When Mxolosi saw a Tecno W2 smartphone in a store in Johannesburg, South Africa, he was attracted to its looks and functionality. But what really drew him in was the price, roughly $30 — far less than comparable models from Samsung, Nokia, or Huawei, Africa’s other top brands.
“They’re very attractive and appealing to your eyes,” Mxolosi, who asked for his last name not to be used to protect his personal safety, told BuzzFeed News. “Honestly, I was a Samsung fan but I said, ‘Let me try this new product.’”
It was another sale for Transsion, the Chinese company that makes Tecno and other low-priced smartphones, as well as basic handsets, for the developing world. Since releasing its first smartphone in 2014, the upstart has grown to become Africa’s top handset seller, beating out longtime market leaders Samsung and Nokia.
But its success can come at a price. Mxolosi, an