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Mobile in South Africa

Since Justin and I have started doing Front-end end Fridays (a weekly look at the performance of a particular web site: keep an eye on the CTFEDs Twitter account for details), I’ve been more concerned about how serious we Front-end developers are about the size and speed of our sites.

I’m a big believer in designing and developing Mobile First. It especially makes sense in South Africa, where many users are Mobile Only. That means that every decision we make should be guided by the harsh constraints that implies. Here’s a short round up of some stats that have been on my radar recently.

Access to phones and the internet

  • 85% of South Africans have access to a cellphone.
  • About 50% of South Africans have access to the Internet. 50% of those connect using only mobile devices. Most of the rest connect at work or at their place of study; less than 1% connect using only a landline.

Browsers and devices

  • About 50% of South Africans use Opera Mini as their browser of choice. That means that your fancy, all client-side JavaScript, framework won’t work for them. Android, UC Browser, Samsung browser, and BlackBerry account for about another 20%. That’s 70% of web access coming from some kind of mobile device.
  • The most popular phones are low-end, low-powered, smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 520 and Vodacom Smart 4. Often these lower-end phones have a recent flavour of Android, but have CPUs of around 1.0 GHz, RAM of 512 MB, and 4 inch screens with a resolution of 480 x 800 (about 230 psi). By comparison, the iPhone 6s has a CPU of 1.84 GHz, 2GB of RAM, and a 4.7 inch screen with 750 x 1334 (about 330 ppi): a faster CPU, much more RAM, and a bigger, better, screen. These offer dramatically different experiences. In particular it has a strong effect on the parse and execution time of the JavaScript payload of a site. And that’s before we even worry about how long it took to download in the first place!

Sources / Further Reading