Whenever a new flagship phone is unveiled locally, it often carries a price tag north of R15k. That’s definitely not the case here, as MTN recently launched a new featured phone called the Smart S for R249.

No, that’s not a typo, the latest mobile device from the carrier costs less than most smartphone covers.

So what’s this super cheap feature phone sporting?

Well in terms of specifications, not much. It’s rather the services that MTN are bundling with the Smart S that should be of most interest.

To that end it features a KaiOS operating system, and caters to a handful of key applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Google Assistant. We were particularly surprised to hear about the latter, especially as many entry-level smartphones don’t cater to it.

MTN is also throwing in some extras for the first six months of purchase, with 100MB of monthly data valid for 30 days and 1GB of monthly WhatsApp bundles valid for 20 days.

As for why the carrier opted to release the Smart, MTN says it’s designed to help lessen the barrier to internet access, with the device supporting 3G. It also supports dual SIM, which will allow users to mix and match when it comes to data and voice plans.

“We are living in a country where affordability of smart devices is one of the biggest barriers to internet access. By introducing this cutting-edge device at such an affordable price, MTN will help its customers, particularly students, small businesses and others that may have avoided traditional smart phones due to the cost, to become part of the information society at an accessible price,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa.

“The device comes at a right time as we recently launched MTN Chat recharging channel, which puts customers in charge by allowing them to conveniently top up airtime and data bundles on the popular instant messaging platform, WhatsApp,” she adds.

The Smart S feature phone is currently available at all MTN stores and selected retailers across the country. At the very least, it could serve as a handy backup for local smartphone owners.

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.