Future of South African smartphone market holds promise for mobile advertising

I attended Mediashop’s Media Forum Breakfast this past Wednesday, where Fiona Potgieter of Yonder Media gave some interesting mobile stats.

If you have been following this blog, you will have noticed that I published a few smartphone-related posts in recent history. Let’s builds on that knowledge base, this time using OurMobilePlanet for key insights. Where applicable, I use comparative statistics of India, UK and US to emphasize differences with South Africa’s smartphone usage behaviors.

There were 7.5 million smartphones in South Africa in 2011, and this number is growing. Blackberry is by far the most popular smartphone, using operating system stats as a proxy in Graph 1 below.

Graph 1

Let me briefly point out that Blackberry is on a free fall in major smartphone markets right now, and there is a distinct possibility that its current stronghold in Mzansi may soon erode in line with the global trend as RIM fails to keep up with rapidly advancing competition from Android and Apple mobile technologies.

2 main reasons – Get info when away from computer, Avoid missing out on things while on the go – indicate that a number of smartphone owners use their computers as a primary device for online access, with mobile devices serving as a stop-gap (Graph 2).

Graph 2

This supports Fiona’s statement on Wednesday that 65% of mobiles phones in South Africa are WAP enabled, but only 25% are used for accessing the Internet. Her view is that there is a need to educate mobile phone users that they can access the Internet on their devices. While I agree with her, I believe there are two additional reasons. Firstly, mobile data is still unaffordable in this country, despite the downward pressure that has been instigated by Cell C. Secondly, my sense is this points to the huge discrepancy in browsing experience on the small mobile screen compared to larger computer screen, brought about by the fact that there has not been a wholesome adaptation of Mzansi’s brand sites for the small screen yet.

Related post: South African females trail their male counterparts in smartphone usage

Toby Shapshak pointed out in his address during the Media Forum Breakfast that the iPhone is bought mainly for apps in South Africa. I could not find specific iOS stats to validate his statement, but I drew a comparative stats (in Graph 3) that gives country average of number of apps on a smartphone.

Graph 3

Mzansi’s average number of 16 apps on a smartphone, which is slightly higher than India’s 14, can be attributed partly to the dominance of Blackberry closed OS network, which is not renowned for having a plethora of apps like iPhone and Android phones.

One of most punted opportunities associated with growth of smartphone market is increased online advertising space for brands. Graph 4 shows that South Africa’s smartphone owners are most aware of mobile advertising compared to those of India, UK and US.

Graph 4


Mzansi’s forecasted growth in smartphone penetration looks set to become good news for mobile advertisers.

In the next post, I analyze whether increase in smartphone penetration in South African is good for the country’s m-commerce.


  • Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
  • Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010



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