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Mobile in South Africa: more data usage, fewer voice calls and lots of BlackBerrys

Goodbye, voice calls, hello WhatsApp. Ok, so maybe we’re not quite there yet, but the latest research confirms that it’s definitely a trend to watch: data is becoming responsible for a larger portion of peoples’ cellphone bills, as smartphone adoption rates continue to climb.

World Wide Worx has just released the results of its latest Mobility study. Managing director Arthur Goldstuck tweeted the highlights, if you’re more of a 140-characters-only-please sort of person. Their latest study of South African cellphone users (16 or older) shows that the average person’s spend on data has increased by half in just the last 18 months. It’s not completely eating their cellphone bills, but it is definitely growing: at the end of 2010, data costs accounted for eight percent of the average user’s budget — in mid-2012, it hit 12%. Fewer cellphone users are using their phones to… well… phone: spending on voice calls decreased from 77% to 73%. SMS stayed strong, still accounting for 12% of cellphone spend.

Some of the biggest increases shown by the nationally representative study are in instant messaging. The hold BlackBerry still has in emerging markets is clearly evident: BBM usage grew from three percent in 2012 to 17% in June this year among urban South Africans. But, unconstrained by a single operating system, WhatsApp is winning: more than a quarter of cellphone users are now using the little green messaging app.

While BlackBerry is dominating the smartphone market (an estimated 44% of smartphones in South Africa are BlackBerrys), it’s still not the most popular manufacturer overall… that title goes to Nokia. 50% of cellphones in the country are made by the Finnish mobile company. Second place is jointly held by Samsung and BlackBerry, with 18% each. Wondering where that smartphone that Apple makes disappeared to? Way down the list — only one percent of South African cellphone users have an iPhone.

The study also found that:

  • Mobile browsing is on the increase: 41% of all users are now using their phones to browse the web, but the figure is higher in major cities and towns, where it’s 61%
  • Facebook mobile is still growing: Facebook use rose by more than half, from 22% to 38%.
  • Twitter is gaining ground: The second biggest growth after BBM was seen in the Twitter user base, which rose from 6% to 12% cellphone owners.
  • Mxit is still popular: 23% of cellphone users in South Africa are part of the social network

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More