Around this time last year, Telkom Kenya, then Orange Kenya, went to market with the Klif, a Kshs 4,000 smartphone that ran on Mozilla’s Firefox OS. As fate would have it, Firefox OS on mobile was discontinued barely half a year into the Klif’s local presence. That meant that for its next cheap smartphone, Orange Kenya had to look elsewhere. As we’ve previously reported, that elsewhere is Google’s Android platform.

In other African markets, the cheap Rise 31 smartphone, the result of a partnership between Orange and Google, is set to take over from the Orange Klif. In Kenya, though, where Orange has since exited and the company gone back to being Telkom Kenya, it is another device, the Kaduda Smart, that has been launched to take over from the Klif.

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Kaduda is short for camera, dual-SIM and data.

The Kaduda Smart started selling in Kenya about two weeks ago, following closely in the footsteps of another Kaduda-branded mobile phone, the iTel-made Kaduda 2, another very successful device from the company. According to Telkom Kenya, the first generation Kaduda feature phone sold nearly a million units and as such, of course, warranted a successor.

The Kaduda Smart is bascially the Blade L110, a low-cost Android smartphone made by Chinese smartphone maker ZTE. Telkom Kenya has quite a history with ZTE when it comes to budget Android devices. The company provided the first generation ZTE Blade which was known as the Orange San Francisco and went on to sell so well and was many a Kenyan Android enthusiast’s first smartphone.

Last year, it was TCL, the makers of Alcatel-branded devices, that made the Klif.

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In the Kaduda Smart’s box, one gets an adaptor, a USB cable, a pair of earphones, a warranty card and an instruction manual alongside the device.

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Specifications of the Kaduda Smart are as follows:

  • Size and weight: 125 x 10.4 x 64mm; 110g
  • Display: 4.0-inch WVGA (400 x 800 pixels)
  • Processor: Quad-core Spreadtrum SC7731 clocked at 1.3 GHz backed by a Mali-400 GPU
  • Camera: 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash; 2-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Memory: 4GB internal storage (expandable up to 32GB via microSD); 512MB RAM
  • Operating System: Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Battery: 1,400mAh
  • Network: 2G/3G
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Other: FM radio, dual-SIM

High demand for the Klif, even today when it is no longer in production, saw Telkom Kenya explore several options in order to address consumer demand. According to Telkom Kenya Devices Manager Virginia Waruingi, the Kaduda Smart comes to fill in the void left by the Orange Klif. It has slightly better specifications than the Klif but retains its Kshs 4,000 price.

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The biggest plus, however, is the fact that it runs Android. Firefox OS on the Klif, while not a bad alternative, was a pain to use for familiarity’s sake. As a relatively new platform, it suffered from the lack of access to several basic applications like WhatsApp that users demanded (see my review of the Klif highlighting the same and more here). Yes, one could still get WhatsApp but that was after some struggle, but it beat the whole logic of the device and was totally user unfriendly.

The Kaduda Smart is different and a delight to use. It’s easy to setup and the out of the box experience is great, more than I expected actually. The preloaded browser is fast and quite responsive and, unlike the good old Opera Mini that comes preinstalled on most low-cost devices, plays nicely with the new look Techweez (yes Opera Mini users we are aware you have been having issues accessing this site. Blame Opera’s strong compression algorithms).

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For a 512MB RAM device, swiping across the homescreens is smooth and there are no stutters as is firing up any app. Save for a few customizations, the entire Android experience is near-stock i.e. very few alterations have been made. With the exception of Clean Master Lite, there are no other preinstalled apps other than the handful of stock (music, gallery, calculator, file manager, FM radio, video and email) and Google applications. The camera app is even Google Camera!

Things will likely turn for the worse once you start adding apps since there’s only so much memory but that shouldn’t be the concern of the targeted buyer of this device.

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The 4-inch display is better than the one on the Klif thanks to the addition of a few more pixels.

As you would expect, you should not look forward to much from other features of the device like the cameras and the battery – you will definitely need to plug the device in before the day ends if you use the device’s 3G internet to browse and interact with a few apps.

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Since Telkom Kenya wants you to use the device on its network once you buy it – despite them providing you with an option to slot a SIM card from rival networks, that may be one of its cons depending on how you look at it. As it was the case with the Klif last year, you need, first and foremost, a Telkom Kenya SIM card before you can activate the device for use on any mobile network. The Telkom Kenya SIM has to remain on the device at all times. Here’s the bummer: 3G network access is restricted to the SIM 1 slot, taken up by the Telkom Kenya SIM. That means any other secondary SIM, like say your Safaricom SIM, has to go to the second slot which can only do 2G.

As much as Telkom Kenya has removed the rather awkward activation process we found on the Klif last year, it’s gone right ahead and put some road blocks to make sure it gets buyers of the Kaduda Smart using its 3G network – this is after all, the end goal of such branded devices.

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There is a huge demand for affordable mobile internet and Telkom Kenya is hoping that the Kaduda Smart will be a big draw for the data-hungry Kenyan mobile user with its 3G network also being able to benefit from the device’s uptake.

Telkom Kenya has seen its market share increase in recent quarters thanks to devices like the ones in its Kaduda lineup. As of the latest data from the industry regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya, Telkom Kenya has 4.8 million subscribers or 12.5% market share. Of Kenya’s 24.7 million mobile internet subscriptions, the company accounts for 11.2%.

According to Telkom Kenya, and a view I also agree with, the Kaduda Smart and the Kaduda 2 make for fantastic secondary devices. For first-time smartphone buyers and anyone else in the market for a cheap device the Kaduda Smart makes a strong case for itself with that pricing. The device is actually more pleasant to use than the first gen Neon smartphone from Safaricom that went for about the same price.

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The Kaduda Smart comes in black and white colours. Telkom Kenya is throwing in 2GB worth of data spread over a period of 4 months (500MB per month) upon a user spending at least Kshs 200 on its network. For the other Kaduda, the feature phone, Telkom Kenya is giving away voice minutes (100) and SMS (75) worth Kshs 1,100 for use within its network (on-net).