Lehlokoe told Reuters in October 2013 that they planned to manufacture an affordable Android smartphone and tablet in South Africa, and that their devices were still undergoing regulatory testing.
The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has since completed its type approval testing, and Lehlokoe said Vodacom has finished its tests as well.
He said that Vodacom initially tested Seemahale’s dual SIM 5-inch Android smartphone, but asked to test a single SIM version of the device as well. Both devices passed, Lehlokoe said.
The only issue picked up during testing was with the 900MHz UMTS (3G) capability of the 10.1-inch Android tablet that Seemahale wants to bring to market. The problem has been rectified, and Lehlokoe said they expect the device to pass testing now.
Ready to build and sell
With the testing under its belt, Seemahale is now ready to take orders for its devices and begin manufacturing, Lehlokoe said.
“We’ll be starting on pre-orders soon,” Lehlokoe said, adding that they have already ordered some of the components they need to start building the devices.
However, they don’t want to start manufacturing in volume until they have received orders, Lehlokoe said.
“We really hope South Africans support this,” Lehlokoe said. “This is a great job-creation initiative.”
Lehlokoe said that they have also begun engaging with the marketing people at South Africa’s mobile network operators and direct retailers such as Massmart. The different discussions are all at various stages, Lehlokoe said.
Asked about the type of manufacturing they aim to do in South Africa, Lehlokoe said that they will bring in bare printed circuit (PC) boards and take the process from placing components on the unpopulated boards all the way through to boxing the product.
If South Africa were able to produce the PC board they need at volume, Lehlokoe said they would “certainly like to localise as much as possible” in South Africa.
He clarified that it’s not that he doesn’t believe local manufacturers are able to produce their smartphone’s PC board at competitive prices, but that they wouldn’t be able to make the volumes required.
“As we start selling more and more of these [smartphones, tablets], maybe there would be a business case for [local PC board manufacturers] to invest in equipment,” Lehlokoe said.
Specifications, price, launch timeline
Asked whether they can give an idea of when their devices might be available at retail in South Africa, Lehlokoe said that their previous estimates are still correct for the moment.
“Initially we said January-February 2014, and that timeline is still correct,” Lehlokoe said. “If we get orders this week [5–11 January 2014] we could have devices in market by the end of January or start of February.”
Seemahale plans to start out with a 5-inch smartphone and 10.1-inch tablet at price points of R2,500 and R3,500 (including VAT) respectively.
Once their first two devices are launched, Lehlokoe said they aim to launch a low-cost 4-inch smartphone and a 7.86-inch tablet with a dual-SIM model.
The 4-inch Android smartphone will cost less than R1,200, Lehlokoe said, but the 7.86-inch tablet’s price isn’t confirmed. However, it will “definitely be less than R3,000,” Lehlokoe said.
The tables below summarise the specifications and Seemahale’s expected suggested retail prices of their devices:
|Seemahale Android smartphones|
|Dimensions||124 x 64 x 10.3mm||148 x 76.6 10.8mm|
|Operating system||Android 4.3||Android 4.2|
|Display||4″ WVGA (480×800)||5″ qHD (540×960) TN panel|
|Processor||1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8210||1.5GHz dual-core MediaTek|
|Battery||1,500 / 1,700mAh||2,250mAh|
|SIM type||Dual||Dual / Single|
|Estimated prices||Under R1,200||R2,500|
|Seemahale Android tablets|
|Operating System||Android 4.2||Android 4.2|
|Display||10.1″ WXGA (1280×800)||7.85″ XGA (1024×768) IPS|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8225||MediaTek MTK8389|
|Processor||1.2GHz quad-core||1.5GHz quad-core|
|Estimated prices||R3,500||Under R,3000|