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TECNO enters America with a bang, the pessimist in me worries about them dumping Africa in the future

Our beloved TECNO held its first ever global product launch in the US, where they unveiled the new Camon 19 to the world. They were high up on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller when they pulled the curtain on the latest TECNO smartphone which opens a new chapter for the company.

The Camon 19 comes in four flavours, the Camon 19, Camon 19 Neo, Camon 19 Pro and Camon 19 Pro 5G. Four versions of the same phone? 

That’s what the whole industry is doing and I kind of like it. Instead of a one size fits all approach, phone manufacturers now employ a goldilocks strategy. They play around with internal components and are therefore able to release phones with wildly different components at different price points but tied together by a similar design. 

The Camon 19s pack Mediatek processors and are not too far from what we would expect from TECNO. They are solid budget and mid range smartphones and I think they will be affordable too. We don’t have pricing information at the moment.

Why should we be excited about the Camon 19 then? 

Fancy new camera sensors

The Camon 19 will be the first phone with Samsung’s ISOCELL RGBW colour filter sensor. Most of us know about RGB (red-green-blue) and how those three colours are used to create all other colours. RGBW adds white subpixels (a colour filter array) which should help this sensor capture more light, leading to brighter and clearer images.

This is then coupled with TECNO’s G+P (Glass + Plastic) lens which would have led to improved light intake even without the new RGBW sensor.

Fancy design

This time around Camon went for the premium look à la Galaxy Z Flip 3. The Camon 19 Pro 5G actually resembles the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which in turn resembles the Pixel 2.

Left: TECNO Camon 19 Pro 5G Right: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

The Camon 19 series is beautiful and has the fancy colours to top it off. The Camon 19 Pro with a gradient blue looks sick. 

However, I have concerns about this ‘fashion-forward’ design which they say won some design awards.

TECNO goes global

We covered how TECNO and its sister brands Itel and Infinix took over Africa. We praised them for figuring out what Africans needed and delivering on that and nothing more. A TECNO phone will give you a decent core experience without the fluff for a reasonable price.

That kind of phone works in all other developing markets and we saw TECNO and sisters enter the Asian market unchanged. But now as they try to conquer the first world we see the shift. Now we are talking about award winning designs and fancy product launches. Two things that are low on an African’s priorities but may be necessary to make a splash in America.

TECNO is taking a big step forward in internationalisation and premiumisation by integrating fashion with innovative technology.

That quote says it all. I don’t begrudge TECNO for trying to take on the lucrative America market. I think the budget and midrange is there for the taking right now. When LG died and Samsung focused on foldables, Motorola snapped up the midrange for itself and is now the third best seller there after Apple and Samsung.

Not to crap on Motorola but I understand why TECNO thinks they can get a piece of that pie. They probably can and that’s what worries me.

Will love for Africa remain?

It’s premature to talk about TECNO neglecting Africa. They still have to conquer America first and still that doesn’t mean they will neglect Africa.

However, we have seen something like this before. OnePlus started life as a flagship killer. They gave a near flagship experience for half the price of one. They roped in enthusiasts with their near-stock-Android software experience. 

As they gained mainstream appeal and market share in America they started increasing their prices until they were pretty much just like the flagships they set out to kill. It’s hard to ignore the flagship space where margins are higher and no one can really begrudge them for taking that road.

So when TECNO says they are taking a big step forward in premiumisation I get worried. They are promising to get more premium and I believe premium prices will follow. That’s the exact path OnePlus took.

In the end new players rise up to fill the gap left by those that move up in the food chain. However, as regards someone potentially having to replace the Transsion brands in Africa, I’m a bit uneasy. 

So many did not understand Africa before Transsion cracked the code and I’m not sure if there are other players that would create for Africa first rather than bringing in Asian market phones here.

Again, I don’t think Transsion will abandon us. I think the worst case scenario would be TECNO and Infinix becoming first world centred and only Itel remaining as an Africa first brand. I could be wrong about all this though. What do you think about TECNO taking on America?

You should also read:

Half of all smartphones sold in Africa are Transsion brands. How did itel, Tecno and Infinix’s parent get so dominant?

Tecno Spark 9 Revealed. Better display, design and cameras.

Tecno Pova 5G review. Flying too close to the sun?

Tecno Spark 8P review. Is it just me or are budget phone getting better-looking


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17 thoughts on “TECNO enters America with a bang, the pessimist in me worries about them dumping Africa in the future

  1. The cost of smartphones falling, even the premium brands have affordable phones. Just like flat screen TVs used to be expensive and elite.

    I think Africa should worry less about having poverty centred products and worry about its alleviation. Those low cost phones are the same ones that don’t get updates and have almost no support. They will have official redistributors, but no support.

    In the short term, they are beneficial in terms of accessibility of tech to the average person. But, we should also be looking for longer term solutions.

    1. I agree that in an ideal world we would not worry about having poverty centred products. However, reality is that only 22% of Africans are online. Poverty is a tough nut to crack and I don’t think we will be cracking it anytime soon. So, these poverty centred products are the next best thing and who knows, they might be what takes people out of poverty.

    2. Tecno phones have support, infact it might be the only phone in Zim with official warranty after sales parts etc.

  2. Well, I guess the sister brands can take up the slack if Tecno puts down the Africa ball. A good thing about them moving up MIGHT be the systems, IPs and reforms they put in to deal with the increased expectations might trickle down to the rest of their product lines and possibly the group as a whole.

    1. If TECNO goes premium I imagine Infinix which is positioned higher than TECNO would follow suit leaving only the budget-centric Itel. But I like the point you raised, Africa might indeed benefit from the trickle down. Same way production cars benefit from the work companies like Mercedes and Ferrari do in motorsport.

