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According to a new report by research firm Counterpoint, feature phones contributed to 23 percent of the total handset shipments in Q3 2018 and remains a sizable market.
The return of Nokia HMD has also fuelled the demand for feature phones in the market. 3310 has been a smash hit," Varun Mishra, Research Analysts at Counterpoint, said in a blog post.
"itel, also with its localized products, has become popular in African market which has helped it become the largest feature phone brand globally," he added.
After the slowdown of shipments from Jio in India, much of this growth came from Middle East & Africa (MEA), which has emerged as the largest feature phone market globally. Shipments in MEA grew at a rate of 32 percent, the company said in a blog post.
Counterpoint pointed out that in some of the emerging countries like Africa and India, infrastructure facilities like electricity are still not accessible to a sizable population.
Feature phones are also being used as a secondary device for calling by many users on account of their high battery life, the report added.
With 4G feature phones in the market, most popular applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube are now available on basic devices.
"Like smartphones, feature phones are also upgrading from 2G to 3G and now 4G phones. Applications and facilities which were only a part of smartphones are trickling down to feature phones as well," said Mishra.
Considering the under-penetrated emerging markets, feature phones will remain relevant for at least next five years, said the report, adding that new low-income users, who would experience mobile for the first time, would likely go first for a feature phone.