Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Smartphones on speed dial

During the iPhone 5 launch in September 2012, Japanese carrier, KDDI, ran out of the new device within a day and Australia’s Telstra says online pre-orders reached capacity in a record 18 hours, Reuters reports.As evidenced by the swarming Apple stores and unprecedented demand, Southeast Asia is experiencing a boom in smartphone users.

According to a report released by Singapore-based research firm GfK, sales in major markets (Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia) grew 78 percent on average. Across the region, The Philippines remains the fastest-growing market, with overall smartphone sales increasing at a rate of 326 percent, The Inquirer reports. Meanwhile Indonesia is the largest market, selling more than 54 million mobile phones in 2011. Of course, that doesn’t include China. According to research from International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, China is expected to surpass the US in smartphone shipments in 2012, contributing to 26.5 percent of all shipments compared with a 17.8 percent share for USA.

Though “feature phones” – those limited to just texting and calling – remain the prevalent device in emerging markets, US$8.75 billion (of a total US$13.7 billion spent on mobile phones) went to smartphones, according to GfK. “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,” GfK believes.

Who’s using what? According to a study by Ericsson’s ConsumerLab group, the Android system still dominates the market in Southeast Asia, controlling about one-third of the market share, followed by Apple’s iOS with 19 percent. Singapore is an outlier, with nearly 50 percent adoption of iOS. Curiously enough, Nokia still leads in Vietnam, with 26 percent of the market. It’s hard to keep track of, but luckily, The NextWeb spells it out with a handy info graphic. – Kate Springer