Affordability and accessibility sees Blackberry leading the smartphone race

Key Findings:
Eighty Percent (80%) of Users Polled are Considering Buying a Smartphone with the Best Features but at a Good Price

Social Media the Most Performed Data Activity, followed at a Distance by Instant Messaging and Mobile Internet

Mobile Landscape is Dominated by Two Major Service Providers, MTN and Vodacom

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 today by leading information and insights provider Nielsen.

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," observes Harshvardhan Sarda, Executive Director, Customized Research (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."

Chart 1: Upgrading of handsets
Chart 1: Upgrading of handsets

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 percent of consumers is the ability to send and receive text messages, while 48 percent 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.

Chart 2: Services used on mobile in the past week
Chart 2: Services used on mobile in the past week

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 percent 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," notes 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," observes Sarda.

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

About Nielsen's Mobile Insights Report
Nielsen's 2012 Mobile Insights report reveals the latest trends in the mobile and service provider industries in urban South Africa. The report explores the three key telecommunications sector trends, namely mobile handsets, mobile service operators, and mobile data usage, in order to help business leaders stay ahead of the curve, as well as providing extensive data, in-depth analysis and expert commentary on mobile trends, the movement of consumer interest and usage, current and future trends and country level insights.

About Nielsen
Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

11 Oct 2012 10:54


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