South Africans embrace the App – Vodacom takes the lead

As the mobile app markets of the world begin to change the way mobile phones are used offering users a whole new world of fun, useful and interesting applications, it seems that South Africans are also embracing the app.
Vodacom recently revealed that its brand new app store, launched in September, has already received 429, 000 visits with 400, 000 downloads clearly showing that almost every visit results in a user taking away an app. Their’s are a mix of both paid and free apps. MTN has also launched a pilot app site called apps@play but all apps remain free while the concept is being fully tested.
With the Apple App store and Android market place offering over a billion apps combined, why would local operators then go ahead and launch their own stores?  Prins Mhlanga, Vodacom‘s Managing Executive of Digital Media offers an explanation: “œThe biggest advantage is that we are able to work with different platforms. An Android Marketplace can only address Android users, Apple‘s App Store can only serve Apple users. We can address all the popular platforms.“
Mhlanga continues to say that this results in local app stores better reflecting the phones most commonly used for apps in South Africa and highlights the fact that conventional feature phones,  as opposed to smartphones, are a key market for app developers especially in Africa.
Vodacom’s app store provides interesting and very useful insight into the mobile phone habits of heavy users in South Africa who are most likely to be the first users of a local app store. The device mostly used to downloads apps is the Blackberry Curve 8520, with the next two being feature phones (the Samsung SGH-E250, and the Vodafone 543). These top three are followed by the Nokia E63 smartphone, the Samsung Star GT-S5233, and the BlackBerry Curve 9300. Important to note about the above mentioned devices is that they are all low-cost alternatives to similar but more feature-rich and expensive phones, like the Apple iPhone, and are very popular among teenagers and young adults.
Here is some more interesting information:

  • The three most popular local apps are for the “œstore launchers“ for three different platforms on the app store with the most popular being the Java version.
  • In terms of conventional options, the most popular local app is the News24 app for BlackBerry.
  • The most popular international app is Facebook Chat for Java, followed by Mario 55 for Blackberry.

Ironically, the developer market hasn’t caught onto the popularity of BlackBerry in South Africa and according to Mhlanga, most developers are working in Java and Android. Though Mhlanga doesn’t believe the focus is entirely misplaced, Vodacom’s objective is to ensure that all users are catered for with a store that is compatible with all handsets.
Source: Arthur Goldstick’s Gadget blog.