The time of the App
The app has become the single most significant tool driving the mobile economy in South Africa. The use of apps on phones has shot up from 24% of adult cellphone users in cities and towns in mid-2012 to 43% in late 2013.
The Mobility 2014 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank, shows that a tipping point in mobile apps use was reached in 2013, with more than half of urban cellphone users – 51% – now using these tools. The rural market, too is growing fast, with its 27% usage level surpassing the overall market of 18 months before.
While data use on phones now represents 16% of the average user’s mobile budget – up from 12% in mid-2012 – cellphone users are also increasingly turning to Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile Internet access. A relatively low proportion of respondents, 14%, currently uses Wi-Fi hotspots, but this is expected to increase to 26% during 2014. As a consequence, both mobile network data use and Internet access via hotspots is expected to boom.
“The rapidly growing penetration of smartphones and the increased ease of use of the Internet on feature phones has changed the way South Africa communicates,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. “While SMS remains pervasive, new communication channels are being opened up to the mass market through both social media and instant messaging (IM) apps.”
The most dramatic growth has been seen in IM, particularly in the uptake of WhatsApp, which more than doubled its penetration in the past 18 months, from 26% to 53%. A further 10% of cellphone users say they will use it in the coming year. Facebook Chat is the second most popular chat tool with 45% of respondents using it, followed by Mxit, remaining steady at 25%, and BBM rising from 17% to 21%.
The survey, conducted among adult cellphone users living in cities and towns in South Africa, also underlines the powerful growth of Twitter, which is now being used by 20% of this market, up from 12% in mid-2012. This figure is expected to rise to at least 30% in 2014.
“These findings are clear evidence that consumers are taking control of their own conversations – choosing when, where and how they want to communicate,” says Dione Sankar, Head of Cellphone Banking and Messaging at FNB. “This poses a great challenge to the business world, but we also see it as the greatest opportunity yet to get closer to our customers.
2. Internet access
Use of mobile internet
Cellphone internet access
3G internet access
3. Place of internet access
Internet access at home
Internet access at home, by device
Internet access at work
Internet access at school or university/college
Number of people using internet at home
Non-mobile internet access
Mobile and non-mobile internet access
4. Internet time online
Internet time online using cellphone
Internet time online using a computer
Cellphone WAP enabled
Spend on data
Spend on 3G
7. Internet site use
Mobile sites visited
Social sites and messaging
Facebook on the Web
Regular email use
Number of active email addresses
Satisfaction with ISP
Appendix A: Statistical values