SA mobile subscribers loyal to networks, prefer Nokia handsets - Nielsen's Mobile Insights study

South Africa's mobile phone consumers are overwhelmingly loyal to their network providers, with 95 percent having been with their current provider for an average of 4.2 years. What's more, 81 percent said they recommend their network providers to friends and family, reinforcing the importance of word-of-mouth and reputation in the mobile industry. These and other findings were released today as part of Nielsen's inaugural Mobile Insights syndicated study in South Africa, which examined consumers' usage of and attitudes towards mobile phones, networks and services.

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While they may be inclined to remain loyal, a quarter of subscribers indicated that they could switch from pre-paid to contract packages within the next year. More than one quarter (27%) said they left their previous provider due to poor network quality. Subscribers across all four of the major networks were generally content with staying with them, although those using Virgin Mobile were happiest.

"The mobile market continues to morph into an increasingly complex ecosystem of voice, text, video, Internet, games, applications and audio, and it is critical for industry players to have access to independent metrics to analyse and respond to the new, 'always connected' consumer," said Jan Hutton, Director Telecoms, Nielsen Southern Africa.

Nokia is the handset brand of choice for more than half (52%) of respondents, followed by Samsung and Blackberry. Even those subscribers (56%) who currently use other brands said that a Nokia handset is likely to be their next purchase.

How are consumers using their phones?

Today's smartphones and feature phones offer users a range of functions. When asked about the mobile media services accessed from the devices, the majority (21%) said they download ringtones and almost an equal number (20%) download music tracks. The balance of subscribers said they download wallpapers, screensavers and pictures. A very small percentage stream online radio or watch video mobile TV.

Accessing the Internet from mobiles is also picking up steam, with 11 percent of respondents having done so. The highest mobile internet usage recorded among consumers aged 25-34 years old with 35-44 year olds coming in a close second. The youth group of 19-24 years of age, who are growing up with the internet, spend a number of hours online per week. One-quarter of those surveyed in LSM 8-10 said they browse the Internet while just 6 percent of those in LSM 1-5 have done so.

It is interesting to note 69 percent of men and women prefer sending SMS/texts as it is cheaper than calling and 10 percent firmly believe it is faster to text than call.

Other key findings from Nielsen's Mobile Insights study include:
  • Spaza store is the most popular channel for consumers to buy mobile "air time", followed by Supermarkets/Grocers
  • Facebook is the most popular social media platform used by mobile phone subscribers (85%), followed by MXIT (61%)
  • 21% of people aware of mobile banking make use of these services
  • With Cell C, MTN and Vodacom, the majority of subscribers consider price to be the most important driver, whereas with Virgin Mobile, customer service is the driver
"These and the other findings present a comprehensive benchmark against which we can measure the changes occurring in the rapidly evolving telecom sector going forward. It's the only survey of its kind in the country that provides a 360 degree view of the sector in terms of what services consumers are using, how they feel about their network providers and handset manufacturers. Furthermore, in partnership with the Mobile Marketing Association, we are [among] the first to gauge the effectiveness of mobile advertising and providing marketers with accurate data and insight with respect to ROI in this medium," said Hutton.

About Nielsen's Mobile Insights Study

To ensure alignment of the study, Nielsen weighted up the findings against universe proportions using AMPS. The sample size was 2,000 respondents, with quotas based on age, gender and all LSM levels across each metropolitan area in South Africa. The survey was conducted in urban South Africa through a Computer Aided Personal Interview (CAPI) and was scientifically weighted to be representative of the South African population, having a maximum margin of error of ± 2.19%, resulting in it being a very close reflection of actual events. The Nielsen Global Mobile Media Survey, which is designed to deliver the most comprehensive insights, addresses key areas relating to Mobile Media, Mobile Handsets and Mobile Networks. This survey was established in 2003 and has been implemented in 16 countries in the last 24 months by Nielsen.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

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