Pace X and do a full-review.


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  1. wokenman

    Very nice but pakuzoda kubata mari dzevanhu for two full months FOR THIS? Ayewa hatitambe tichidaro. Appliance Expert is already selling the Tecno 901 – basically same spec, same Kai OS mbudzi running WhatsApp but with a bigger battery – 1900mAh vs 1400mAh for the ixar. Saka yah – if you are in the market for this, just get the Tecno NOW and also benefit bigger battery because by July tinenge tava pa load shedding futi!

  2. tops

    you seem like you actually work for them, why would we support our own Zimbabwean company also doing a great thing, topedza.mari tichingopa ma china ndosaka tisingabudirire

    1. wokenman

      Did you read the article? The device is NOT made in Zim saka this is just like Gtel basically… and Appliance Expert IS a Zimbabwean company: plus two months pre-order for such a simple device means they obviously fundraising to pay the manufactures, there is no R&D being done here, but if the pre-orders are not enough mark my words hapana chinobuda, munenge mava kungomirira kudzoserwa mari dzenyu, probably after another month! Nyura zvako kana uchida and at least you will feel good that you “supported” or whatever, but I’m just telling people that there is an option available – information is power. Why wait two months, wakabatirwa mari, for a slightly inferior option when something is available on the ground today? Can’t condone that level of stupidity in the name of “support” when all the money is still going straight to China anyway. Go to the Kai OS website yourself and see – this device is not unique, it’s not special – it’s a generic product so there is no need to get all excited.

  3. Dee

    Kia OS devices should cost 20usd max Itel already sells low end android 7 smartphones for 35usd. What was the purpose of this article anyway ?

    1. wokenman

      Saw a Harare Itel/Tecno/Infinix dealer selling that Tecno T901 for $25USD when I searched on Facebook yesterday. That’s $10 less than Appliance Expert. Bhola Hardware and First Pack also advertise the T901 at $35. Given that this guy is asking for money two months in advance, he needs to sweeten the deal – it should absolutely be $20. I would drop some features to make it cheaper – rasa charger, headphones, even forego the box and use that type packaging with the moulded clear plastic case and card back: like for flash disks and MicroSD cards. Just supply a phone and a cable – that’s enough.

  4. Byo deals

    Its 20usd when buying straight from the Kia Os and when buying in large large amounts of Phones.
    So 35us in Zim its really Cheap.

    And i believe he is helping a lot. For an individual to ship for him/herself its really a lot of work and Amounts

  5. Anonymous

    Itel A11 and A14 are better options for that amount.You will be buying Android based tried and tested phones.I think the price must be around $20-$25

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