The app has become the single most significant tool driving the mobile economy in South Africa, according to new research.
The Mobility 2014 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of FNB, showed that the use of apps on phones has shot up from 24% of adult mobile users in mid-2012, to 43% in late 2013.
The report also found that while data use on phones now represents 16% of the average user’s mobile budget – up from 12% in mid-2012 – mobile phone users are also increasingly turning to WiFi hotspots for mobile Internet access.
A relatively low proportion of respondents, 14%, currently uses WiFi hotspots, but this is expected to rise to 26% during 2014.
“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,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD 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 also showed Twitter to be a rising star, being used by 20% of the SA market, up from 12% in mid-2012. This figure is expected to rise to at least 30% in 2014.
WeChat, surprisingly still only accounts for 5% of users in SA, however that figure is expected to grow to 13% in 2014.