Firm cautions against SA mobile apps

2012-05-14 11:25
Firms should exercise caution with mobile applications in South Africa, Tim Bishop has warned. (picture provided)

Firms should exercise caution with mobile applications in South Africa, Tim Bishop has warned. (picture provided)

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Cape Town - Companies should be careful about building mobile applications that suit South African market conditions, an industry player has warned.

"Mobile is cluttered with a lot of rubbish right now. Choice is where the value is for users, choice is where the quality is; choice is where the relevance is," Tim Bishop, chief technical officer at Prezence Digital told News24.

In Africa, data costs are a significant barrier to mobile expansion and technology like SMS and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) are cheap and easy to deliver while mobi and applications serve a higher demographic, said Prezence Digital.

The company entered SA in 2002 when the growth of company websites was accelerating.

"What we saw was a lot of very poor websites that neither did anything good for the consumer or the brand, but they were just told they needed to go onto the web," said Bishop.


He added that with the mobile web, the situation was similar as brands rushed to create a mobile presence, irrespective of what the data said about how consumers are accessing the web.

"Exactly the same thing, literally 10 years later is happening with mobile. One of the most dangerous things is they are getting caught up with US and European data.

"A lot of the brands - even mass-market brands - are going: I must have an iPhone app. I must have an Android app."

A Google-backed survey on the state of the mobile web found that 21% of users in Sub-Saharan Africa felt that cost was a bigger barrier to entry than speed (11%) or even reliability (7%).

BlackBerry devices make up the largest share of the smartphone market in SA, due in part to the flat-rate data bundle offered with the phones.

"In South Africa, if you do an iPhone and Android app, you will cover 10% of the smartphone market, let alone the entire market.

"Smartphone penetration here is a lot smaller - we only have about nine million smartphones here and the list of what's popular is exactly arse up from the US," Bishop said.


BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion is struggling in the US and Europe as users in developed countries move toward iPhone and Android platforms, but Bishop insisted that brands should focus on the South African reality.

"Of our nine million smartphones, the best part of 65% of those are BlackBerrys. Nearly 25% of those are Nokias; the remaining 10% is made up of iPhone and Android. They're not shooting in the dark as such, but they're looking at the wrong data.

"We're not saying you shouldn't do iPhone and Android apps - fantastic - but understand that BlackBerry is more important; Nokia is the next important, and then, by all means do an iPhone and Android app."

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