Angus Robinson, director of mobile, content and community divisions looks at some of the highlights experienced over the past year, counting down 12 trends (plus a bonus one!) for 2012, with a view on how they will affect changes for 2013.
13. Tablets and the BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) trend
The popularity of tablets and touch devices (read Samsung and Apple), businesses are having to accommodate employees that want to use Macs or iPads or Galaxy S3’s or anything similar – even if the employee chooses to buy them personally. Tough for organisations that rule their technology environments with an iron fist, but much better for employees that want choice.
12. Mxit’s rollercoaster year
Their numbers are still impressive and their platform is opening up to developers, but there were bigger things at play. It’s transition from the Naspers stable to the World of Avatar world was the first big news, then came the ‘we have one year to get it right’ speech from Alan Knottt-Craig Jnr and the great talent acquisition when they bought Motribe. The biggest surprise was the boardroom wrangling that ended in AKC Jnr leaving when the shareholders needed more clarity and structure in the businesses future and its path to providing a return.
11. First Grand Prix Loerie for a mobile-led campaign (Be the Coach)
Carling Black Label’s Be the Coach campaign developed by Ogilvy CT was the first predominately mobile campaign to win a Grand Prix Award at the Loeries. The idea was great and the execution excellent. The results were even better. South Africa needs more mobile campaigns like this one.
10. Plummeting data costs
Data costs have been steadily declining over the past few years, particularly since the arrival of Seacom and the other undersea fibre cables. However, mobile data costs took a big step in the right direction in early August with the move to 15c/MB for both in and out of bundle usage. At the larger bundle sizes, 8ta costs as little as 13c/MB. Good showing by the smaller networks. MTN and Vodacom on the other hand, are still significantly more expensive according to their own websites.
9. Banks and their Apps
2012 was a great year for South Africa’s banking customers with mobile banking applications being launched and enhanced mobile transactional capabilities being more broadly enjoyed. FNB’s App added a smart feature that allowed geo-fenced payments to be made to people in close proximity. Standard Bank and Nedbank both launched solid apps to their customer bases – with both apps being well received by the market. 2013 is going to be an interesting year in this space. Absa has been slow to respond, with a 2013 launch planned.
8. Mobile-first applications and visual social networks like Instagram and Pinterest coming out strong
Mobile technology and social networks collided spectacularly in 2012 with a huge shift to visual content from native mobile applications. This was particularly evident with the huge growth in popularity of photo sharing and filter-effect application Instagram, which is now claiming more daily users than Twitter in the US. This growth and dominance of a social niche led to the $1bn acquisition of the 11-person strong company by Facebook. Not bad for 24 months of hard work for the founders.
Decent bandwidth, amazing screens, touch devices and much better browsers have all facilitated a move towards more visual content. Nowhere is this more evident than in the explosion of Pinterest in 2012 – to the point that it is the 4th largest driver of internet traffic. Eye-candy everywhere.
7. Contrast of Nokia and Blackberry’s fortunes in SA (and Africa) vs the Rest of the World
Nokia fleeing from the Symbian platform at the beginning of 2011 and their subsequent delay in launching their Windows Phone devices has meant that they have slid out of the top 6 smartphone manufacturers, however, they still dominate the feature phone market – especially in Africa and South Africa. Nokia maintains a 50% market share in South Africa.
Similarly, Blackberry has taken a pounding internationally with its operating system not being comparable to Android and iOS, however, the much-anticipated launch of Blackberry 10 in early 2013 may change this. In contrast to this, Blackberry has had an exceptional year in South Africa with its market share growing from 4% to 18%.
6. Facebook reaching 1bn and its refocus on mobile (redeveloped App, mobile
advertising and feature phone version)
Facebook acquired J2ME developer Snaptu in 2011 in order to fast-track and control the development of a better Facebook experience on feature phones. This, along with the complete redevelopment of the iOS and Android apps from HTML5 versions to native code-bases, reinforced their investment in their mobile user base, of which there are now 540 million mobile app users.
