BlackBerry continues to dominate the South African smartphone market because of the devices’ great features; affordable Internet access; BBM; and network efficiency. This is according to Rui Brites, product director for Africa at Research In Motion (RIM).
BlackBerry is far more popular in SA than Apple’s iPhone and other Android devices – recent figures from Vodacom show that there are nearly seven times more BlackBerry devices on their network (around 2 million) than iPhones (around 300,000) and Android smartphones (around 300,000).
BlackBerry is also showing stronger growth in South Africa compared to iPhones and Android devices. This growth is flying in the face of international trends, where BlackBerry is rapidly losing market share to Apple’s iPhone and Android.
But what makes BlackBerry so successful in South Africa? Brites explains that there are various reasons for RIM’s success in South Africa, including “excellent features and applications”, affordable access and BBM.
“BlackBerry smartphones offer an excellent set of features for social networking, and unique applications like BlackBerry App World and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger),” said Brites.
BlackBerry in South Africa is closely associated with affordable, flat-rated Internet access. This is, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest drivers of the popularity of BlackBerry devices.
“For R59 per month on prepaid and post-paid options, the BlackBerry Internet Service offers unlimited on-device Internet browsing and email access at the most affordable rate in South Africa. This service is unique to BlackBerry smartphones,” explains Brites.
More affordable BlackBerry handsets are also key to RIMs success locally.
“The breakout success of the BlackBerry Curve 8520 proved that there is a massive demand in the market for approachable and affordable smartphones that make it easy for people to get connected’” says Brites.
BlackBerry’s success in the South African youth market is particularly impressive. Apart from affordable devices and services, RIM’s popular BBM messenger service played a role.
“The youth especially love BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) which enables them to share text and voice messages, pictures and video clips,” says Brites.
“BBM penetration figures for December 2011 were 97% (97% of BlackBerry user-base in South Africa uses BBM). BBM is also the most downloaded free app from BlackBerry App World in South Africa.”
Brites argues that network efficiency is also responsible for BlackBerry’s success: “RIM’s global BlackBerry Infrastructure remains a core advantage for our business and is an integral part of RIM’s ability to deliver industry leading push services, security, manageability and spectral efficiency for RIM’s customers and partners.
“On average, browsing the web is 2 times more efficient; email is 4 times more efficient; and social messaging is 2 times more efficient than other smartphones. This efficiency lowers roaming fees, allows a customer to do more on their data plan and also provides less strain on the carrier networks,” explains Brites.
BlackBerry in SA in 2012
Brites says that South Africa remains a strategic priority for RIM, and feels that there is tremendous opportunity for growth.
“We are confident that we will continue to see strong demand in the local market,” says Brites.
“Overall, there is plenty of room for growth in the industry: the majority of global phones are still feature phones. Even in the U.S., just 39% of mobile phone users own a smartphone,” Brites concludes.
Brites are also not too concerned about Android and Apple’s iPhone.
“We continue to offer many unique advantages to our customers. Our BlackBerry 7 smartphones are the best phones we’ve ever built, and are being well received by consumers in South Africa and around the world.”