The Changing Landscape of Mobile Phones in Nigeria

While I was browsing an online store in Nigeria, I started thinking about the big names in mobile phones that used to be very popular. So in this article, join me as we take a trip through memory lane to examine the changing landscape of mobile phones in Nigeria.

Nokia 3310 The Changing Landscape of Mobile Phones in Nigeria

You see, people’s interests and what they want are always changing. Some of us may like one brand and don’t want to switch, but things don’t stay the same forever.

A very popular brand may become less popular or even fade into obscurity. Another brand that is not so popular anymore can become very popular and dominate the market or it might stay unpopular because of other popular brands. You’ll never know. There’s a saying that “an object in motion stays in motion unless something stops it.” This means things keep doing what they’re doing unless something changes them.

A trip down memory lane will show you that the changing landscape of mobile phones in Nigeria didn’t start today. Of course not. We’ve seen many different brands become popular only to disappear since mobile phones showed up in 2001. Back then, we had big names like Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sagem, Motorola, etc. These names were the go-to brands when mobile phones were being discussed.

The Changing Landscape of Mobile Phones in Nigeria



Fast forward to around 2005 when mobile internet started in Nigeria, one name stood out above all the others. It was Nokia, the Finnish giant. Nokia phones were arguably the best for browsing and playing games. If you had a Nokia phone, you were doing well.


Even after the iPhone and Android phones made their debut around 2007-2008, Nokia continued to boss the market. So much so that we didn’t care about the iPhone and Android and it took some time for them to finally gain a foothold in Nigeria.


In that period, however, a challenger appeared and successfully vied for Nokia’s throne. This device is the Blackberry. The Blackberry was very popular because of its Blackberry Messenger (BBM). It had such an impact that it was seen as a status symbol for the rich.

Nokia on the other hand was starting to fall from grace. To make matters worse, their phones soon became unaffordable. So by the time Samsung had fully switched to Android to compete with brands like Apple and Blackberry, Nokia was in free fall.

The Android era

Around 2014, the BlackBerry fever was over and the duopoly of the iPhone vs. Android was well underway. However, these phones were priced well beyond the reach of the average person.

Then Tecno came along. They made affordable touchscreen phones available to everyone. At first, people weren’t used to touch screens. They thought phones with keypads were better and less likely to break and besides, Tecno was not a well-known brand. Tecno introduced a couple of devices like the Tecno N3 but Androids didn’t become popular until the same company introduced Infinix Hot. This device was a huge hit back in the day and was rather affordable (looking back, it wasn’t all that cheap, but we could afford it).

This new unknown brand became famous overnight, and almost everyone in my class had one. Infinix and Tecno, two phones from the same company, began competing for customers. Their parent company (Transsion) made a lot of money because they targeted people with lower incomes and those on a budget.

Today, the parent company still makes phones and even created a third brand (Itel) to exclusively make low-end phones. Their success has forced bigger companies like Samsung to make budget phones too. However, by this time, the old Nokia was dead.

2018 to now

From what I’ve seen, about 6 to 7 out of 10 people who use smartphones in Nigeria use Tecno,  Infinix, or Itel phones.

However, in the recent past, these household names didn’t focus on making the best hardware or giving a good enough software experience. In my experience, I have seen the camera quality of some of their phones degrade within 6 months.  and the phone can slow down.

New competition shows up

This poor practice from Tecno and Infinix left the door open for competitors from other countries.  These guys didn’t just walk in through the door, they kicked it down.

Whilst companies like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo will go on to be mainstays in the market, other companies like Leagoo, Doogee, etc. will fail. This is because a lot of them came to Nigeria and sold substandard phones ridden with hardware issues, software bugs, and zero warranties.

A lot has been said about Umidigi (especially on Nairaland) and I recommended them because they offered good value for money. In some ways, they were better than the big brands in terms of specs and hardware, but their cameras weren’t great, and a software update usually made them worse.

The future

Mobile phone technology keeps changing, and I follow the trends based on the phones I’ve used. I’m always ready to try an unknown brand, just like I tried Leagoo, Umidigi, and Oukitel even when Tecno, Infinix, and Itel had okay phones. I’ve used three different Nokia phones, and now I use a Redmi device. If I feel Xiaomi isn’t doing well, I’m open to trying another brand that catches my eye.

Thank you for reading to the end. As always, ensure to check out our links for more information and…

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