Cell phone manufacturing in Pakistan has exploded within the last few years producing over 12 million phones of which just under 5 million were 4G capable smartphones in the first half of 2021 alone. These cell phones are manufactured by 26 major brands from Pakistan’s own Qmobile to foreign giants like Samsung.
The growing cell phone market
The last decade has seen an explosion in demand for cell phones all around the world. Over 5 billion people currently own a cell phone and that number is growing by about 2% every year. This huge demand growth has lured countless companies into the cell phone manufacturing business.
The effect of this massive growth has already had huge effects on the economies and livelihoods of vast swaths of people as seen in our article about the effects of mobile data. In this article we want to look at the other aspect, cell phone manufacturing. One case study we can look closely at is Pakistan.
As of 2021 there are 26 officially registered cell phone manufacturers with 33 separate plants throughout the country. These 26 different companies show the strong competition present within the market as each of these companies try to capture more and more of the over 220 million Pakistani citizens.
Not only has the competition encouraged them to manufacture more but it also has reduced prices and increased quality. Average smartphone prices have dropped within Pakistan making these phones a good alternative to foreign made phones which previously dominated the market.
Especially with the recent plummet of the Pakistani rupee the cost of importing smartphones has close to doubled. With this price jump a large portion of Pakistani consumers have turned away from foreign phones and are looking to local made phones. This increased growth has encouraged both local and foreign manufacturers to increase production and capture these consumers.
Why doesn’t Pakistan design it’s own phones?
However this manufacturing is still heavily reliant on producing already existing designs. Innovation and the production of Pakistani designed phones has remained slow. While these do grow the economy they remain reliant on foreign innovation.
It is clear the benefits of local designing as it grows exports and innovation within Pakistan. This in turn keeps more educated and talented Pakistanis in Pakistan developing the country rather than going to the developed world further benefiting the country.
But the unfortunate truth is that mobile manufacturing is much harder than it seems. Companies cannot just develop phones after studying other phones. Each phone needs component parts and many of the manufacturers of these parts already have deals with other brands. This locks the new company out of the cutting edge tech required for a competitive phone.
Getting past this prototype phase there are even more problems in mass manufacturing cell phones. Getting reliable and cost effective production up and running requires cutting back some extra features that other phones might have. This further places the new company behind established brands.
Finally getting the phones to people is a monumental task as well. Very few people will buy a local phone on nationalism alone. The new company needs to find a way to market its phone in a way it competes with other brands.
All these handicaps have and will continue to prove almost impossible to overcome. However there is hope for the future, especially with this explosion in cell phone manufacturing in Pakistan.
The way forward for cell phone manufacturing in Pakistan
Cell phone manufacturing in Pakistan isn’t entirely dependent on foreign designs however. There are two halves of this process, either designing phones locally as part of a larger company or independent local cell phone manufacturers.
Local companies already exist and take up a large share of the Pakistani market. Every few years a new company starts but ultimately fails to compete and falls into irrelevance. The main factor behind this is a lack of local know-how and skill. Lacking skill and know-how then makes the mobile worse, preventing them from making headway in the market.
However as more companies come to Pakistan to manufacture and slowly start to even design phones in Pakistan, more Pakistanis gain the knowledge and expertise of the field. This initial stage of knowledge gathering is key and we only need to look at China for the proof.
Just like How China started manufacturing foreign goods and slowly used the know-how to develop their own industries Pakistan can do so too. There is definitely enough talented and smart people, just the lack of infrastructure and hands on experience is holding them back.
As cell phone manufacturing grows in Pakistan even past this year’s 20 million expected in the future this will only serve to propel Pakistan’s growth in not just the cell phone but other technology sectors as well.