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iPhone gaining popularity in Zimbabwe, can’t be ignored anymore

Samsung vs Apple, Samsung Zimbabwe, Econet Devices

The iPhone is a wildly popular smartphone. The iPhone has been the best selling flagship smartphone for years and is Apple’s chief revenue generating product. However, most of that success comes from their home country and a few other key markets. Here in Africa, they have not been nearly as successful. However, it seems Zimbabweans are warming up to it as we shall see.

No budget iPhone

The main reason for the low success is the lack of a true budget option in the iPhone line. Consider the latest, the iPhone 13 models, the cheapest option (the mini) launched at $700. That’s not a budget option by any stretch. 

When you consider that the iPhone 13 mini has a 5.4 inch display, it’s appeal vanishes. It’s not just Zimbabweans and Africans, the world over, people prefer phones with bigger screens. The iPhone mini line has not been selling well, accounting for only about 5% of iPhone sales. Earlier this year Apple had to reduce iPhone 12 mini production by 70% in response to low demand. 

So, for most people who want a cheaper iPhone, the wise thing to do is purchase previous years’ models. This makes sense as one can get a bigger screen, bigger battery iPhone for less than the mini would cost. This decision is helped by Apple’s stellar software support of its phones.  The iPhone 6s which came out in 2015 is rocking the latest iOS 15 released in 2021.

On the flip side, iPhones retain value far better than their Android counterparts. So, going for a 2 year old iPhone may not mean significant savings. Consider the 6 year old iPhone 6s Plus versus the months old Galaxy A02s and 3 year old S9.

iPhone 6s PlusGalaxy A02sGalaxy S9
Screen size5.5 inch 6.5 inch 5.8 inch
Battery size2750mAh 5000mAh 3000mAh
Price$178$170$174
Release year20152021R2018
Prices taken from Amazon

I’d argue that those metrics are the ones the average Zimbabwean would look at. Or that the Galaxy A02s has three as opposed to the one rear camera on the iPhone and S9. Never mind that the S9 and iPhone would probably take better pictures than the budget Galaxy. Or that the iPhone’s battery life is not as terrible as the spec would suggest. The specs in the table would lead most to pick either the Galaxy A02s or S9.

Familiarity with Android

Android is ubiquitous and almost everyone is familiar with it now. Our mothers can navigate through the OS with ease. I witnessed my mother fiddle with an iPhone once, it was entertainment for me and frustration for her. She couldn’t do some simple tasks on iOS that she can do in her sleep on Android. Is Android more user friendly? I’d argue yes despite the oft expressed opinion that iOS is better in that regard.

However, it’s all moot because most Zimbabweans are familiar with Android. They love their Galaxies and Itels because they know how to use them. Android faces the same problem in the U.S, where iOS has the edge. All this despite the fact the two OSes are more similar today than they have ever been.

iPhones making inroads in Zimbabwe

Despite all the above, the iPhone has its fans and it appears the gang is growing. According to GS Stat Counter’s research, iOS market share in Zimbabwe has been growing for the past 5 years. Back in 2016, iOS market share was about 2% and now in November 2021 that share has risen to just over 10%. In that same period, Android has also grown, going from 75% to just over 85%,

How can they both gain significant market share when they are the two most popular OSes? Well, in 2016 iOS trailed Windows, Nokia’s Series 40 and other OSes which have since disappeared off the face of the earth. Android and iOS shared the spoils from the carcasses with Android taking 10% and iOS, 8%.

That being said, it’s important to note that this data comes from analysing traffic to over 2 million websites. This means if a phone has a data bundle and visits a website, chances are that visit will be logged, taking note of the OS running on the phone. However, if the phone only gets a WhatsApp bundle, it won’t register in the data we are looking at.

I’d argue that almost all the iPhones in Zimbabwe are being used to access more than just WhatsApp. Whilst there are a number of Android phones that never access the world wide web at large. This means Android probably has a few more percentage points not captured here.

Those offline Androids are irrelevant though for local developers deciding on whether to release an iOS app along with an Android one. It appears for users that will potentially use the app, 10% have iPhones. I think iOS can no longer be ignored in Zimbabwe.

We do not have information on which phone models are the most popular. However, judging by what we see on the streets, most are the older iPhones. You’ll see many teenagers rocking the big chin, big forehead iPhone 6, 7 and 8. They keep these phones updated though. Over 2/3 of them are running last year’s iOS 14 or newer. As opposed to Android where only 7.34% are running last year’s Android 11 or newer.

