A new report from BMI-TechKnowledge projects that there will be 15-million mobile Internet users in South Africa by 2013.
The report, entitled SA Consumer Handset Model and Cellular Activities, says that the number of unique cellular users is expected to increase from approximately 35-million this year to just less than 42-million by 2013. Consumers, it adds, are predominantly using prepaid payment mechanisms – especially among lower income users – and this is unlikely to change significantly in the near future.
Nevertheless, it continues, mobile Internet browsing and mobile e-mail access are expected to increase rapidly, with the report forecasting over 15-million users accessing the Internet directly or indirectly on their handsets by 2013.
Ryan Smit, consumer market analyst at BMI-T and author of the report, notes that handset trends such as media-orientated handsets, navigation handsets, and touch screen interfaces indicate that consumers are demanding higher functionality from their handsets, with convergence becoming more and more prevalent. New operating systems such as iPhone OS and the Android platform have opened up many possibilities, especially when viewed in combination with their application stores which offer the user the ability to buy and install applications directly from his handset.
Users have indicated that their most important characteristics for choosing a handset are long battery life, user-friendliness, camera capabilities and a large screen size; these characteristics however differ strongly among different market segments with younger consumers valuing instant messaging highly whilst middle-aged consumers value e-mail functionality more.
Mobile instant messaging is also likely to increase the significant growth it has experienced recently with users demanding the functionality and affordability that it offers. Concurrently it is also expected that mobile social networking is likely to experience strong growth as traditionally PC-based social networks improve their mobile access functionality, and mobile-based offerings provide social networking functionality to those users without PC access.