Smartphones catching on in region

Three new Motorola Razr smartphones are displayed at the launch of the phones which are all under the Razr brand and will become available for Verizon customers on September 5, 2012 in New York City.

High consumer demand for smartphones and basic feature phones in South-east Asia's fast-developing markets continues to keep performance in the mobile-phone sector buoyant.

In the last 12 months, sales of over 118 million units across the seven key markets in the region - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines - took the total worth of the mobile- phone sector to about US$13.7 billion (S$17 billion), according to the latest results from research firm GfK Asia.

Consumers in this region bought an additional 10 million feature phones - 12 per cent more than a year ago.

However, it is the intensifying popularity of smartphones that is accounting for the larger proportion of the total mobile-phone market's worth.

"Feature phones still reign as the more prevalent mobile- phone type used by consumers in the region's emerging markets," said Mr Gerard Tan, account director for digital technology at GfK Asia.

"However, smartphone adoption is escalating at a rapid pace, with individual countries' growth rates reported in the range of 42 to 326 per cent."

It is no surprise that the world's fourth-most populous nation, Indonesia, is the region's largest smartphone market.

Its combined feature-phone and smartphone sales volume grew by 26 per cent in total, with individual segments reflecting concurrent growth of 19 and 56 per cent, respectively.

While nearly four in every five mobile phones (78 per cent) sold in the country are still feature phones - because they are more affordable - more consumers there are embracing smartphones, which registered soaring sales of 4.5 million units over the previous year.

The Philippines continue to report exponential threefold growth of 326 per cent in smartphone sales volume, making it the fastest-growing market for smartphones in the region. It is also the country with the highest jump in smartphone market share within a year, from 9 to 24 per cent.

"Unlike 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 per cent respectively, with a significant portion of the population still available for potential growth," Mr Tan noted.

Consumers in South-east Asia spent some US$8.75 billion on almost 29 million smartphones within the last 12 months, translating to 61 per cent and 78 per cent growth in volume and value, respectively.

Smartphone growth in the region is driven primarily by more affordable devices in the US$100-US$200 price range, which currently dominate the market, said GfK Asia.

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