SA mobile trends revealed

Nokia continues to dominate the South African mobile landscape, with just over half (51%) of consumers opting for a Nokia as their primary handset, according to a report released by information and measurement provider, Nielsen.

The data dovetails recent data compiled by World Wide Worx which showed that, of a total of around 10-million smartphones sold in South Africa, about 4.8 million are BlackBerry devices. Nokia is a close second, with around 4 million smartphones sold.

Nielsen’s South Africa Mobile Insights study, which examined consumers’ usage of and attitudes towards mobile phones, networks and service providers, found that, while Nokia maintained its lead of the mobile phone market, rival Blackberry was nominated by the largest number of respondents (48%) as the most likely handset choice for their next purchase.

“There is a clear drive towards owning a smartphone in South Africa, despite the financial pressures that most consumers are facing,” said Harshvardhan Sarda, executive director of customized research for South and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“What differentiates South Africa from other countries when it comes to the smartphone race is that Blackberry still has a much firmer grasp on the market in large part due to its affordability and social popularity.”

Nielsen’s study highlighted a continued shift by consumers away from lower-end, basic handsets towards high-end feature phones.

Half (50%) of users polled indicated they intended to upgrade their handset in the coming year, with more than three quarters of these users eyeing a Smartphone. The choice of brand would be largely dependent upon best features at the most affordable price.

The Nielsen study found that the most sought after feature for future handsets is the ability to communicate quickly and affordably. The priority for 56% of consumers is the ability to send and receive text messages, while 48% prefer to have access to social networks and e-mail.

The most desired hardware features include MP3 playing capability and a good quality camera. Other important considerations for users are an easy to use handset that is aesthetically appealing.

In general, mobile activity has increased and diversified as social networking, instant messaging and mobile internet slowly gain popularity. The increase in usage of these activities is resulting in a greater need for and consumption of mobile data.

Currently, 36% of respondents utilise data services and with the high number of users wanting to upgrade to a Smartphone in the next year there is likely to be an increase in this activity.

“More consumers are turning to the internet when it comes to purchasing decisions, not necessarily for online shopping which has not gained momentum in South Africa, but for researching product information, looking for good deals and promotions online and browsing digital broadsheets,” noted Sarda.

“For most South Africans, their first interaction with the internet is through their mobile phone, and many will only ever access the internet this way. Mobile internet offers a unique opportunity in a country like South Africa which lacks the infrastructure required for high levels of fixed-line penetration.”

According to users, the biggest advantages to using a mobile are convenience and access to the internet. But the perceived high cost is a barrier that deters more consumers from using mobile data.

The downloading of mobile applications is also increasing in popularity amongst those with capable handsets, with 17% of Smartphone owners having downloaded an App recently. Apps that focus on some form of entertainment such as music, social networking and games are the most popular.

The use of mobile banking services is also increasing, with 16% of consumers having used this service recently, up from eleven percent (11%) last year, with First National Bank’s (FNB‘s) eWallet being the most popular. About a quarter of respondents (24%) indicated they are interested in using mobile banking in the near future.

The two major players, MTN and Vodacom, continue to dominate in the mobile space with Cell C and 8ta maintaining awareness but failing to gain ground on subscriptions and usage.

Price is once again the major factor in driving the choice of service provider, with network quality and coverage also being important drivers. Switching between service providers is low, with most users (50%) remaining with their current service provider to retain their phone number.

“As users become more aware of the service that allows them to retain their number across networks, loyalty may become a thing of the past,” observed Sarda.

Although price determines the service provider of choice, poor customer service and bad network quality contribute to overall service dissatisfaction, Nielsen said.

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SA mobile trends revealed