Orange and Google bring low cost comms to Africa and Middle East


High spec smartphone plus comms bundle with voice, SMS and data for $40 aimed at feature phone users

Mobile World Congress: Google and Orange have announced today that they are teaming up to bring affordable mobile communications to people in the Middle East and Africa, with a low cost device and comms package. The companies are bringing together Orange’s mobile network and Google’s mobile apps to offer customers the best of both partners.

Customers will be able to access low cost tariff plans, that will start at $40. These will consist of a high specification smartphone and a communication bundle with voice, SMS and data, aimed at getting those currently without a smartphone in the region, stated Orange’s Yves Maitre, executive vice president of connected objects and partnerships.

Maitre told Smart Chimps that, “45% of Orange’s customers in EMEA are buying smartphones”. He added: “That’s up 15% from last year. It means the usage of smartphones is picking up very strongly in those countries, and not only voice, but also data.”

Maitre continued: “Now [our partnership]with Google is not to address the middle classes that already have a smartphone, but it is to address the other 55% who are still using a feature phone.”

In the next few weeks Orange will announce a $40 device, the Orange Rise 31 Special Edition, a new and exclusive Orange branded 3G device, said Maitre. As the flagship model of Orange’s 2016 smart family line up for Orange MEA, it will be running on Google’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and will be the first Orange customised smartphone to run Marshmallow at a low price point.

With a four inch screen, it comes with the latest version of Orange Experience 8. The smartphone is a quadcore product, boasts a high memory package (1GB RAM/8GB ROM) and comes with a three mega pixel camera with LED flash and a 1500mAH battery. It will include a three month communications pack for voice and data and SMS, “so everyone can enjoy the internet,” Maitre noted. He added, “so it’s really a very, very competitive device that we will provide for under $40”.

The companies will also offer specific content created with Google, provided in local languages, including tutorials available on YouTube to show users how to operate their new devices, as well as local sport, news and entertainment, said Maitre. They will also have access to everyday tools such as Google Search and Google Maps.

The partnership will address the mass market for Orange in Africa and the Middle East, following Orange’s ongoing success of delivering smartphones across the region. Through an educational campaign, customers will be offered advice to better understand the benefits and direct value mobile internet can bring. Important information will be made accessible, for example, finding answers to questions instantly through Google Search or the ability to locate the nearest health clinic using Google Maps.

The offer will be delivered in a phased approach and will start to roll out across the full Orange MEA footprint in the second quarter of this year. The device will launch with the native set of Google services and the goal of the partnership is to develop local services and content over time.

Richard Turner, director Android partnerships for EMEA, added: “Today, over three billion people across the world are using the internet to live better, richer lives and create opportunities for themselves and their communities. The driving force behind this growth – particularly in Africa and the Middle East –  is smartphones. We are very excited to work with Orange to bring together data services, content and a high quality Android device to provide a great experience for first-time or experienced smartphone users.”


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