I'M NOT usually one for questioning the source, but the latest piece of research into the use of cellphones in South Africa curiously comes from insurance company Dial Direct. Whatever the company's intentions, its survey has revealed some telling statistics.
Cellphones are featuring strongly during the 2010 FIFA World Cup as fans use them to send text messages to friends and update their social networks, like Twitter, while watching World Cup games.
Cellular network MTN says over 25 million SMS messages were sent on its network alone during the first four days of the tournament. But South Africans are not only glued to their phones during special occasions.
Dial Direct says the independent survey was run online to gain greater insight into South Africans' cellphone habits.
Respondents to the Dial Direct survey were asked questions. These include: how much time (on average) do you spend on your cellphone per day? Which function is most important to you above and beyond phoning?
Do you use your cellphone more for social purposes or business? Do you prefer talking or SMS-ing? Do you frequently use your cellphone to access social networking sites, and how important is your cellphone to you?
Of the respondents, 18% said they spent more than five hours a day on their cellphones. Just over a quarter put that figure at four hours, while 56% of respondents indicated they used their cellphones for two hours every day.
It's hard to imagine that all that time is spent actually talking to people, which suggests that South Africans are increasingly using their phones for other things, including getting the news, watching videos, listening to music, accessing Twitter. Or they're lying.
Sending and receiving SMS messages ranked as the most important functionality offered by 58% of respondents. Dial Direct says that just over 30% of respondents indicated that e-mail was the most important function after making calls. Far fewer indicated that they used their cellphones predominantly for its camera.
This is besides making and receiving calls, which was considered the primary function. Among respondents, 63% indicated they used their cellphones for social purposes only, while 37% employed the device for both social and business purposes. The majority, 72%, reported that they preferred talking on their cellphones to sending SMSes.
Asked whether they used their cellphones for social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, 121 respondents said that they did, while 90 said they did not. The vast majority of respondents indicated that they subscribed to Facebook, with 12.5% using their cellphones for Twitter and far fewer for MXIT and banking.
The cellphone has become as much a part of our daily lives as clothing. It goes everywhere with us. But if this survey is to be believed, South Africans use their phones more intensely than the rest of the world. A similar survey in the USA, for example, showed that on average Americans use their phones for only 30 minutes every day.
That was in 2006, however, so times may well have changed. But there's no doubt that South Africans are among the world's most prolific cellphone addicts.