8 mobile trends to watch

mobile trends

If you haven’t been paying attention to mobile trends, you should.  A lot has happened in the mobile space. In 2016, almost 70% of South Africans browsed the web on their mobile phone, this figure up by 15% since 2016. Among that 70%, there were more Samsung mobile phone users than Apple iPhone users, and around 43% of South Africans were interested in mobile advertisements that were relevant to them. 

Mobile trends with context

If your business is looking for compelling insights into how mobile is performing in SA today, and how to position your brand for success, here are 8 mobile trends that we think you should know:

1.  Feature phones are still going strong

Despite what most think, feature phones are still widely used in SA. By September 2016, smartphone usage surpassed the one-third mark in SA, meaning that feature phones still play a significant role in connecting South Africans.

While feature phones don’t have as much functionality as smartphones, assuming that they present less opportunity to engage with your target market would be an oversight. According to Effective Measures’ Mobile Trends Report for 2017, 22% of their respondents saw an SMS advertisement and 19% saw a mobile website advertisement. If your target market consists of feature phone users, these marketing channels could present growth opportunities for you.

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2. Social media marketing is where it’s at  

According to the World Wide Worx 2016 Study of the South African Social Media Landscape, a quarter of South Africans are now social media users. Their report found the following:

  • Facebook has grown by 8%, from 12 million to 13 million users
  • Twitter grew by 12%, from 6,6 million to 7,4 million users
  • YouTube increased its user base marginally more, with a 15% rise from 7,2 million to 8,28 million users
  • The biggest growth has come from Instagram, which rose a massive 133%, from 1,1 million to 2,68 million users.

Social media presents any business with the opportunity to engage their audience and generate results fast. We see business getting smarter about reach, campaign messaging and producing stronger experiences and offers.  

Through platforms like Facebook and Instagram which offer the lowest advertising costs available today, it’s possible to channel more of your marketing budget towards trackable online campaigns that will get you results faster.

3. Big data is getting bigger  

Mobile app usage is going strong in SA, with 21% of user time spent on accessing apps to do anything from paying bills and online banking to booking plane tickets and car rentals. With strong mobile app and internet usage, more businesses will be able to gather more insights into consumer preferences, helping them deliver value throughout the consumer brand experience.  

4.  Consumer engagement will get easier

Mobile marketing channels are creating a cheaper and more effective means for marketers to engage their audiences, and engagement will be extended to smarter ways to improve products and services using surveys and user feedback.

It’s common to see complaints on social media about poor service, and we expect to see more brands stepping up to participate on social media with more complete customer support, as they try to match social advertising effort to create more enjoyable brand experiences for consumers.

5. App development set to grow

The barriers to application development are lower today than ever before. This can be attributed to several factors, such as:

  • A growing talent pool. Online learning portals like Codeacademy, Udemy and Coursera offer free and affordable coding courses on mobile programming languages, making is possible for anyone with online access and a computer to start learning code.
  • Costs are low and talent is more accessible. Businesses looking for developers are able to leverage highly skilled local or international talent via gig sites like Fiverr and Upwork.

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6. Android OS leads the pack

Android OS is the most used mobile  operating system in South Africa. Effective Measure found that Samsung is the preferred mobile device of most South Africans, followed by Apple’s iPhone, Huawei, Blackberry, Nokia and Sony.


Mobile phone usage by brand

7. Broadband and LTE penetration is growing

Broadband access is growing in South Africa. According to We Are Social, the number of active mobile broadband connections compared to total population was at 73% as of January 2017. At 73%, SA is above the global average of 55% and ahead of Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, Egypt, Turkey, Vietnam and India.


Mobile broadband penetration

Source: We Are Social

LTE geographical coverage in SA has just eclipsed the 60% mark, according to OpenSignals State of LTE report in November 2016. While other nations are able to enjoy 4G download speeds of up to 43 Mbps, SA lags behinds at 15.43 Mbps.

LTE download speeds SA

Source: OpenSignal

Broadband penetration is significant as this presents businesses with the opportunity to drive more marketing initiatives to a larger audience. With higher download speeds, mobile phone users are likely to spend more time consuming more information, giving more businesses the opportunity to engage them with targeted marketing campaigns.

8. Digital wallets and payments adoption is rising

Usage of digital wallets is growing and capturing the attention of large retailers. Mobile payment providers like Snapscan and Zapper are also widening the retailer footprint with by giving SMBs access to mobile apps that allow payments and double-up as loyalty program solutions.

Shoppers can also use digital wallets in major retailers like Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Checkers Hyper and Shoprite Usave. Other notable outlets include Engen petrol stations, KFC outlets and other restaurants across South Africa.

The convenience of paying with mobile money adds security to consumer purchases and helps retailers develop a better understanding of consumer buying habits. We expect to see more businesses move to offer digital wallet payments alongside cash and card options.


The mobile ecosystem is thriving and advances in device technology, broadband penetration and web and social platform development will spur innovative solutions for South African businesses keen to participate in one of Africa’s fastest growing markets.

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