While the South African mobile telecommunications sector continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, the market is still dominated by feature phones. “Over the next two to three years we hope to see cheaper smart phones coming to the market place, allowing more citizens the benefits of smart phone technology,” says OnePixel COO Nicholas Rixon. “This would allow more people to browse the Internet, gain access to mobile Apps that could help them in everyday life, and enable them to communicate with friends and family using cheaper methods like Whatsapp or WeChat,” explains Rixon.
Blackberry currently leads the way in the smartphone sector, with its free data plans, BBM service and affordable device range. At the same time Samsung is looking to eat away at the Blackberry market with its Android operating system offering a superior user experience, while Apple is talking of bringing out a cheaper version of its revolutionary iPhone. “All this makes for a very interesting future mobile landscape that could bring smart capability phones to more people,” says Rixon.
The South African mobile market remains fragmented in terms of devices and the operating systems that support them. The use of mobile devices as a wallet and money-transferring device is a new hot topic, and the race is on to see which technology will emerge as the defacto money exchange method in the mobile space. The success of M-Pesa mobile-phone based money transfer service in Kenya has pushed other African countries to adopt mobile as a valid means of banking the unbanked.
The mobile wallet sector in South Africa has matured over recent months with wallets becoming a reality for high-end devices like Android, Blackberry and Apple devices through the use of mobile wallet Apps. Near Field Communication (NFC) is also impacting the retail and local mobile wallet space. NFC is contactless Wi-fi lite technology that will become a permanent feature on the phones of the future. Right now only a limited number of smartphones have NFC built in, but the next generation of smartphones will have the technology included internally. NFC has the power to change the way users interact with retailers with regards to paying for goods and customer engagement. For example, retailers will be able to identify shoppers as they enter a store and offer loyalty points just for visiting.
Location Based Services (LBS) is also a growing topic and a technology that has matured over time and can now offer some real value. Users can make use of LBS to discover new interesting places close by, locate retail specials and make contact with friends and family nearby. On the brand side of things, businesses will be able to make direct contact with users who frequent certain areas and provide them tailored offers that maximise their time in that space, which is a win/win situation for both users and retailers.
“Overall, the expected growth in the smart phone market in the coming months and years will have a positive impact on people’s lives by allowing them to browse, bank, communicate, connect and shop more effectively,” concludes Rixon.