SA mobile usage study yields surprising results

The Mobility 2012 research study, conducted by South Africa’s World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank, yielded a number of interesting data from South African mobile users and how they make use of their mobile phones.

World Wide Worx Managing Director Arthur Goldstuck. (Image: Charlie Fripp)

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, said that users will not stop using voice, but that data is fast becoming more important to younger users – such as social networking and Instant Messaging – but that it will spread over time to the older generation as well.

For the study, Goldstuck pointed out that 59% of the sample had Internet access, but that only 5% access it on a PC only, 27% on a mobile phone, while 27% has access to the Internet through a combination of mobile and PC.

The data also showed that only 13% of rural areas have Internet access on a PC, which is a stark contrast to the 61% of rural areas that have Internet access on a mobile phone.

In terms of the most visited mobile sites, Google ranked tops with 84% of the visits, while only 20% of users access Wikipedia, 12% access Jobmail’s mobile site. News websites are also a popular favourite for South African users, as a quarter of mobile Internet users access News24 from their phone, while 20% of users enter Google’s news offering.

Speaking of Google, there was also an 18% increase over the last year in visits to Google’s main page as a search engine from a mobile phone and a 17% increase in Facebook access.

“Spend on data is a barometer for the rapid increase both in the number of Internet users in South Africa and in the intensity with which experienced users engage with the Internet,” Goldstuck added.

In terms of satisfaction, fixed line edges out mobile data in terms of speed and satisfaction, but “email usage has also increased, as 38% of the sample had an email address, which is up 28% from 2010 where average number of email addresses was 1.5 accounts per user,” Goldstuck said.

According to the study, which had a sample size of over 1400 participants, it found that 41% use the built-in Internet browsers and 38% use Facebook on their mobile phone. One of the applications that have enjoyed a tremendous growth is WhatsApp, which grew by 26%. “WhatsApp has taken a really strong hold on the market, and has overtaken Mxit which is on 23%”.

Goldstuck surmised that the dramatic increase in WhatsApp and BBM’s popularity have been the contributing factors for Mxit’s slow growth in South Africa. In terms of BBM, 18% of the participants had the app on their phone, while 17% made use of it – which is in line with BlackBerry’s findings that 98% of BlackBerry users in South Africa make use of the BBM feature.

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

Other interesting statistics that were released as part of the survey:

* The number of active mobile service provider accounts has declined, with 89% having one account, while only 10% has two.

* Only 4% of users living in a rural environment have a contract phone, while 11% in urban areas do. In terms of pre-paid, 94% of rural users have pre-paid accounts, while 80% of urban users do.

* Users spend less on mobile compared to two years ago. On contract the average user spends about R387 a month, while Pre-paid is approx. R165.

* Users spend about 68% of their bill on voice for contracts, while the figure increases to 75% for pre-paid accounts. The preferred mobile operators are MTN and Vodacom, MTN having the majority stake of 47% in South Africa as a main account.

* 50% of device used are Nokia, while Samsung and BlackBerry both enjoy 18% market share. The data also showed that BlackBerry appeals to the younger generation, tend to be more educated and urban.

* 49% of respondents got a new phone within the last year, while only 11% is planning to get a new phone in the next six months. Data also showed that those not planning to get a new phone in the next six months are up from 2010 to 40%.

* In terms of mobile banking, only 28% of people said that they do, while 72% said they did not. FNB sits with the majority share of mobile banking. While USSD users are at 59%, only 5% are using their browsers exclusively for banking, and apps-only is 1%. The data also indicated that 41% don’t know how to use mobile banking, 34% doesn’t trust it, and 8% said that it does not work on their phone, while only 2% said it’s not offered by their bank.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor