Friday, 3 February 2012

Mobile Internet on the rise in Africa

At the end of 2011, there were the first signs of smartphone use on SMS: for the first time in some countries, rather than the volume of SMS growing inexorably, it declined for the first time. Russell Southwood looks at how wider use of mobile Internet may affect SMS volumes in Africa and at two of the new generation of interfaces designed to make it easier for Africans to use the mobile Internet.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the number of smart phones and feature phones in African countries will increase. With this increase, many users will go from an unvaried diet of voice and SMS messages (with a soupcon of paid services) to a much more varied diet of use. It is not hard to envisage the day when the number of smart phone and feature phone users may make up as much as 40-60% of all subscribers

SMS is simply e-mail in “short trousers”: it’s easy to use but it’s significantly more restricted and more expensive than sending an e-mail. You can’t use it to share things like photos with friends unless you can use even more expensive MMS’s. But although price is one of the single biggest factors affecting consumer’s decisions on the continent, the other big factor is habit. The change of use requires not just a person to send an e-mail but someone to understand how to receive it.

This is where the new generation of browsers come into play. If both of those sending and receiving are on Facebook, then it solves that problem: they both understand how to do it. The widespread use of MXit on Blackberry in South Africa as an Instant Messaging tool to avoid SMS costs is another illustration of how this works. What starts with 15-24 year olds, slowly cascades across the age groups.

Read the whole article here

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