Mobile usage and apps in South Africa: the numbers you need to know

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Sitting in your iOS 7 cocoon and assume everyone has an iPad? Or that SMS died out with the arrival of BBM? Perhaps you’re just under the impression that 99% of the population owns a Samsung Galaxy Something?

Well, those assumptions are partially true — but if you’re looking at the mobile space in a country like South Africa, they’re not painting an accurate picture of which devices are being used, and how. Research company World Wide Worx has some new insights in the form of its annual Mobility project (made up of the Mobile Consumer in SA 2014 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2014 reports), the findings of which were presented today.

The research, which is backed by First National Bank and done in partnership with Dashboard Market Intelligence, is based on a nationally representative sample of adults living in cities and towns around the country, and once again shows the emerging trends relating to everything from the most popular phone brands to mobile spend. If you prefer your stats in 140 characters or less, World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck tweeted some of the main highlights. Here are the rest:

BlackBerry. is. not. dead.

If you’ve been following the stats (or just walked down the street), you’ll know this isn’t new — BlackBerry has an incredibly strong presence in South Africa. And it’s still growing — the research found that BlackBerry is now the second most popular phone brand overall (feature and smartphones) in the country, rising from 18% to 23% marketshare. First place is still held by Nokia, even though the Finnish manufacturer has taken a hit in the last 12 months, dropping from owning half of the market last year to 44% in 2013.

So where is the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, with all its Africa-first offers and free WiFi? It’s in the top three — Samsung grew its marketshare slightly, from 18% in 2012 to 19% in 2013, bucking off predictions of a decline with its range of Galaxy devices that hit every price point.

Data is becoming more of a factor

One of the main findings of the report was that audio calls are continuing to be steadily chomped away at by data. You need only to look at the youth segment to see what an impact cheap and quick messaging options are having on voice — the 19-24 age group is ditching the dialler and opting to instead to spend their cash on data. Now 56% of this group’s mobile bill goes towards phone calls, a 10% drop from last year, while spending on data has grown from 17% to 24%. It’s not just the graduates and twentysomethings though — overall, voice spend has dropped from 73% of South Africans’ mobile budget to 65%, while data has increased from 12% to 16%. To put that in perspective, data accounted for just 8% of mobile spend in early 2010, while voice dominated with 77%.

If you spend most of your time hunting for a decent 3G signal or WiFi hotspot, you’re not alone — South African mobile users now spend 8.1 hours on the mobile internet every week, while 65% of the country’s cellphone users access the internet overall. The demand for those WiFi zones is expected to grow too, as 26% of mobile phone users are predicted to use them in 2014, up from 14% this year. Interestingly, Google mobile searches have dropped from 84% to 75% this year, while Bing usage has grown from 0 to 8%. This may have to do with the presence of Windows Phone devices and Nokia’s slice of the market — Bing is the default search engine on phones using Microsoft’s operating system.

Tablets are a tiny part of the market, but that’s changing

Tablets may be the next big thing, but they’re not the mobile device the majority of South Africans carry around with them — in fact, 95% of citizen who own a cellphone don’t own a tablet. Those who do use it for accessing the internet (77%), emailing (57%), social media (43%) and downloading apps (43%). Samsung is the most popular tablet brand overall, with 52% of the market, while Apple holds just 23%. Both tablet penetration and market share is set to shift in the coming year though: a quarter of the adults interviewed said they were planning to buy a tablet going into 2014, with most (44%) going for Samsung above an iPad (32%).

Taking photos and listening to the radio is bigger than the mobile web

While Facebook, WhatsApp and MXit were voted as the three favourite apps of 2013, people are doing more than just liking statuses and chatting on their phones. The camera is by far the most used function — some 73% of cellphone users use their phones to take photos, with 51% using it to listen to FM Radio, and 49% using it to listen to their own music. Browsing the web takes fourth place, and some 45% of South Africans access Facebook on their phones.

WhatsApp is killing it, but SMS isn’t dead yet

The chat and social apps are seriously gaining ground in the country — and none more so than WhatsApp. The little green instant messenger is now used by more than half of South African mobile users (usage doubled in the past 18 months, from 26% to 53%) although Skype and Twitter are also expected to continue to grow rapidly. Surprisingly, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of other text-based communication — while people are making fewer voice calls, Goldstuck explains that this is actually helping SMS to grow slightly, as people become more accustomed to typing instead of speaking.



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