In closing

Have you seen these iPhones too? The fascinating thing about the iPhone is that it’s a bit of a status symbol among the young and the immature. This is not unique to Zimbabwe, even in the US, the term ‘broke boy’ is used to refer to Android users. There are people whose identities are linked to the phone they use. It’s all rather silly but it is what it is.

The fascinating bit being that those who use the ‘broke boy’ phrase are often the ones using $50, 8 year old iPhones. Calling the $1800 Z Fold 3 user a broke boy in what is the peak of teenage silliness. Flagship phones from both sides cost the same and are too expensive for the majority.

The question on my mind is whether the many people I see using Android flagships like the S21 even consider the iPhone. After all, the cost would be the same. If not, is it because of familiarity with Android or ecosystem lock in? Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that in Zimbabwe at least, the Galaxies have their own status symbol credentials.

I ask this because like I said, Android and iOS are more similar than ever. For my next phone I’m going to seriously consider the iPhone. I especially love how they retain value over the years better than the competition. It appears they can be fun too these days, something they were not just a few years ago.


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48 thoughts on “iPhone gaining popularity in Zimbabwe, can’t be ignored anymore

    1. That’s the part I find fascinating. iOS is famous for being user friendly but many people I know who have tried both say Android is the user friendly one.

  1. The fascinating thing about the iPhone is that it’s a bit of a status symbol among the young and the immature. kkkkk. Most of the iPhones on the market have poor battery life and are refurbished

    1. Refurbished eh? iPhones have improved in battery life but yeah, the old ones had terrible battery life. Now why someone would purposefully use a refurbished iPhone 6 is beyond me, especially when they could have a much better Android phone for that money.

      1. Like you said status symbol they will look better holding an iPhone, just like someone would prefer to buy a used Benz Vs a new fortuner. 😂😂😂😂

        1. Hahahaha, I wouldn’t say ‘look better’ but sound/appear better because the illusion works when people don’t actually see the iPhone/car. It only works when it says ‘Twitter for iPhone’ and not when we actually see the cracked screen iPhone 5. ‘Oh, I drive a Benzo,’ works better than when we see the rundown 88 C Class with different coloured doors.

  2. This phrase rubbed off a bit, ‘it’s a bit of a status symbol among the young and the immature’…. Otherwise great Tech article relevant to the average Zimbo!!…. More & more young people have older iPhones compared to the the ‘old & mature’ with the bag

    1. So it’s a status thing for these young people. When they grow up/mature, make bank and no longer care about what people think, they get the Androids. Interesting.

  3. This phrase rubbed off a bit, ‘it’s a bit of a status symbol among the young and the immature’…. Otherwise great Tech article relevant to the average Zimbo!!…. More & more young people have older iPhones compared to the the ‘old & mature’ with the bag

  4. I tried iPhone…but I’m so used to Android interface…I just can’t move over…I’m sure if I give it time it will be good…but at the moment there’s nothing in particular I need on iPhone and I’m not locked to their ecosystem
    ….also battery plays a big part for me…I use my phone to broadcast WiFi
    ..and it’s real battery killer…my current phone Poco x3 give more than enough battery to last a full day coupled with quickcharge I haven’t been found wanting in a 6 months

    1. That’s the beauty of Android. If what you want is a battery champ, there are options that won’t decimate your pocket.
      The other part about being used to Android – I have an inkling that’s the same for most Zimbos. Most are just not willing to learn a new thing when what they have works just fine.

  5. 2012 i bought an iphone, i found it to be a useless overpriced piece of sh!t mobile device.back then i was still at umaa studying. I couldn’t download video tutorials on YouTube, all my Android frends just installed vidmate n they wer sorted.It had no file manager ,back then it was a limited phone didn’t have the freedom android has.i dont know about now but if its still like that andimbofe ndakatenga futi,kana nemari yacho yekutenga andina futi coz ipapo kwangakuri kuchengetwa nevabereki ryt now ndichisenza ndenga ndonotenga phone iri above 400 us kuti ndopenga here, inenge yanyanya kuswinya sei mari yacho😶nokia yangu iyoyo boe

    1. Crazy thing is that’s around the time I tried iPhone for the first time. I had the exact experience. I felt so limited, so I hated it and had moved back to Android after just a month. But now things have changed, there is a file manager, shareit works, you can download YouTube vids, you can customise the look (icons, widgets etc) You might want to give it a second look the next time you upgrade your phone. More options can’t hurt.

