Smartphones up 78% in SE Asia, but feature phones still rule

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The global mobile market might be slowing down, but business is booming in South East Asia.

Smartphone sales grew by 78% across the region, while overall mobile sales grew by 24%. In the last 12 months some 115-million phones have been sold in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines at a total value of US$13.7-billion. That’s according to the latest stats from GfK.

Although feature phones continue to dominate across the region, smartphone sales are proving more valuable. Smartphone sales accounted for 61% of the market’s total value over the last year.

“Feature phones still reign as the more prevalent mobile phone type used by consumers in the region’s emerging markets,” said Gerard Tan, account director for digital technology. “However, smartphones adoption is escalating at a rapid pace with individual country’s growth rates reported in the range of 42 to 326%.”

The variations by country across the region also reveal a number of interesting trends:

While Indonesia recently grabbed headlines as Android overtook BlackBerry for the first time as the leading OS in the country, feature phones still account for the overwhelming majority of devices in the country. Smartphones account for just 22% of mobile sales, although their sales grew some 56% in the world’s fourth most populous nation and will likely continue to do so.

The Philippines meanwhile reported a massive 326% growth in smartphone sales. It is also the country with the highest jump in smartphone market share within a year, from 9 to 24%.

“Unlike the more developed countries like Singapore and Malaysia, smartphone sales penetration levels in some of the less developed markets such as Thailand and Vietnam are still relatively low at 19 and 11% respectively, leaving a significant portion of the population still available for potential growth,” said Tan.

At the moment, US$100 to US$200 smartphones are driving adoption, and have seen people across the region spending US$8.75-billion on almost 29-million smartphones within the last 12 months.

“With major manufacturers recently announcing their intentions to launch low-end smartphones priced below US$100, the device will be within the reach of an even larger pool of consumers and the market expected to grow even faster when these models are made widely available,” said Tan. “This move is likely to significantly expedite the demand surge for smartphones in the region’s yet to be converted feature phone user population which we expect to see continued robust growth for at least the next two years”.

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