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SA mobile market gets smart

Mobile Internet has become very significant in SA, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

The results of the Mobility 2011 research project show a “dramatic and groundbreaking” shift in the South African mobile-user market.

The research, conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank, has found that 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now browsing the Internet on their phones.

The research was conducted through a survey that covered the cellular habits of 1 203 South African cellphone owners: 803 of the respondents were urban dwellers, while 400 came from rural areas.

The study excluded “deep rural” areas and is claimed to represent approximately 20 million South Africans, aged 16 and above. This translates into at least six million South Africans currently with Internet access on their phones.

A total of 1 203 cellphone owners were interviewed, aged 16 and above, from around the country. According to the research company, the sample is nationally representative of SA, and total (urban and rural) findings are weighted to represent the population according to the South African Advertising Research Foundation's All Media and Product Survey population data.

“We have never focused on mobile Internet in a study in the past, but it has become so significant that we have to pay more attention to it,” says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. The Mobility project has been running since 2005.

Results showed that the average spend per user on SMS usage decreased from 16%, in 2009, to 12%, in 2010, of total mobile spend per user. Data usage spend, on the other hand, is up from 5% to 8%, for the same period, and looks to be growing steadily.

“While 3% may seem small, proportionally that figure is very dramatic, and it's a shift that will continue,” explains Goldstuck.

The data generation

“There is a sharp correlation between age and spend. Spend peaks at 36 to 45 years of age, with the younger demographics indicating a greater spend on non-voice services, particularly data,” explains Goldstuck.

The 16- to 18-year-old age group has the greatest percentage spend on non-voice services, with 13% of their total spend going to data.

“The younger generation is more comfortable with using the data capabilities of cellphones, it's like second nature to them, which is highly pertinent for future mobile trends,” he notes.

BlackBerry popularity

Two-thirds of respondents indicated they would be looking to buy new handsets in the near future.

The Mobility brand momentum calculations showed a strong move towards smartphones, and BlackBerry in particular, with the number of users expected to increase by six times the current amount.

Twenty-four percent of the current mobile market claims their next phone will be a BlackBerry, which currently accounts for 4% of the market.

A total of 29% of urban respondents and 20% of rural respondents indicated they see themselves getting a BlackBerry as their next cellphone.

The rise of the BlackBerry has been attributed to the mass appeal of the BlackBerry Messenger service to the youth market. A relatively small 3% of users plan to upgrade to an iPhone.

Social networking

The shift towards smartphones is also linked to a move towards the use of social networking mobile applications.

“Twitter is the big surprise of the study,” says Goldstuck. “But it is being pushed so hard by media personalities, it's time has come.”

Twitter is poised to become a key mobile tool, almost catching up to MXit in the coming year, with 23% of users saying they intend to use the service (current usage is a relatively low 6%). Facebook usage is also on the rise, with a projected increase from 22% to 36% ‑ which will mean it could overtake MXit for the first time in SA.

The trend towards using mobile Internet services is also marked by the arrival of e-mail in the rural user-base and its growth among urban users. There has been a substantial shift among the latter, with urban use rising from 10% in 2009 to 27% at the end of 2010.

“Percentage growth among rural users is lower, but the fact that it was almost non-existent a year before means the 12% penetration reported for 2010 indicates mobile e-mail becoming a mainstream tool across the population,” says Goldstuck.

“The mobile phone is fast becoming the tool to cross the digital divide.”


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