The Mobility 2011 research project, conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank (FNB), reveals that 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural users are now browsing the Internet on their phones.
The study excludes “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.
The big winner in terms of sites and services is Mxit, which enjoys the attention of 24% of cellphone users aged 16 and above (29% of urban, 19% of rural users). However, Facebook is catching up fast, reaching 22% of users, and in fact passing Mxit in the urban over-16 market, with 30% reach, versus 13% among rural users.
Twitter will also become 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%.
The most dramatic shift of all, however, is 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. 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.
While cameras, diaries and games continue to dominate the list of features used on phones, FM radio and music players have become part of a mobile “Big Five”.
However, there is a significant 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.
The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans.