SA on Mobile Steroids

We found a recent research study which shows that the cellular habits of South African phone users have evolved dramatically in 2010, because of  smart phones, mobile applications and the mobile Internet entering mainstream.

Some of it’s key findings:

The Mobility 2011 research project, conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank, revealed that 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now browsing the Internet on their phones. The study does however exclude “deep rural” users, and represents around 20-million South Africans aged 16 and above. This means that at least 6-million South Africans now have Internet access on their phones.  That is staggering, considering most 1st world countries still think we have lions walking around our backyard.

According to the sudy, “Approximately 30% of FNB’s 2.6 million Cellphone Banking customer base is in the middle income segment. During 2010’s festive period for example, the FNB.Mobi site, which is generally accessed by the tech savvy via the internet on their Cell Phones, attracted high volumes of visitors. Thus Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the ‘anywhere, anytime’ concept of banking.” says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions.

Still the social fronteer is the main peanut in the pack, as the front runner in terms of sites and services is Mxit, which enjoys 24% of cellphone users aged 16 and above (29% of urban, 19% of rural users). However, Facebook is catching up fast, as it is reaching 22% of users, and in fact passing Mxit in the urban over-16 market, with 30% reach, versus 13% among rural users.

Twitter is also becoming a key mobile tool, almost catching up to MXit in the coming year, from a low 6% of cellular users at the end of 2010. The proportion of urban Twitter mobile users is exactly double that of rural users: 8%, against 4%.

Twitter is the big surprise of the study as it is being pushed so hard by media personalities, it’s time had to come.

The most dramatic of all, is the arrival of e-mail in the rural user-base and its growth among urban users. Urban use rose from 10% in 2009 to 27% at the end of 2010. While the percentage growth among rural users is lower, 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.

Cameras, diaries and games continue to dominate the list of features used on phones but, FM radio and music players have entered the mobile “Big Five”. However, there is a big difference in the features preferred by urban and rural phone users. Three quarters of urban respondents (75%) use their phone cameras, but little more than half of rural respondents (55%). Music players on the phone get the vote of 53% of urban users, versus 36% of rural users. Surprisingly, the gap is reversed when it comes to games on the phone: 54% of urban users enjoy these, compared to 65% of rural users.

So we here at Webfanatix are expecting big things in the mobile market for 2011.  Just yesterday I downloaded the official Cricket Word Cup iPhone app and realized how far these technologies have actually progressed in such a short time.  I fondly remember those days of carrying my half-kilo Samsung brick around thinking what a cool cat I was.  Oh how things have changed.

The executive summaries, with purchase information, can be downloaded by clicking on the links below:
Executive Summary -The Mobile Consumer in South Africa 2011
Executive Summary -The Mobile Internet in South Africa 2011

Johan Marneweck
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