Smartphones and increasing device sophistication in Asia

Strategy Analytics has published details of its data on low cost phones in emerging markets with a report on the market in the Philippines.

Below is an interesting excerpt from the press release issued yesterday:

With household incomes of $200 a month or less, these consumers fall well below the median for metropolitan Manila. “They obviously do not have a lot of money to spare,” notes Tom Elliott, Director of EMCS and author of the study. “But if they want an international brand or a phone with a camera to take pictures of their children, they will find a way to get one.” Buying second-hand phones or using informal installment payment plans are two reported ways to bring phone costs down to an acceptable level.

“Low income consumers in developing countries may not be good candidates for smartphones, but it would be a mistake to think that they are not prospects for ‘affordable luxury’ features like MP3 players and megapixel cameras,” according to Kevin Nolan, Vice President of the Strategy Analytics User Experience Practice, who advised on this research.

These reasons are just some of the factors behind the prediction that smartphones will account for more than half of new devices sold by 2015.

While it is true to say these statistics are distorted by the different types of markets in APAC – ranging from advanced (eg Australia, Japan) to advancing (eg China, Indonesia) and less advanced (e.g. Thailand) – the increase in popularity of smartphones has seen ‘luxury features’ become almost standard on all phones in Asia.

So while a BlackBerry or iPhone may be out of a price-range, there are cheaper devices offering camera or mobile internet usage, for example.

Android, as a customisable mobile operating system, is also tipped to revolutionise the market and enable genuinely budget smartphones. Take for example rumours of the MediaTek $100 Android-based smartphone in China, which is heralded as a sign of things to come in the country and across the Asian region as a whole.

And that isn’t even taking into account flexible payment plans designed to allow consumers seeking a ‘feature rich’ device on a more modest budget.

Asia’s mobile phone landscape is set to become more sophisticated, both in ordinary devices and smartphone.