In this mobile-first country, most digital media behaviors are linked to smartphones.
Fully 98.4% of internet users in South Africa ages 16 to 64 own a smartphone, according to H1 2019 polling by GlobalWebIndex.
More than three-fourths (76.1%) of respondents own a desktop/laptop, while fewer than half (46.0%) had a tablet. But both these figures reflect the characteristics of the sample population, which contained almost no rural residents (see note below). In reality, there are meaningful gaps remaining between the rates of PC and tablet ownership in South Africa’s urban and suburban households compared with rural environments.
Even among the most privileged internet users, mobile phones are now central to many media activities. For example, smartphones are key to social networking in the country. More than nine in 10 (92.9%) of those polled were social media users in H1 2019, and mobile phones made a major contribution to the time user spent with social networks—a daily average of 3 hours, 16 minutes (3:16).
Smartphones have encouraged the uptake of voice assistants, including voice search available through built-in features such as Cortana and Siri. Overall, 31.0% of internet users polled had used voice search in the prior month, or used voice commands to communicate with a smart speaker. Usage was higher among male respondents, those ages 16 to 24, those living in cities, and those at both ends of the income scale.
For many of South Africa’s internet users, a smartphone also offers the most convenient access to video and audio content. Some 81.6% of those surveyed in H1 2019 had streamed video content during the prior month—not far behind the 84.6% of respondents who had watched live TV during the same period. More than three-quarters (77.0% of the total) had streamed music or other audio content. Streamed video and music claimed 1:11 and 1:27 each day, on average; together, these exceeded the average 2:27 devoted daily to live TV.
Admittedly, PCs and tablets accounted for more total media time per day than smartphones. That gap has narrowed since H1 2018, however, per GlobalWebIndex. Time spent daily with PCs and tablets declined from close to 5 hours to 4:44, on average, while average smartphone time climbed from 3:30 to 4:10.