Increased access to social networks is the driver of fewer airtime minutes being used, Peter Matthaei, vice president of research and development for Mxit, has said.
Speaking at LTE Africa conference in Cape Town this week, Matthaei said in terms of data opportunities: “We need to look at the growth of smartphones. The estimated shipments for the 2013 calendar year shows smartphones globally outstripping the sales of basic and feature phones.”
Matthaei added: “The opportunity that comes out of the way social networks are set up is that the number of voice minutes per day per per user is effectively constrained by the user’s ability to talk to other people.”
He said he has noticed people with smartphones make less voice calls, not necessarily as a result of platforms such as Skype or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) but rather because “people with smartphones geared towards data consumption have other ways to communicate”.
Matthaei asked the question: “So how can mobile social networks like Mxit go beyond the text message and provide users with greater and better ways to communicate?”
Adding more to user experience, he said, creates advantages for the networks in terms of increasing data consumption.
“Over the years we’ve expanded beyond just pure messaging into other areas such as facilitating school pupils to be able to connect with teachers and tutors, to discover information, learn about things.”
Furthermore, Matthaei said Mxit Reach enables non government organisations to use the platform to connect with the social network’s audience. He then described the central features of Mxit as messaging, chat rooms, dating, picture sharing and an array of community functions.
“What’s important about Mxit is: it’s not just about instant messaging… We’re not really trying to be an SMS replacement.”
Matthaei said Mxit is monetised through branded applications on the social platform as well as offering content relating to sport, music and weather updates.
With regards to the future of social networking platforms, Matthaei said: “Social networking is all about sharing and images are probably, after text, the next most important way that people communicate.”
Matthaei used Snapchat’s stats to illustrate his point. Snapchat has five million daily active users with approximately 200 million photos being shared per day.
Furthermore, Instagram has 130 million monthly active users of which 50 per cent are outside of the USA and records 45 million shared photos per day.
Video, according to Matthaei, is another medium of communication that is becoming increasingly popular.
Mxit was established in 2005 in order to provide users with a means of communicating very cheaply and was originally created for feature phones.
It currently has 7.3 million monthly active users, of which 6.5 million are in South Africa.