The shape of cellphone banking is changing rapidly as the capabilities of phones themselves change, according to the Mobility 2012 study.
Research firm World Wide Worx released the findings of its study today (25 July 2012), which it conducted with the backing of First National Bank.
It showed that while most cellphone banking is still conducted via text messages, more than a third of customers of these services are now also using phone browsers for their banking.
Only 5% of cellphone bankers exclusively use phone browsers for that purpose, but a further 36% use the browsers as well as text-based services like USSD and SMS.
According to the study, the single most popular transactional service in cellphone banking remains airtime purchases, with 74% of customers using it for this purpose, and 15% paying accounts via their phones. Phone-based purchases of physical products that are delivered to the buyer, are made by only 4% of urban cellphone users, but by no rural users whatsoever.
Along with airtime purchases, more than half of cellphone banking customers also transfer airtime, with rural users (69%) far more likely to do so than urban users (51%).
The same gap exists in mobile purchases of pre-paid electricity, with 33% of rural cellphone banking users, and only 21% of urban users, doing so via their phones. The pattern is repeated in sending money to other individuals via cellphone banking: 44% rural, 34% urban.
The urban-rural divide also reveals itself in other areas, most notably in the proportion of pre-paid users. While 80% of urban users have pre-paid accounts, the proportion of rural pre-paid users is 94%. The average phone spend of contract users is R387 per month, more than double that of rural users, who spend on average R165 a month.
The Mobility 2012 project comprises two reports, namely The Mobile Consumer in SA 2012, which includes cellphone usage and banking trends, and The Mobile Internet in SA 2012, which explores online and data trends. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South African adult cellphone users living in cities and towns, conducted in June 2012.