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46 Percent of Online Consumers in SE Asia Intend to Buy a Smartphone in 2011

Almost half of online consumers in Southeast Asian countries claim they will buy a smartphone in 2011, according to a recent global online survey conducted by The Nielsen Company.  This high level of purchasing intent is expected to drive the ownership of smartphones in these countries higher, from its current penetration level of 24 percent.

1 in 4 online consumers surveyed in these countries already claim to own a smartphone. Amongst this group of consumers, who are typically more “urban” and comfortable with technology than the average consumer, smartphone ownership has grown by over 10 percent in just 12 months to its current level in December 2010.  The countries included in the study were Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia

Singapore leads the region with almost half of the consumers surveyed online claiming that they own a smartphone. For the rest of the countries, around 1 in 4 online consumers owns a smartphone. In particular, Thailand (+47%) and Malaysia (+35%) saw the most aggressive growth compared to other countries in the Southeast Asian region, amongst online consumers.

Among online consumers in Southeast Asia, those in Indonesia seem most likely to buy a smartphone in 2011. In Singapore, where the penetration of smartphones is highest amongst online consumers in the region, over a third indicated they will definitely or are likely to buy one in 2011.

In particular, males are more likely to purchase a smartphone – half of the online male consumers claim they will purchase a smartphone in 2011, compared to only 41percent of online female consumers saying they will do so. The tendency to purchase a smartphone is highest among consumers aged 25-34 years old – 50 percent of this group indicated they will definitely or are likely to buy a smartphone.

“Mobile devices, as Fast-Moving Consumer Durables (FMCD) will continue to grow in the near future. This growth, however, will not be even across the region. The growth will be driven by smartphones in more sophisticated markets like Singapore, compared to developing markets like Vietnam,” said Suresh Ramalingam, Managing Director of Telecom Practice (Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa) at The Nielsen Company.

While usage of SMS (or short messaging services) is still the most popular activity on a mobile phone (92% of online respondents claimed to have used SMS in the past 30 days), mobile handset manufacturers and operators should be ready for the next (if not current) demand from consumers, i.e. mobile internet.

Nielsen’s research shows that 50 percent of online consumers used mobile internet in the past 30 days, with over half of them accessing the internet at least once a day. This number is set to increase in 2011 as 62 percent of consumers in Southeast Asia plan to access mobile internet in next 12 months.

“Mobile internet is destined to grow dramatically given that smartphones are here to stay and as data plans become more flexible or affordable to most online consumers, and as smartphone penetration rate rises, usage of mobile internet will also grow dramatically. This will inadvertently present many opportunities for advertisers to reach out to current or potential customers via this channel, as consumers in Southeast Asia become more sophisticated users of the mobile internet, along with rising affluence in the region,” said Mr. Ramalingam.

The rising popularity of smartphones is expected to boost usage of mobile apps. 1 in 5 online consumers across the region said they have downloaded an app in the past 30 days. The potential to grow is also strong: 59 percent of online consumers said they know about mobile applications and are interested to download these to their smartphones.

Online consumers who use apps chose to do so via Nokia OS (58%), Apple OS (37%), Blackberry (20%), Microsoft (18%) and Android (16%). While Nokia OS is most commonly used in countries like Indonesia and Philippines, Apple OS is the clear preferred choice of online consumers in Singapore.