  3. It will depend on how easy it is to do business in the African countries which will make them do what is good for their business. The good thing about them going into the American market is that they will compete with a wider range of products which will lead them into producing world class rather than Africa class products.

    1. That’s what scares me. Africa is a fragmented market. What works in North Africa won’t necessarily work in the South and so it takes quite a lot of work to cater for the whole continent as a whole. All this work is not rewarded by high margins. The American market is more homogenous and allows for better margins. Conquering that market might lead them to lose interest in Africa.
      We can’t afford world class products just yet. TECNOs have been good enough.

  4. They will probably do a 3 way split Tecno and Infinix will target the the mid range and budget range in the first world whilst Itel will cover the bargain bassment range in Africa.
    There’s simply no way in hell that they will ever leave Africa considering the fact that they make quite a substantial amount of money here.
    The midrange market in the USA is a viscous no holds barred take no prisoners knife fight, where good phones are getting cheaper and cheap phones are getting better.
    Samsung has its many flavours of the A series, Apple the iPhone SE, Google the Pixel 6a, Oppo and One Plus (owned by the same company) are also in mix.
    There’s a lot of difference in what’s a mid range phone in USA and what we have being made to believe is the mid range in Africa. In the USA the customers want a good price but they also expect and want the fluff. It’s not enough to be cheap it must also excel at something.
    IPhone SE has the iPhone experience on a budget
    Pixel 6a has the best camera in the business and its connected to the Google exclusive services
    Samsung has bulletproof reliability, and the best non stock android experience coupled with 4 years of software/security updates
    Oppo/One Plus has upper tier features at a lower cost and a rabid fan base built up over the last 8 years.
    Motorola is only able to survive because of its deals with the various network operators (think Econet/Netone etc etc) . The buy one get one free type of deals.
    Now unless Tecno nd Infinix have managed to get signed up with a network operator they are going to find it difficult to penetrate the market because unlike in most parts of the world where they sell phones,consumers in the USA rarely if ever buy their phones in one transaction instead they get them through the network providers on years long contracts paying off the phone bit by bit and these network providers are sharks they always collect their pound of flesh so profit margins will be thin.
    So Tecno/Infinix are really going to have to up their game and do the “premiumisation” thing because they might not have enough to offer otherwise.
    Look let’s be honest there’s a reason that there are so many jokes about Itel phones it’s because
    Itel phones are in the Just Barely Good Enough category.
    Very few current owners of Itel phones would choose Itel over Samsung/Apple if they had the funds to be able to make a choice.
    Transsion trying to break into the USA market might be a good thing for the end user’s of Itel phones in general because we might end up getting better quality phones out of it.

    1. Solid points all around. The African market is challenging but Transsion cracked it. So, does this mean they will crack the American market? You painted a clear picture of how that’s not the case. The 2 markets are a different as different can be. The power of the network operators over there and the different notion of what a midrange phone is will present new challenges.

      And I agree that the market has been reviving its efforts in the midrange and competition has never been stiffer. Why then should one get the Camon 19 over the brilliant A series for instance? I don’t know if a better design is enough to give a competitive advantage. Maybe their edge will be in price, I mean, even Americans love a bargain but in a country with higher incomes than Africa it will be interesting to see how the Americans respond.

      It appears all feel that we stand to gain if Transsion conquers America. Let’s hope it happens.

      1. That point where he said what we think in Africa is midrange is really true we not getting value for sure. I think we should do a comparison of the price of techno here vs elsewhere in Africa and the world

  5. It will be a difficult ride for Tecno in the USA
    Reasons

    – There are affordable midrange devices from the like of Samsung, Realme, Xiaomi, Pixel series etc that offer more hardware and software support as compared to Tecno

    – Tecno is weak when it comes to regular security + OS updates, Samsung is offering 4 years of support even with entry level devices

    – Tecno’s UI is too busy and has a lot of bugs and forced app installs that reinstall themselves with each security update. Advertising in apps & on top of apps is a big no for customers who are used to clean UI’s like iOS, One UI etc.

    – Underpowered hardware – Tecno phones struggle in the memory and processor departments.
    The screens have a washed-out feel & the resolution is low
    The Canon 19 pales in comparison to Samsung’s 2019 midrange models

    https://nanoreview.net/en/soc-compare/samsung-exynos-9611-vs-mediatek-helio-g85

  6. In N. America anyone can afford the flagship smartphones from Apple and Samsung; and one can get 2 years )% credit for up to 3500CAD for Samsung devices, so i don’t see competing on price will make sense as nearly everyone wants the bells and whistles of high end which are clearly within reach.

    So if its N. America u have target only the high-end market for them to make any meaningful share of the market.

    1. Americans are rediscovering inflation right now so they could have a better than zero chance. They just have to get in bed with the right carriers and look and perform good enough for teens and adults on a budget, then claw their way up

      1. Rediscovering inflation… Nice one! (sigh I remember 9% inflation those where the good old days)…. Anyways
        But that is where the Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix) are going to have a serious problem. They are cheap no doubt about that. But they have never really excelled at anything other than being cheap, they look OK and the chipset is perfectly middle of the road. But they don’t have that hook that extra something that will catch the potential customers eye to get them to choose the new guy on the block over the more established competition. So even getting to more than 3% of the market share is going to be hard.

  7. T-Mobile & Verizon, the two largest US mobile carriers, place restrictions on SIM cards when they do not recognize or approve the device in which they have been inserted. Unless Tecno jump into bed with an MNO (and note, not an MVNO, for they have no ability to approve devices) then Tecno aren’t going far in the US.

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