Firm cautions against SA mobile apps

2012-05-14 11:25

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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  • bobby.mykonos - 2012-05-14 11:47

    "Companies should be careful about building mobile applications that suit South African market conditions" "users in developed countries move toward iPhone and Android platforms, but Bishop insisted that brands should focus on the South African reality." I think this article is trying to say that people should be building apps that suit local conditions, but it does a really poor job of getting the point across, or I am really bad at comprehension.

      Napolita - 2012-05-14 11:56

      I do not think you are bad at comprehension. The two statements you quoted are simply contradictory. So your conclusion as to what the writer of the article wanted to convey can go either way.

      Quinton - 2012-05-14 12:33

      Both of you are bad at comprehension. The article says DEVELOPED countries have a tendency for iPhone and Android. South Africa is clearly a DEVELOPING country. So NO contradiction. The South African reality is that Blackberry is the market leader and that development should be focused on that. uuuggh....some readers just dont COMPREHEND most of the articles on websites?????

      bobby.mykonos - 2012-05-14 12:42

      lol Quinton thank you for the entertainment. "Companies should be careful about building mobile applications that suit South African market conditions" This statement is incorrect. It should read something like "Companies should endeavor to build applications that suit South African market conditions" Saying they should be "Careful of building" suggests that they should avoid building them for local conditions.

      bobby.mykonos - 2012-05-14 13:08

      PS the headline reads "Firm cautions against SA mobile apps"

      Squeegee - 2012-05-14 19:53

      Quinton, we are backward if Blackberry is the dominant mobile...

  • Cecil - 2012-05-14 12:11

    What a poorly written article. Lost the plot completely

  • Shaun.T.Wilson - 2012-05-14 12:39

    What is the point here? Art of War? Distract while you build your apps? Dunno? Where did he get his facts as stats on smartphone usage realized 2 weeks ago show that 40/45% of the market is BlackBerry and 35/40% are Nokia.. Yes Nokia... As FNB says if you want loyalty "Get an App"

  • alexander.lombard - 2012-05-14 12:41

    In all fairness this article has relevance to marketing and user interaction type aplications. Companies should however use aplications to make their operations work better. Stock Counting, Proof of deliveries, acnowlagement of tasks, job cards and check lists are some of the functions that can streamline operations especially traveling staff. However users with smartphones might also represent your market share of the population very well as some companies focus especially on target group similar to the smarphone market. Example users buying technology magezines would most probably also have a smartphone.

  • lydonmcg - 2012-05-14 12:53

    Whilst I understand the point that he's trying to make, this is only really applicable to apps that are specifically targeting a South African audience. And even then, in many cases - such as with banks - there's no reason why they can't build apps for multiple platforms. Because you can be sure that Blackberry isn't going to reign supreme locally as the prices of data and competing phones drop, and as an increasing number of apps and other benefits start to draw local support away from what is a dying platform on the whole.

  • Vaughan - 2012-05-14 13:36

    I don't get this article, you should never develop for one platform in the first place. If a new phone platform came out and it allowed native applications, Angry Birds would be able to port to it within a month. PS, don't foresee Blackberry phones being around in the next couple of years. So its a loosing game if you only support Blackberry.

  • gideon.carstens - 2012-05-14 13:55

    What he says specifically about BB is true, but only for the next 2-3 years. With data plans similar to the BB service popping up, proper smart phones will soon rule the mobile space along with your range of symbian Nokias. PS Tim Bishop's company are the people responsible for creating the SterKinekor website, which makes my eye bleed when having to find anything.

  • ddviljoen - 2012-05-14 15:51

    Why would anyone bother with apps for nokia devices. the company got a junk credit rating only 3 weeks ago! it is dying fast while android is outgrowing everything on the market. Clever companies will develop with an eye on the future and not on the present. Invest in BB and Nokia now and you will be behind the curve next year!

  • Rudolph Bergh - 2012-05-14 21:50

    If i create a Apple app, i reach a global market - a figure exceeding 100 time more users. When did you become so small-minded? As previously mentioned, I don't even se the benefit of this article...

  • Koos - 2012-05-15 06:36

    Only because South Africans are being ripped of by MTN/VODACOM/CELL C on the cost of the phone. I pay $39. that includes a Iphone 4S, 2Gig data and call value of $500. That excludes calls to mobiles on the same account. Social sites are unmetered.

  • nealtosefsky - 2012-05-15 14:42

    The article is aimed at the South African market, not a worldwide one. It's all about your target market - If that is international, build an iOS app, if it's local, build for Nokia (because that's where most of your users are!)

  • leighbrendonbarnes - 2012-05-16 10:11

    why would any one backBlackberry? One key key point has just been missed in its entirety, what is the demographic you would like to reach? That demographic may be the 10%. BB is a failing brand with dated infrastructure and on a one way heading for a burn out, flame out and probably a buy out.

  • mark.strathmore - 2012-05-16 12:35

    Interesting article, with some well made points. The key takeaway is that the local market must be primary consideration in app development IF your content is localised. If your content is not localised, then you are well advised to look at global stats. In South Africa, it is also wise to consider data costs, although these are dropping rapidly. As data costs tend to zero (of course, that's not practical, so let's say "low"), then the fixed cost data plans with restrictions face a reduction in their value proposition. Finally, the quality of the app is also very important. To me, an app becomes useful only when it provides an experience that is fundamentally better or richer than the one available as a web site. If an app merely replicates content for a smaller screen without adding value, then the app has missed the point. Apps are also more or less relevant dependant on the target platform: A good example is the brilliant Ster Kinekor application: high local relevance, easy to use, and provides a great user experience (better than the web) on my Nokia N8. On my Nokia Lumia, though, the mobi site offers such similar functionality and user experience that I simply pin the mobi site as a live tile to my homescreen and use it to book movies. (Disclosure: I work for Nokia, hence my examples reference Nokia products, but the same applies to other platforms). The mad rush for apps to achieve "presence" is not smart, but any app that delivers value to customers is an asset.

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