Arthur Goldstuck

Mobile voice revenue is declining fast, while data use is surging, driven by instant messaging and apps, say new reports on the state of mobility in South Africa.

The findings of two reports - The Mobile Consumer in SA 2014 and The Mobile Internet in SA 2014, were presented at a media briefing in Johannesburg, South Africa, this morning. The studies, by World Wide Worx in partnership with FNB and Dashboard Research, found that 65% of South Africans – around 13 million people – now have internet access. Around 29% - 5.8 million of them - access the internet using mobile devices only, while 32% - or 6.4 million – access the internet using mobile devices and laptops or PCs, and 4% -  under one million - access the internet using only laptops or PCs.

Peter SearllArthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, said voice usage is declining steadily, particularly among younger cellphone users, while data spend is surging. In the biggest data user group – people aged 19 – 24, only 56% of mobile budget is spent on voice (down from 66% last year), while data spend has increased from 17% last year to 24% currently. Overall, voice spend has dropped from 73% of mobile budget to 65%, while data has increased from 12% to 16%. At the beginning of 2010, voice stood at 77% and data at 8%. All ages are moving to increase data use, said Goldstuck: “Even the old timers are moving to the data economy.”

Surprisingly, SMS spend has remained constant at 13%. “Predictions on the death of SMS and MMS may have been premature,” said Goldstuck. He said the ongoing use of SMS may be driven by the market’s ready acceptance of text and instant messaging over voice. However, he said SMS prices would have to drop in the foreseeable future. “There is potential for a price war on SMS,” he said, “or we may see service providers making SMS available for free in future.”

The studies found that Nokia still dominates the market, and BlackBerry uptake is growing. Nokia has 44% market share – down from 50%, followed by BlackBerry on 23% - up from 18%, and Samsung on 19% - up from 18%, said Peter Searll, MD of Dashboard, field research providers. Only around 5% of adult cellphone users also have a tablet.

Dione SankarThe app has become the single most significant tool driving the mobile economy in South Africa, the studies found. The use of apps on phones increase from 24% of adult cellphone users in cities and towns in mid-2012 to 43% in late 2013.

South Africans’ favourite apps are facebook (36%), WhatsApp (25%) and Mxit (12%), followed by games (11%), music, Google and Twitter (9% each) and BBM (8%). The most popular feature used on phones remains the camera, at 73% of cellphone users, with FM Radio far behind at 51%, and the music player on the phone catching up to FM, at 49%.

The surveys revealed substantial shifts in the mobile banking environment, with the biggest proportional shift coming in the use of banking apps. From only 1% of all banking customers using banking apps in mid-2012, the figure has shot up to 9% in late 2013. Cellphone banking has also surged, from 28% in mid-2012 to 37% in late 2013.

“One in ten banking customers are now using apps, and that number is still rising fast, which vindicates our strategy of expanding our offerings as the market’s use of these tools evolves,” says Dione Sankar, Head of Cellphone Banking and Messaging at FNB. “At the same time, looking after the non-smartphone customer through basic cellphone banking has also paid off. We have never experienced such dramatic growth across all mobile channels.”


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