  6. 2012 i bought an iphone, i found it to be a useless overpriced piece of sh!t mobile device.back then i was still studying. I couldn’t download video tutorials on YouTube, all my Android frends just installed vidmate n they wer sorted.It had no file manager ,back then it was a limited phone didn’t have the freedom android has.i dont know about now but if its still like that andimbofe ndakatenga futi,kana nemari yacho yekutenga andina futi coz ipapo kwangakuri kuchengetwa nevabereki ryt now ndichisenza ndenga ndonotenga phone iri above 400 us kuti ndopenga here, inenge yanyanya kuswinya sei mari yacho😶nokia yangu iyoyo boe

  7. Let’s face it gentlemen,we are In Africa !,I know there are iPhone fanatics out there who don’t even know how to open an iCloud account on their own,they just want kunzi ane iPhone but in reality they would get better value from an android phone.There is DEFINITELY NO NEED for a debate about the user friendliness of iPhone VS Android especially here in Zimbabwe where less than 50 percent of iPhone owners own a functional PC, Bottom line,iPhone is great especially when you have a PC,reliable Internet connection & when it’s a newer version with decent battery life NOT those cheap refurbished iPhones making rounds.

    1. So maybe we just don’t get what value means. For us, great value is a good user experience for a reasonable price but maybe for these old iPhone users the value is in the ‘perceived’ status that comes from being able to say ‘I use an iPhone. Can we say they are not getting value when they get the status they want in their immature circles?

  8. iPhone is like a Mercedes Benz everyone would be like sha that car guzzles fuel, u wont service blah blah, like iPhone , data guzzler, no shareit, no file manager wat wat , bt after all that we still love it
    Am using a Samsung note edge bt i still use an iphone 5s for all my multimedia

      1. Yep. iPhone really has come around on some of the stuff that used to suck. So maybe we don’t talk about them enough for people to know some of these things are now possible on iOS. Even third party keyboards are a thing (though a bit limited) after all.

  9. If you are a pro Android user like me who knows about

    Phone Rooting

    Custom OS

    And i am a mobile gamer who wants easy things my friend

    Lucky patcher

    Custom skins

    modded apps per say

    You will never buy an iOS device

    I recently throw away my Huawei Mate 10 just because it wasn’t rootable because Huawei locked all the Huawei Devices in 2018 from being rooted freely and went on to buy a Samsung Midrange device

    So in other words Android is vast

    There are
    low end range devices (itel devices)

    mid range devices (Samsung’s A 20 bla bla bla) the list is endless in the midrange

    High range devices (S21 Ultra, Sony Ericsson’s
    Xperia Pro I going for more that $2 000 so if you want more from Android go for the specs Apple is not improving

    Xperia pro I is more better than any iOS device go google this musatange mataura zvisina basa

    iOS mu bin ndeye vanhu vasina fungwa dzemberi

    1. 💯 on Android. Custom OS is my favorite. iPhone is overrated. Kudyiwa data in the background I had to stop using my iPad especially with these unwarranted tarrifs.

    2. I’ve played around with Android like you. Started rooting before TWRP was the king, back when cyanogenmod was the goat. It’s hard to appreciate iOS when you’ve been in that world. However, are you not selling iOS short? Cause you can jailbreak that iPhone (yes, it’s a bit harder than rooting Android but ain’t that kind of challenge part of the fun). Even without jailbreaking, iOS is becoming more like Android in terms of customisation, usability, etc (think widgets, custom icons, gesture nav, file managers, third party keyboards, choice in default apps etc)
      Think about it. iOS is not what it was back then.

  10. There is merit in buying the old iPhone. A cheap android simply won’t run the best android games and apps well – they will be reserved for midrangers and flagships. An iPhone model that’s still getting updates will run all apps on the app store at a good performance level. Cameras also play a part – pictures on an iPhone 6s are still gonna be miles apart from a new Galaxy A11 or something. Accessories are also another factor – they are just so readily available for an older iPhone – especially screen guard and covers – you are spoilt for choice. I also think some people, particularly those young immatures just enjoy not having to share a charger at home where everybody else is on android or mbudzi. The advent of ZOL and Telone blaze I think also contributed a small part in the iPhone upsurge coz they are guaranteed to support those lines without any guesswork. With the continuing decline of Huawei I can see iPhones gaining even more market share.

