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Tech: Southeast Asia’s Smartphone Market Grows Rapidly, Touch-only Devices Popularity Up


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by Jared Heng

Southeast Asia’s smartphone market continues to grow rapidly with all seven key markets tracked by research firm GfK in the region reporting a total of nearly 7.7 million units worth almost US$2.4 billion sold in this year’s first quarter.

According to GfK Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Cambodia registered spikes in demand for smartphones in the range of 40 to 400 per cent more over the same period last year.

However, not all consumers are fully converted yet as one in three mobile phones sold last quarter was still a feature phone; although figures have been gradually dwindling over the last few years.

The share of smartphones has been rising and contributes more than 66 per cent to the overall mobile phone pie today, up from 50 per cent in last year’s first quarter.

“The largest smartphone market in this region expectedly is Indonesia, which has a smartphone penetration rate of 62 per cent and enjoyed sales exceeding US$1.4 billion last quarter,” said Gerard Tan, Account Director for Digital Technology at GfK Asia. “Meanwhile, the markets with deepest smartphone penetration are Malaysia and Singapore where levels have already reached a high of 88 per cent, translating to almost nine out of every 10 in the general population being a smartphone user.”

Latest GfK findings have uncovered some apparent consumer trends in smartphones across the region, one of which is the increasing preference towards touch-only devices, whose take up rate today make up more than seven in 10 (71 per cent) smartphones ‒ a considerable jump from last year’s 47 per cent.

Another interesting development is the brisk sales enjoyed by the increasing number of smartphones that are equipped with advanced camera features.

GfK reports revealed that over 35 per cent of all smartphones sold in Southeast

Asia in the first three months of the year was equipped with a camera of eight megapixels or more, compared with only 12 per cent a year ago.

This mounting trend is especially apparent in Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia.

“The relatively stable prices of smartphones averaging around US$309 in the region will continue to drive the industry’s strong growth momentum,” Tan said.

“In developing Southeast Asia where smartphone penetration is still nowhere near saturation levels, we can be sure that the current sales spurt will carry on for at least the next few years. With much of the populace still not owning a mobile phone, there is no better place for global mobile phone brands to focus their sales and marketing efforts,” he added.