Microsoft and Huawei announce 4Afrika, a handset with an African heart

Huawei and Microsoft have had an odd relationship. It first looked like Microsoft was trying to distance themselves from the Chinese OEM due to political factors back in mid-October. It was believed they’d be ready for the Windows Phone 8 launch, but instead the company pushed back the reveal of their Ascend W1 handset to CES 2013. Now, the two are cozying and partnering up for a joint launch of a handset in Africa – the Huawei 4Afrika.

At first glance the 4Afrika looks to be an Ascend W1 with a 4Afrika logo on the back. And to be honest, that’s exactly what it is, a variant of the Ascend W1. There aren’t many differences between the two, the only one we could spot was the battery. The 4Afrika packs a 1730 mAh battery compared to 1950 mAh in the Ascend W1. Most likely a cost saving feature for emerging markets.

So what is with the 4Afrika branding? Turns out Microsoft has a new initiative for the African continent called, you guessed it – 4Afrika.  The goal is to leverage technology to actively engage Africa’s economic development and to improve its global competitiveness. Microsoft hopes to use both hardware and software to push forward with its agenda. Devices like the Huawei 4Afrika and Nokia Lumia 510 and 620 are the hardware push, while the 4Afrika initiative itself will develop apps and services specific to that region. The Huawei 4Afrika earns the branding by bundling some of those apps on the device itself – of course you can always uninstall them, but it’s a nice feature for the device. Here is a nice little quote from the announcement article summing it up:

“The phone also comes preloaded with custom apps created by African developers for African consumers and feature a market-specific store within the larger Windows Phone Store for downloading locally-relevant apps and content.”

Affordable hardware with custom software is a winning combination to sway buyers away from feature phones on the continent, which control about 90% of the mobile market. Microsoft and its partners (like Huawei and Nokia) see huge potential for growth in those numbers. Windows Phone devices that are inexpensive have always provided a minimum level of acceptable performance. It’s that fact that makes us believe the platform can give Android a good fight for marketshare in emerging markets.

No word on price for the Huawei 4Afrika, but we expect it to be cheaper than the $258 asking price of the bigger battery Ascend W1. You can expect the Windows Phone 8 device later this month in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. A variety of colors will be available to consumers: black, red, white, and blue - the usual suspects we saw back at CES. 

What do you think of the Huawei 4Afrika handset and the initiative itself?

Source: Windows Phone blog, 4Afrika (opens in new tab)

  • A phone made for a prince that has been separated from his fortune! Would you like the opportunity to help reclaim it? Just enter your bank info into a bundled app ;-) Sorry couldn't help myself.
  • Lol
  • Agge you supposed to be doing your homework not chatting here ima tell your mom
  • I thought it was funny... Scream and shout must've never gotten one of those emails.
  • He's our local troll. Previously has gone by Round and Round, Hit the Lights, and Breathing Underwater.
  • ...that was funny...
  • People need to lighten up, not everything is racist that doesn't mean that some people can't help that they're racist.  This is great for Africa, very little is said about them and all their people.  They buy products too.
  • Petition to ban 4GB phones, please.
  • In my ideal world, all phones would be sold with 4GB or less memory to save on costs.  But they would all include memory card slots.  I'd much rather upgrade my own memory.
  • No, I can't support that. I used to, but can't anymore. In emerging markets like the article mentioned above, the bigger goal is to make the handset affordable for people. Dropping storage is one way OEMs do that. The device does have an expandable storage and can take microSD cards.
  • Sam, thank you for a a good article.
    I hope everyone here realizes the impact this device will have on #WindowsPhone sales. The potential market for Smartphone in Africa is HUUGE! OEM's are taking note and are delivering tailor made devices for this region. A big shout and thank you to Huawei and Nokia for pushing MSFT to support Windows Phone on my continent.
  • I totally agree. I region centric phone is a great idea. Nice work Microsoft/Huawei.
  • I'm kind of excited for the 4Afrika program. Can't wait to see what success it has over there. Keep us posted!
  • I hope MS can make serious in-roads in Africa.
  • Great idea, Africa, china, India, and other developing economies is where the growth is
  • I'm from Africa, Kenya. Am not getting this phone :-S