SA Facebook use ‘marginally ahead’ of WhatsApp

Thabiso Mochiko

AT LEAST 10.6-million South Africans use the WhatsApp instant messaging app on their smartphones‚ a report released on Thursday by local technology research firms World Wide Worx and Fuseware has revealed.

The report‚ which focused on social media and instant messaging on cellphones‚ comes following the news this week that Facebook will buy WhatsApp for $19bn.

The survey showed that Facebook remained the dominant social network on mobile devices in the country‚ with 45% of South Africans — or 9-million — using it at the end of 2013.

Total Facebook use in South Africa was at about 11-million users at the end of 2013‚ putting it marginally ahead of WhatsApp — for now‚ the report stated.

WhatsApp’s penetration is expected to rise to 63% in the next 12-18 months‚ while Facebook’s mobile penetration is forecast to rise more moderately‚ to 53%.

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is used by 21% of adults in South Africa‚ with the figure potentially reaching 28% if BlackBerry is able to maintain its handset sales momentum in the country‚ according to the report.

The report said Chinese service WeChat‚ which was launched in South Africa last year‚ had reached 5% of the market‚ a share expected to rise to 13%.

Stephen Sale‚ principal analyst at Analysys Mason’s mobile services and next-generation services research programmes‚ said messaging apps were used by more than half of smartphone users worldwide‚ and WhatsApp dominated this market with a 45% user market share.

“They (WhatsApp) have user engagement levels that are the envy of the industry‚” he said.

When WhatsApp recorded a record high of 10-billion outgoing messages in a single day in June 2013‚ this equated to more than 30 messages sent per person per day‚ said Mr Sale.

WhatsApp has a user base of 450-million with a stronger bias towards younger users than Facebook.

“Facebook needs to make a bold move to retain relevance among younger users‚ the core constituency of messaging apps‚” said Mr Sale.

Research and consulting firm Ovum expects overall instant messaging volumes to reach 69-trillion‚ with 1.8-billion subscribers‚ by the end of 2014.

Eden Zoller‚ principal analyst at Consumer Telecoms‚ Ovum‚ said with the Whatsapp acquisition Facebook had gained access to a large repository of phone numbers‚ which was a missing link for its user information.

“The access to phone numbers now bridges the offline and online worlds of Facebook users. WhatsApp will also enhance Facebook’s mobile strategy and make the service grow faster and be stickier with mobile first users‚” she said.

Facebook will in turn provide WhatsApp with the funds and resources it needs to develop the service and “become an even stronger competitor in an increasingly overcrowded messaging market”‚ said Ms Zoller. © BDlive 2014