Asia: One in 10 new phones are smartphones

One in 10 new phones bought in East and Southeast Asia are smartphones, according to market research from the last quarter from GfK Asia. The report breaks the growth down by markets and specific countries.

East Asia

Within…one year… combined smartphone sales in the two regions jumped two-fold on year. 

In East Asia alone, smartphone sales contributed 16.8 per cent to the total [number of] mobile device sales… in the first three months of this year [6 per cent growth on previous quarter].

East Asia has two of the world’s most advanced mobile markets in South Korea and Japan so it is to be expected that the region is leading the growth. Just a cursory glance at the growth and revenue in Japan’s mobile content industry (blogged here) shows a high level of smartphone penetration in the country and a population which use smartphones for social networking, social gaming and ecomerce/social currency spending.

Southeast Asia

The report provides data from three growing Southeast Asian markets. 


It’s of little surprise to see that smartphones sales were proportionally highest in Singapore (more on Singapore’s tech consumer habits here) where… 

smartphones made up 44.6 per cent of mobile phone sales in the first quarter, up from last year’s 17 per cent

A good indication of mature consumer behaviour in Singapore comes from the fact that one in ten people browse the internet on an iPhone, iPod or iPad.


According the report Malaysia is making significant progress, which parallels its growth in social media, one likely driver of smartphone demand.

Among the markets surveyed, Malaysia recorded the highest jump in smartphone sales contribution to the country’s overall mobile phone [sales], growing by 36.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2010 to hit 55.2 percent.

Although it is significantly less populated than Indonesia, Malaysia is forging a growing reputation as one of Southeast Asia more sophisticated tech markets along with the aforementioned Indonesia (which benefits from a huge population) and Singapore (with a low digital divide and more Western-tech habits).


Thailand, on the other hand, is the country which registered the lowest acceptance level when it comes to smartphones. Of overall mobile phone sales close to a fifth were… smartphones, although this is an improvement of 10.4 percent on-year.

The Thai market is growing rapidly but starting from such a small base of smartphone ownership and awareness it lags behind many of its prominent neighbours. Additional factors such as a lack of 3G, outdated mobile infrastructure, limited tariff options for smartphones and wide digital divide within the population responsible for a less developed smartphone market.

High end devices in Thailand are out of the budget of many mass market consumer, however technology has trickled down and the budget smartphone market is growing not just in models available, but quality too.

Cue the shameless plug of my budget smartphone post  for CNN Go Bangkok here.


One in 10 may not sound like a high ratio (which may not be wholly indicative of the region or reality, such is market research) however it represents sustained growth in market which many firms are beginning to target, for example RIM, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone range.

While we can expect smartphone penetration to continue to grow at a decent pace, Southeast Asia not unlikely to rival advanced Asian markets like South Korea or Japan for the time being.

That said, there is clearly a market opportunity and, with social media habits growing rapidly in the region (Southeast Asia is dominating Facebook’s fastest growing list), mobile internet and internet services are a clear driver alongside fashion.