Are netbooks, tablets really more desirable than smartphones in Thailand?

Forget the iPhone or latest BlackBerry smartphone as netbooks and tablet computers are the most desired tech gadgets in Thailand, according to a report published yesterday in conjunction with the findings of an ABAC poll on technology.

“When technology evolves, there is always something new to make our lifestyles much easier, more fashionable and most of all keeping us closer to everyone we love,” commented Dr. Udom Hongchartkul, the Director of ABAC Consumer Index, which is a very general comment which glosses over some interesting conclusions.

Before beginning an assessment the small sample size (1,600 respondents) must be noted as the range of people surveyed, which covers a number of cities and towns across Thailand.

The full announcement can be found at the National News Bureau of Thailand website but I’ve extracted the key nuggets below:

  • There are more Thai households owning a mobile phone than a desktop computer, a laptop, a digital camera, a smart phone, a DSLR camera and a tablet PC respectively
  • Women are prone to buying laptops and smart phones more than men of the same age group
  • Older people tend to purchase a laptop while younger ones are in favor of iPads and smart phones.

Smartphone ownership:

  • 20% within salary bracket 15,000 – 35,000 THB per month
  • 25% within salary bracket 35,000 – 75,000 THB per month
  • 30% within salary bracket 75,000 THB or above per month

Tablet PC ownership:

  • 2% tablet PC ownership levels within salary brack 15,000 – 35,000
  • 7% tablet PC ownership levels within salary bracket 35,000 – 75,000 and 75,000 plus

Type of technology purchase most likely in the next three months:

  • netbook (26%), tablet PC (10%), smartphone (5%)

These findings are largely as would be expected.

It is no surprise to see that, according to the research, smartphone ownership increases with salary, as does tablet ownership albeit on a comparatively lower level.

What is perhaps more interesting is that netbooks and tablet PCs are rated more desirable than smartphones.

I would say no, that smartphones are in fact more desirable (particularly in urban areas), although there a number of possible explanations to account for the results:

1. Those wanting new netbooks or tablet PCs may already own a smartphone that they are happy with, making their interest in buying a new smartphone is lower.

2. Many of those surveyed are ‘basic’ internet users who use computers to surf the web from home, rather than the more sophisticated mobile web approach through a smartphone. Given their preferential web consumption, a netbook or tablet is the more desirable option.

3. [Most feasible] the results reflect a lack of awareness of the possibilities and innovation behind smartphone, making the more obviously useful netbooks and tablets more desirable.

4. Price – netbooks (especially) and tablets are generally cheaper than smartphones which for some respondents might explain a lower desire for a smartphone

By including a respondents from across Thailand’s diverse and varying regions and towns, the survey dilutes its findings and value.

Motivations for general purchasing, particularly luxury items like technology, vary hugely for those based in Bangkok, against a consumer in Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai or other areas. Mixing them together clouds results and any messages or pattens within them.

The combination of different demographic with varying spending power and needs may make for a compelling heading but, in reality, there is far greater value for a look at Bangkok’s tech scene and its motivation, or the growing awareness and interest in technology in provincial Thailand.