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Social media and smartphones in South Africa: by the numbers [Infographic]

Sometimes, it feels like all the tech-related statistics we see are about developed markets. We know quite a lot about them: from the most popular smartphone in the US (it was the Samsung Galaxy S III last month, by the way) to the fact that Kindle ebooks outsold printed ones on Amazon UK. But what is happening in the social media and smartphone space in emerging markets like South Africa?

Well, the country’s digital landscape isn’t always in line with international trends: for example, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry currently holds around 5.2% of the global smartphone market when it comes to operating systems. In South Africa, it commands a mighty 46% of the smartphone market — second only to Nokia. Android (the biggest smartphone operating system worldwide) is starting to feature too — Google’s OS takes third place, running on 11% of smartphones in the country. But feature phones still dominate overall, as only 1 in 5 South Africans own a smartphone.

It’s a bit of a different story when it comes to social media though: no prizes for guessing which site is the most popular in the country. According to this infographic, more than three quarters of the online population is on Facebook — around 5.3-million people (although some studies suggest the numbers may be even higher). South Africa is also on the list of the ten countries with the highest Facebook mobile penetration world wide, as 84% of its Facebook users log in using a mobile device. The second most popular social network is LinkedIn, with Twitter beating out Google+ for third place. Twitter usage in the country is climbing rapidly, as 12% of cellphone users (and 1.3 million of its online population) are opting to share in 140 characters or less.

South African SocialMedia & Smartphone Infographic

Infographic courtesy of Strategy Worx.

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
  • Confused

    I’m confused, if 20% of South Africans own a smartphone, how is it possible that only 17% men and 14% women own a smartphone? Irrespective of population size and gender split this does not balance, unless there is a 3rd gender not being reported :)

  • Why is Mxit not represented?

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  • skim

    yeh I agree. kinda makes the rest of the infographic look dodgy as well

  • dave

    There’s nothing wrong with the numbers. Duh!!! 4.9% is Caster Semenya :-)

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  • Steven Ambrose

    Mixit was left out because they have not released new numbers June 2012 and this is not
    proprietary research (bar the smartphone distribution), but a curation of freely available, and verifiable information from the internet.

  • Steven Ambrose

    The numbers are made up from national population numbers i.e. 25 Million males at 17%, national statistics from Stats SA and 14% of 26 Million females, there are rounding errors due to timing issues in the stats, ie Stats SA figures are older than the smartphone figures, (which are from the networks). We estimate the total error is low and the percentages are representative of the actuals. You cant simply add them up to reach the 20%. Using the above we get a number close to the total number of smartphones reported by the netwroks

  • why is 2go not represented? ;)

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  • Hawa

    The Mobile Marketing Association would love to get a more accurate representation of the SA landscape as a whole including 2go, MXIT… @google-a16d234ef4c3aa89db0ff2b822da0de9:disqus @facebook-601851125:disqus drop me a line if you’re keen :) hawa.omar@mmaglobal.com

  • Lee Swales

    I find it odd that CNN reports that Mxit is the most popular social media platform in South Africa, which is probably not that surprising when one considers the various factors at play, and most South African social media articles and presentations do not even discuss it. There is a disconnect somewhere. In any event, great post, my take on these statistics, from a South African perspective is here: http://regulatorylawsa.blogspot.com/2012/11/social-media-statistics-who-can-you.html#!/2012/11/social-media-statistics-who-can-you.html

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  • Hi,

    “33% of mobile users use the internet.” This statement is a problem because the suggestion from the graphic is that mobile users and those who own smartphones are the same thing. If that is what you mean, then 3.3 million people access the web on smartphones, which is about half of all internet users in SA – which is a big deal.

    If you don’t mean this to be the same thing, then what do you mean by mobile users – because a person with an old grey-screen Nokia is not as important to development for mobile as a person with an iPhone.

    Any clarification on this?

  • J&JGlobal


    I am in Korea on Location J & J Global.

    We export to Hong Kong, China, Southeast Asia, pre-mobile phone

    This time we a new cell phone Used cell phones are sold by exchanging parts.

    I would like to suggest to the boss.

    We would like to sell our stuff to the boss.


    Reply will be appreciated.

    Thank you

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