    1. I just bought the ZTE Mifi for my Zol line and then after i bought my Samsung i discovered that the line is supported in my mid range device which was cool

      Android is Android

      If i buy it today i decide to continue to use what those guys at factory plant decided best for the device

      Or i just do wat i want with it because there is no use in continuing to be entitled to Apple after i take my money and buy their device i want to be free this is for advanced users only

      Rooting i think was covered on this platform here some years back if not cover it please so that these guys knows that they are still babies in Device usage

      iOS in terms of specs is lagging behind Android

      I think what is best on iOS is their privacy chete

      Zvimwe zvese hapana

      Techzim please cover the Topic of rooting if you haven’t

      So that people know that iOS is like a jail rekuty you are not allowed to push your device to the limits

      1. I know that jailbreaking is a bit harder than rooting but let’s remember you can ‘root’ an iPhone and push it to the limits too.

        I’d be curious to find out how big the rooting community is now. Worldwide I know that it has shrunk as more of the features we were rooting to get are now in the stock android flavour. Personally, I have a rooted phone, running a custom rom but it’s not my daily driver. The daily is not rooted and only when it gets its final software update will I consider rooting it just so I can install the latest android then.

        iPhones are nolonger lacking in specs though. They have the fastest processor on the market by a huge margin, use the same high end cameras as the rest, use Samsung/LG display etc. In terms of software, they have come a long way, the two OSes are similar these days.

    2. Huawei declining??? Wow!!! Did you buy a refurbished Huawei? Taurai zvinhu zvenyu bcos on the contrary Honour is the most improved flagship we’ve seen on the market in a bit

    3. I agree with your comment about the merit in those old iPhones. The terrible battery life is the biggest drawback which can be countered by adopting the powerbank lifestyle. With that sorted, I agree that one gets better performance/experience than the low end Androids.

      But when you consider that the three year old Android flagships (like the S9) can be had for about the price as those 6 year old iPhones you realise it’s the status thing which sways their decisions. Cause the S9 outperforms the iPhone 6 in almost every way – camera, battery, speed etc and can play the demanding games like PUBG etc. The iPhone 6 however runs better/newer software.

      As regards accessories, in Zimbabwe it’s actually Samsung that has the edge. You are spoilt for choice when shopping for Galaxy accessories.

      Not having to share chargers is rather sweet, let’s be honest. Who wants the ‘come on, yours is at 33%, mine is at 6%, let me have the charger’ arguments? I loved that when I moved to USB-C but now it’s all USB-C in the Android world.

      As regards the ZOL and Blaze lines, I guess that’s a point. However most big name brands’ budget phones do support the 40 band. Maybe with the Itels and Tecnos it’s more hit or miss. But it remains that the 3 year old S9 supports the 40 band but they choose the 6 year old iPhone.

      I disagree on the Huawei point. Knowing Huawei users, those are the last people that would switch to iPhone.

    1. Not a big problem anymore. Besides, the slowing down was on the much much older iPhones. It’s commendable that they are still getting the latest updates unlike the Androids which were long abandoned. The iPhone 6 came out in the same year as the Galaxy S6. The iPhone is running the latest iOS 15.1, the Galaxy’s life ended at 8.0 Oreo in 2017. Wouldn’t you rather have the option to update the S6 to Android 12 with the risk that it would slow down a bit?

  11. They are nice gadgets, but the ‘apple ecosystem’ almost renders recent iPhones incomplete when used in isolation. Many quality of life features end up unused. You just have to dip more than a toe to get the full effect! Still, they have great OS support, and as long as their self repair program doesn’t reach the level of requiring a blood sacrifice, they’ll have ok hardware support too.

  12. Most people are using iphone6 of which it will be a refurb and have a bad battery life. As for the iOS as for me its one of the simplest OS to use but to me its boring cos i love to play around with my phone and as the owner i love to make it my own.
    I think the article should read that iphone 6 is the most cheap and mostly used by youths that want to just say LOOK MUM I FINALLY HAVE AN IPHONE.

