Emily Tan
Sep 1, 2011

Asia-Pacific leads the world in smartphone use: Google/Ipsos study

ASIA-PACIFIC – It seems then when it comes to mobile phones, and smartphones in particular, there is no market quite like the Asia-Pacific. The region is ahead of the world’s most advanced economies in terms of smartphone and overall mobile phone penetration, a joint study by Google and Ipsos has found.

Mobile phones are everywhere in Asia-Pacific
Mobile phones are everywhere in Asia-Pacific

The report, Smartphone Research on Mobile Internet and Market Trends, spanned 30 markets globally and 11 markets in Asia-Pacific. It found that the region as a whole had the highest mobile phone penetration in the world and a willingness to use those phones to shop and play that outstrips other markets.

In fact, more consumers in Asia-Pacific (except Australia and Malaysia) find their smartphone more interesting than TV than those in the US.

Individually, four of the 11 Asia-Pacific markets surveyed had a higher smartphone penetration than the US (31 per cent). This includes Singapore (62 per cent), Australia (37 per cent), Hong Kong (35 per cent) and urban China (35 per cent).

All 11 of the Asia-Pacific markets studied have higher overall phone penetration than the US which has 78 per cent penetration.

The study, which was conducted between March and July and gathered over 30,000 sample responses, also found that smartphone adoption is a recent and widespread trend for the region. Over 80 per cent of smartphone users in Indonesia, Australia and India are first-time users.

Being new to the game however isn’t slowing down their use of the devices. When on their smartphones, Japanese, Korean and Singaporean consumers use their smartphones more intensely than their US counterparts. They surf more, email more, search more and share more videos. When it comes to social networking, Singaporeans have every other market beat.

However, other markets in Asia are still lagging behind the US in terms of using their smartphones to search, social network and share videos.  Even this may be set to change however, with more smartphone users in Asia planning to use their phones more heavily in the future, compared with the US.

The world’s keenest online mobile shoppers can be found in Southeast Asia. Consumers in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia are more likely to have made a purchase on their phone than US users, while consumers in Malaysia aren’t far behind.

Developing markets in the region are also a potential gold mine for app developers, with more in the region determined to use more apps compared with developed countries across the world, the study found. For example, 39 per cent of US and UK consumers, and 45 of Japanese consumers, intend to use more apps in the future, whereas over 60 per cent of Malaysian, Thai and Indian consumers, and 59 per cent of Indonesian consumers, intend to do so.

The surge in demand from consumers in developing markets is one that mobile operators have to be braced for, points out mobile market analyst Ovum. It's latest report in to the sector predicts that small-screen devices will account for 77 per cent of all mobile broadband connections in emerging markets by 2015, equating to 1.6 billion connections.

Shiv Putcha, Ovum analyst and author of the report, cautions that mobile network operators could be faced with poor service quality and falling revenues if they fail to plan carefully for the pending surge in data traffic. “While it is not quite a doomsday scenario, operators need to ensure that they have covered all areas if they are to cope with the coming explosion in traffic,” he said.

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