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By 31 January 2012 | Categories: news

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A new report regarding smartphone and mobiles in South Africa, released by the technology consulting company Strategy Worx today, shows that South Africa is managing to fly in the face of more than one global trend.

For example, while smartphones have become popular internationally, the report found that only 7.5 million or 15% of South Africa’s 53 million cellular connections are smartphones.

And, despite the fact that  Research in Motion, the manufacturers of the BlackBerry smartphones and tablet, has floundered in the US, the company is still on a good footing locally. Strategy Worx elaborated that about 3.3 million people, or a massive 44% of the 7.5 million smartphones in use locally, is a BlackBerry.

The report continued that the number of Windows Mobile 6.5 devices still outstrips Android devices, while the iPhone has only garnered a comparatively meagre 4% share of the smartphone market locally.

“We do anticipate a shift in these numbers over the next year, as Nokia is transitioning its high-end devices from Symbian, which currently has 15% of the South African smartphone market, and Windows Mobile 6.5 has been superseded by Windows Phone 7. This leaves a significant 24% of the market set to change operating systems, whether they like it or not, over the next 24 months,” added Strategy Worx.

Affordability is king

Not surprisingly for the local market, and the economic travails that have become a fact of life for many, affordability emerged as being a significant factor in purchases. For this reason, the company expects BlackBerry to remain dominant for the foreseeable future, due to the cost effectiveness of its BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS).

This status is further strengthened by the popularity of its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service; and this is expected to continue at least for the next quarter.

However, the company warned that ‘how BlackBerry responds to new entrants into the market, such as the Nokia Lumia range, as well as the anticipated data inclusive bundles from competitive ecosystems, such as Android and Windows Phone 7, will determine their success past 2012.’

Silver linings

On the instant messaging side BBM still trails behind MXit, which to date has 10 million active users on its network. Strategy Worx pointed out that 16% of MXit users have the social service installed on their BlackBerry, using BBM and MXit concurrently.
  
In other words, while RIM’s dark clouds of woe have been plentiful over the past year, it is South African users who are proving to offer the company a silver lining.   

Additionally, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare and emerging social platforms such as Path and Google+ do not appear to be currently affecting the popularity of BBM, Mxit and Whatsapp; they similarly appear to be used in parallel at this time.

Growth ahead

Strategy Worx further predicted in its report that ‘massive growth in the use of social media platforms will unfold as the penetration of smartphones accelerates during the course of this year.’

The company elaborated that this is being driven by price reductions for the presence of  ‘very acceptable devices’ which will continue to fall to well below R1000 in 2012, and further augmented by manufacturers switching their ranges to offer smart devises.

To the point

For RIM in particular, and smartphones in general, the future looks rosy. While South Africa may be ‘bucking the international trend’, this also shows how unique and differentiated the South African market is.

The one regard in which South Africa appears to be on par with its international counterparts though, is that the rise of the smartphones appears to be both unstoppable and inevitable.  

In recent news, market research firm Strategy Analytics’ latest research showed that Nokia emerged as the winner in terms of mobile phone shipments even as Apple regained the number one smartphone maker spot, and RIM launched its BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Office 365 after it announced a new president and CEO.   

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