  13. 2 months ago, I bought an iPhone XR, its beautiful & i love it. Prior, i had a Redmi Note 5 pro, i still have the Redmi note 5, but yangova ye torch light. For those who say iOs is complicated, YOU LIE!!! Plus issue is about affordability, i once used to say iphone is complicated cz i had never owned 1, vakamboshandisa iphone know that angori ma statement anotaurwa wth sm1 who cAnt afford to buy one and i was once like that ndichit i will never buy an iPhone, nowadays if my friends ask kut waiti hautenge iphone wani I simply tell them an honest answer yekut i cudnt afford thats y i said inonetsa kushandisa even if ndandisina kumboishandisa.

    1. It’s not an affordability thing. The money people are spending on their Androids is enough to buy the refurbished iPhones that are popular. You can get an old iPhone for the same price as an Itel.

      In terms of people bashing iOS without ever using it, I agree that there are some who do that. iOS is complicated for people though, especially if they are used to how Android operates. One of the things that confuses people the most is that they are used to having an app’s settings in the app itself, not in the main settings. It’s more of a familiarity thing cause if they give it time they will get used to the Apple way. However, Apple’s way in this case is not the intuitive thing hence why people call it complicated. There are more examples – iOS imposes some limitations that leave people frustrated.

      Sounds like you were one of the immature ones back then. You’re grown now. Why did you say iPhone was complicated without having used one? You were young, it happens. I wonder though if you use the iPhone because you think it costs more than the Androids cause it sounds like you do. Did you not know you can get an iPhone on the cheap?

  14. Shem, I’ve used some version of The iPhone for the last 5 years… I will admit, ndakatanga because of the immature mindset cause before I had a good Galaxy device, which was really good.

    Last year I bought a Tecno Spark 5 Air, frankly I didn’t have good money . Last week, I went out and upgraded to a Tecno Pova 2. Not because I didn’t have money but maaaan do I now realize the world of androids is amazing… This Pova 2 is just witchcraft in a cover… I swear any iPhone user who subscribed to the clout mindset is just missing out…

    Pova 2 yangu ndakaitengera good Earbuds, Smart watch and some wired headphones, the whole package was barely $400, change yacho ndikatenga a refab iPhone 6s which I’m still waiting for.

    I’m a functional man, I only need my refab for App development otherwise in now back to Android for life… Androids are functional and cost less… iPhones have more clout but frankly, there’s nothing special about them… Rangu ziTecno riri (Very Smooth), smoother than most iPhones paStreet apa.

    MaZimbabweans, kana musina Mari dzakakwana, just get an Android kwete kudyiwa naTim.

    1. Pova 2 huh, that’s the big daddy with a 7000mAh battery. That’s a power bank my guy. The value for money you get in the midrange Androids is out of this world. Apa let’s be honest, processors have become so good that the difference between the midrange and flagship processors is not visible in practice for the most part.

      There comes a time when one matures and no longer cares about clout but only cares about getting exactly what they need at a reasonable price. It seems when people mature they no longer see the overpriced iPhones as a good buy. Not to say they are bad but they are a bit limited and yet overpriced. Interesting.

  15. I can just say for USD700 you can buy a 40inch LED TV, a bed and even a 4-plate stove. Using the laws of logic, it becomes irrational to purchase an ornament whose ROI is questionable. Live within your means people. Stop trying to impress people you don’t know with money you don’t have.

    1. I think this kind of pragmatic, practical, logical thinking only comes with maturity. Unfortunately some just grow up and never mature. They would gladly pass by the TV cause not many would even know they had the TV even if they shared about it on em socials. The clout trap is a real and some are caught there. If the young teenager with the ornament meets a female teenager who is impressed by the ornament and some relationship starts, the kid will tell you the ornament is better than the stove.

    2. I will buy a $1800 phone any day, not to impress anyone, but because I’m an enthusiast like that, I just love the gadgets. Just like one would buy a BMW, Benz or Toyota. You can’t be always buying beds & TVs each time you have money. It’s not living outside means.

  16. Personally, I dont consider iphone when looking for a phone to buy. I find it being very inconvenient for me. E g I would need to have iTunes to transfer files between my PC and iPhone. Whilst for Android its just plug and go to file explorer boom! This is just one example

  17. “When we created an Apple Phone the iPhone, we wanted to something with a human intuitive that possibly anyone could use and feel the experience, we had another thoughts on the keyboard that you just have to access it the moment you want to use it not have it always minimizing your screen using time. An Apple device is the best device you can ever use..

  18. How about a phone with a good app ecosystem &reliable updates,ios chips are optimised & years ahead of any android devices.I’m sure all the tech nerds on this forum won’t bore with any benchmarks

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