Fewer SMS users as chat takes over

2015-04-08 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Instant messaging services are set to overtake SMS usage in South Africa in the coming year, says a local technology expert.

A survey by World Wide Worx and GeoPoll called Mobile Africa 2015 — which interviewed 3 500 mobile phone users in five African countries — has illustrated how SMS usage is under threat in SA.

According to the survey, 52% of South African respondents said they still use text messages when it comes to their most common phone activities. In all the African countries combined, 45% of respondents said they still use SMSs.

However, usage of instant messaging is rising fast as 41% of South African respondents said they use services such as WhatsApp. Meanwhile, 41% of South African respondents also said they use social networking service Facebook, which also has messaging features.

Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx told Fin24 that these statistics point to a spiralling decline in text message use in SA and the rest of Africa.

“SMS [usage] is clearly on the decline,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

“A few years ago it [SMSes] would have been pervasive. Now it’s used by less than half the respondents across these five markets. IM is killing it off steadily and will overtake it in the coming year,” said Goldstuck.

The survey did not reveal statistics for voice usage in SA, but Goldstuck said a similar picture could be painted to that for text messages.

“We are still analysing our data around voice calling and will be issuing a separate announcement on the findings here. I can say that early indications are that it is also on the decline,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

Threats to the voice market could come from instant messaging services as well. Last month, instant messaging service WhatsApp launched a voice calling service for Android users of the application.

Goldstuck said last year that WhatsApp has over 10 million users in South Africa.

Apart from sending SMS messages, taking photos is a top activity among 45% of phone users.

Social networking service Twitter is used by 14% of SA respondents, according to the survey.

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