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Data dominates SA mobile trends

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck says the “social networking genie is out of the bottle” in SA.

In SA, data spend on cellphones has grown by 50% since 2010, with instant messaging accounting for the biggest increase in specific usage.

This is according to the Mobility 2012 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx, with the backing of First National Bank, which found the proportion of the average user's cellphone spend on data has increased from 8%, in 2010, to 12%, in mid-2012.

“Spend on data is a barometer for the rapid increase both in the number of Internet users in SA and in the intensity with which experienced users engage with the Internet,” says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) usage has increased by 467% since 2010, with Whatsapp coming up from 0% to 26% ‑ taking over a quarter of the market.

Goldstuck says the growth of Whatsapp is largely attributed to the marketing push of the service by Nokia, in response to the growth of BBM. Mxit usage is currently at 23%, and Goldstuck says the growth of the service has been hindered by the emergence of both BBM and Whatsapp.

“The use of instant messaging and social media services are the most interesting, because they are the most revealing about how the mobile user is changing,” says Goldstuck.

The study found spending on voice has dropped from 77% to 73%. Spend on SMS remains steady at 12%, with the downloading of full music tracks featuring for the first time and accounting for 1% of average cellphone spend.

In terms of cellphone brands, Nokia still takes the lion's share with 50% total market share. This is followed by Samsung and BlackBerry both at 18%. Goldstuck says the total number of Android users in SA is still below the one million mark, with BlackBerry at 4.5 million and the iPhone far behind at below half a million users in SA.

“While the Galaxy S3 is seen as the device to have by the top end of the market, it is simply too expensive for the average user and cannot drive the uptake of Android in SA,” says Goldstuck.

Actual cellphone spend in SA is down 13% from 2010, with users taking the discounts from lower costs and pocketing the savings. The majority of cellphone users in SA are on prepaid (84%), followed by contract top-up (9%) and post-paid contracts (7%).

According to the researchers, the evolution of the market depends on how often people update their handsets, yet in the last two years there has been a slow-down in the device acquisition cycle, with people holding onto their handsets for longer than they did two years ago.

In terms of the features used on cellphones, the most popular remains the camera, at 66%. FM radio usage also remains extremely popular at 49% usage. The number of people using their phones to browse the Internet now also sits at 41% ‑ on par with the use of music players.

Thirty-eight percent of all cellphone users use Facebook (a 73% growth in usage since 2010) and Goldstuck says the social network is now the primary means of instant messaging in the local market. Twitter also saw a 100% growth in usage, and is currently used by 12% of cellphone users in SA.

“This is only the beginning: the social networking genie is out of the bottle,” says Goldstuck. “Businesses have to recognise the trend, and begin developing strategies to address it.”

The Mobility 2012 study is conducted annually and the fieldwork is carried out by Dashboard Marketing Intelligence on behalf of World Wide Worx. The sample included just under 1 200 people from across the country, all over the age of 16. The survey is conducted on a face to face basis, and was carried out during May and June. The last Mobility report was published in January last year.

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