This has meant that there has been intense focus on monetizing the mobile base by launching a number of different ad types for mobile users. Zuck thinks a lot about mobile, and I’m certain that they will get this one right.
2012 was also the year that Facebook broke the 1 billion user mark, meaning it reaches 1/7th of the world’s entire population and 40% of all internet users. Although its IPO has underperformed, Facebook is certainly still the platform/company/network to watch.
5. Africa’s mobile explosion
It is no secret that increased mobile penetration has made a major difference to African economies, small businesses, and to the lives of nearly 500 million Africans who now have mobile connectivity. There has been a lot of focus on this change in 2012, which is probably best reflected in this video by the Praekelt Foundation.
Africa is now the next big market for smartphones, with Google’s Ideos – an $80 Android-powered Huawei-built phone, proving highly popular in East Africa. Nokia has over 60% of the total handset market share in Africa, but have been slow to release their Asha range of low to mid-level smartphones. It’s going to be an Android continent if Asha doesn’t arrive in large numbers, soon.
4. Apple vs Samsung in the market and in court
Samsung and Apple are leading the smartphone market. By far. The release of the Galaxy S2 and then particularly the S3 has put Samsung smartphones onto the map in a real way. This surge has meant that Samsung has powered way ahead of Apple in smartphone sales, outselling them by 2-to-1.
Then there was the legal battle that resulted in an August court ruling that Samsung was ordered to pay more than $1bn in damages to Apple, after Apple accused Samsung of violating several of its patents. There were also threats of Samsung sales being stopped in the US.
3. Race to LTE with VC getting the jump
LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, is the next generation of mobile standards that will provide super-speed broadband connectivity. Sometimes its called 4G, which is also okay for general use.
Thankfully, the South African mobile network operators have been quick to invest and roll out their LTE networks in SA. Most had indicated that 2013 would be when these services would be publically available, but Vodacom changed all this by getting the jump on its competitors with its October LTE launch announcement at the MyBroadband Conference
2. Decline of Telkom and the 8ta drain
2012. Telkom’s Annus horribilis. management challenges, at Telkom, its poor financial performance in 2012 the global trend of people moving away from relying on fixed-line installations, down from 4,1 million to 3,9 million in the past year, the R471 million write-off from its pay-TV attempt, Telkom Media, and for exiting a confusing/promising yet aborted deal with South Korea’s KT Telecom (phew) have all made 2012 a difficult year for Telkom.
8ta managed to get to only 1,4 million subscribers, in a market of nearly 60 million subscribers. Their startup costs have also ballooned to R2,2 billion – a lot when their subscriber numbers are still so low. Cell C’s successes in 2012 have given rise to rumours of a Cell C-8ta hookup. An interesting thought for both.
1. Alan Knott-Craig’s move to Cell C and their return to relevance (simplified services)
There was a fair amount of surprise when in January, Cell C announced that ex-Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig would be joining them as CEO to fill the gap left by Lars Reichelt. He didn’t waste any time before making some significant decisions and changes including the about-turn on ad agency appointments, bringing the iPhone to Cell C, cutting the costs of least-cost routing, bringing in former Vodacom execs (I wonder if Mr Uys will be one for the future), significantly cutting in and out-of-bundle data costs to an impressive 15c, launching the 99c per minute call costs for prepaid and 99c/min international calls to some destinations – and then 85c to 50 destinations announcement, raising R1,5 billion from shareholders, launching simplified, variable length contracts for post-paid subscribers, the decision to consolidate the company’s physical presence in a single campus in Buccleuch, its ongoing tiffs with Vodacom over tariffs and special offers, their entry into the 4G market and its general improvement in market share and market sentiment.
2012 has been a great year for Cell C and for AKC. I wonder if he is just what 8ta and Telkom need right now. See the point on Telkom’s challenges.
Angus Robinson is director of mobile, content and community divisions at digital agency NATIVE