Graham Christie
Apr 13, 2015

APAC: The leading mobile region now

In The Mobile Hub, his monthly recap of all things mobile, Graham Christie shares his takeaways from data released by We Are Social, the GSMA, Carat and eMarketer, plus his impressions from SXSW.

Graham Christie
Graham Christie

The crew at We Are Social have released their weighty annual report into digital, covering 30 markets, and it get’s better with each year. We Are Social should be applauded on the hard work to stare down the enormity of the task, compile data, make sense of it all, and present it clearly. 

Before getting into some key headlines, three things are very apparent this year:

  • Firstly, how mobile is in the marketing driving seat now, globally. We should know this, but when you see it in the majority of global, regional or country charts, and whether the information relates to a newly emerging or wholly established advanced marketplace, it is the consistency that’s noteworthy.
  • Secondly, that APAC is already the biggest mobile region, yet it has barely started its growth phase. The numbers, sheer heft and room for growth are eye-watering.
  • And lastly, there are several strings to the mobile bow. It’s not about content, or games, or social, or ecommerce, or video, or advertising, but more and more about many of these interlinked with each other. 

So to the headlines. APAC’s total population stands at just over 4 billion, with 1.4 billion being 'active internet users’, and 3.7 billion forming the strong mobile subscriber base, (that’s 93 per cent of the population). The implication is clear: The ecosystem that supports the internet and its monetisation will increasingly and inevitably become mobile-first, followed by being desktop-friendly (and not the other way around).

If you look at mobile’s share of web traffic across APAC markets, (with a global average of 33 per cent), we see India at the top (72 per cent), followed by Indonesia (59 per cent), Thailand (36 per cent), Malaysia (35 per cent) and Singapore (34 per cent). With the exception of Singapore, these are rapidly becoming mobile-first markets that have to deal less with the paradox of being an ‘advanced’ marketplace with legacy desktop baggage, such as Australia for instance scoring (26 per cent)—very similar to the US and UK, incidentally. Japan and South Korea today are juggernauts of mobile adoption, but I think we’ll see these other emerging SEA markets influencing far more in the years to come.

The caveat on this is the quality and depth of mobile broadband network infrastructure. In the report, Indonesia and Malaysia, whilst above global average, are below that of Japan, Australia, and South Korea. If we take history as a guide, the other component that needs to change is the type of billing relationship users have with their telecom providers. Indonesia is 99 per cent pre-pay, and Japan 99 per cent post-pay, for instance. Need I say more? An individual with multiple devices and multiple telecom providers is a feature of emerging and somewhat chaotic markets, a function of the explosion of wireless services, and of aggressive well-funded networks, plus often stiff messaging app competition. This will consolidate over time, and will raise absolute levels of usage, which is a little counter-intuitive, but that’s what the data tell me, and the experience of older markets.

APAC: Also the leading mobile region for the future

Separately the GSMA, the association that represents the world’s telecom companies, has published its 2015 report. These reports are not too heavy, visually impactful and packed with great information. 

Items that interested me are:

  • Globally by 2020 there will be 4.6 billion mobile subscribers; 59 per cent of the world’s population.
  • 69 per cent of those subscribers will have a smartphone
  • Data traffic will increase 10 times by 2019
  • Mobile broadband (3G or 4G networks), will grow from 40 per cent now to 70 per cent by 2020, with Asia-Pacific a key region fuelling this.
  • Smartphone average selling prices (ASPs) are now 30 per cent below their 2008 levels in Asia.
  • About half of the world’s smartphones will be in Asia-Pacific by 2020 (see graphic)
  • Asia-Pacific will account for over 50 per cent of cellular M2M (machine to machine) connections by 2020—speaking directly to an IoT reality.

Source: GSMA Intelligence


Also, Carat released its latest forecast report showing global growth at 15.7 per cent in 2015. Mobile, it says, will account for 50 per cent of that growth, and online video 21 per cent. Asia-Pacific will be the biggest growing region with 5.2 per cent in 2015, with digital returning a total of 20.1 per cent.

Lastly, on the market-data front, eMarketer has forecast that mobile spend will double in advanced Asian markets, citing specifically Japan, where mobile internet ads already account for 28.6 per cent of digital spending rising significantly, to 59.6 per cent by 2018. That year, 16.0 per cent of all paid media spending in Japan will occur via the mobile internet, including search and display formats served to mobile phones and tablets. If you think that is notable, consider the figures for South Korea, where mobile internet ad spending has more than doubled two years running. Growth will slow to 18.0 per cent by 2018, but that will still give the mobile internet a whopping 73.2 per cent share of all digital ad spending and 26.4 per cent of all paid media ad spending in the country.

SXSW 2015

It would be odd not to mention SXSW. The event has reached mature adulthood—well, kind of. You can tell this, as the detractors were out in force asking how it’s lost its mojo, and the opposing fan boys are out saying it’s every bit as relevant as ever.

The consensus was that the overindulgence exhibited by big brands in previous years was not as evident, and the event returned to its new-tech routes, which was on the whole liked. The star of the show in terms of sheer buzz was Meerkat, a new social video app, and what many view as the epitome of a great tech startup. In fact it was touted as the sexiest new breakout hit since Foursquare in 2009.

The immaculate timing and staging of the Meerkat showcasing included an unexpected cameo role performed admirably by Twitter, which announced the purchase of a Meerkat rival, and in parallel, that they were removing a new user contacts onboarding feature that Meerkat had enjoyed in the first three weeks of its life. How deliciously dastardly of Twitter to attempt to nobble a newborn. The resulting noise catapulted Meerkat into a near-earth orbit, and Twitter, I’m sure, got what it wanted out of the circus. [Please see our analysis of what Meerkat and Twitter's Periscope mean to marketers. -Ed.]

Aside from Meerkat, there were robots, virtual reality, wearables (although an absence of ‘Glassholes’) and controversial panelists aplenty. Look to CNet for a consumer tech review of the event, and the event's own website for speaker and panel content. 

Graham Christie is CCO and Partner with Big Mobile Group

Campaign Asia

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