In today’s edition of Africa’s Most Innovative Companies, Ventures Africa meets the creator of Dream Mobile. Having first started work on building a smartphone from his university dormitory, Reza Handley-Namavar speaks about his new smartphones specifically designed for Africa.
The idea to build a bespoke smartphone for Africa was born two years ago, as Handley-Namavar personally experienced the connectivity troubles prevalent on the continent on a university exchange programme to South Africa.
Handley-Namavar began toying with the concept of creating an affordable premium smartphone for the African arena, and began producing samples for handsets in his university dormitory.
“They were mostly really bad,” he jokes, adding: “But slowly I learned.”
In July of this year Dream Mobile presented a 1,000 strong event with the first completed smartphone – the Dream A1. The event was an overwhelming success, with over 100 pre-orders flowing in.
The company proceeded to produce two new models- the Dream A2 and the Dream D1 -, which will be made available early in the New Year, and are expected to propel Dream Mobiles on to the African mobile market.
Making their products completely unique, the Dream Mobile team has developed a range of software suited specifically to the African market.
The Dream phones feature data compression software which allows a 50 percent reduction in data usage – a significant cut on data costs which in many cases deter African users from smartphones. The devices also have call and data tracking software, along with anti-theft features including a GPS tracker and remote-control options.
To reduce costs further, the smartphones allow users to share games and applications via Bluetooth, and the Dream Mobile team has also developed a free messaging and calling application which provides a discount communication service between Dream phone owners.
In a further innovation catered to an African audience, the Dream Mobile team has ensured an innovative local distribution method aimed to help combat youth unemployment – whereby individuals who buy the phone may enrol on a training programme, following which they return to local communities and sell handsets on a commission basis.
“This is a unique distribution method,” notes Handley-Namavar. “No one is covering this space, none of the major cell phone players.”
“It gets us in to communities which we couldn’t otherwise get in to,” he adds.
With so many big rivals on the market already, is the smartphone supply sector already saturated? Not according to Handley-Namavar.
“There is an incredible opportunity of unmet need, particularly in terms of developments for the African market.”
However, as ever in the case of start-ups in Africa, finding the necessary capital will be the key to whether Dream Mobile can proceed to mass production. In this respect the Dream Mobile team also hopes to innovate, hoping to achieve the necessary capital via crowd funding website www.crowdinvest.co.za. As such, whether Dream smartphones take off in Africa will depend on the public’s judgment, and their willingness to buy in to the project.