French telecommunications firm Orange, in collaboration with KaiOS Technologies and mobile baseband chipset supplier UNISOC, has launched Sanza smart feature phones to the Africa and the Middle East markets.
The offering was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona and the devices, with voice recognition, are priced at US$20 (depending on the country) and available to Orange customers in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Jordan, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Sierra Leone and Tunisia.
According to Orange the smart feature phones will be available as of April 2019 to Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, with other countries to follow in the year.
The telco adds that Sanza is powered by KaiOS, the operating system from KaiOS Technologies, with dedicated voice/text/data and "has the simplicity of a feature phone powered by the UNISOC SC7731EF chipset platform with a long-lasting battery life up to 5 days, 3G+, Torch, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, combined with advanced smartphone-like functionalities."
According to information supplied, the device provides access to social media apps and the Orange mobile-based money transfer and financial service Orange Money.
It also features Google Assistant and the phone menu is available in Arabic, Swahili, Portuguese, English and French.
Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, said, "Sanza is a concrete proof of the capacity of Orange to be a key player of digital inclusion in Africa and the Middle-East. With its access to internet with the voice and its attractive price around US $20, I have the conviction that this 3G phone and soon 4G, is a powerful lever to develop the access to internet for all in Africa".
Gérard Lokossou, CEO of Orange Democratic Republic of Congo, added: "The smartphone penetration rate in DRC is quite low, 30 percent versus the average of 50 percent for the continent. The established mobile payment services via Orange Money, the launch of 4G+ in 2018 and our engagement to extend 3G coverage to the whole country are all contributing to boost the smartphone penetration rate in DRC."
Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies, said: "Our mission is to help close the digital divide by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones. The Sanza by Orange marks an important milestone in fulfilling this mission."