Smartphone ownership rises across Asia Pacific

Economy June 24, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Smartphone ownership continues to increase prevalence in the Asia Pacific region in recent years, and in many markets smartphones now out-number non-smartphones, including Singapore, which has the highest smartphone ownership in Asia Pacific, Korea, Hong


Nielsen’s Smartphone Insights Study, conducted across 39 markets globally (including 13 Asia Pacific markets), highlighted this pushed up mobile internet usage, in particular social networking and internet search. In Japan, close to nine in 10 smartphones users (86 per cent) accessed the internet via their mobile phone in the past month, as did 80 per cent of smartphone users in Korea and 76 per cent of smartphone users in Hong Kong. Mobile social networking was especially popular in Hong Kong and Malaysia, where 76 per cent and 74 per cent of smartphone users respectively engaged in mobile social networking in the past month.
The Nielsen study also revealed the growing affinity of smartphone users towards tablets in some markets. In markets such as China, Thailand and Malaysia, around one-third of the smartphone users owned a tablet (39 per cent, 32 per cent and30 per cent respectively) highlighting the importance of understanding interaction between the two device types as well as the need to identify differences in content consumption across devices.
Smartphone popularity was also driving increased usage of location-based services (LBS) across the region, with smartphone users significantly more likely to tap into such services. Korea had the highest usage of LBS amongst smartphone users (59 per cent), followed by Japan (56 per cent) and Hong Kong and Taiwan (both 53 per cent).
“Growing use of location-based services and location-aware services such as maps and navigation present strong opportunities for companies to tap into the functionality and insight that these services present,” observes Vishal Bali, Managing Director of Nielsen’s Telecom Industry Group in the APMEA Region. “In particular, location-aware services provide great potential for location-based shopping and convenience services. Although currently both location-based and location-aware services are being primarily utilized by smartphone users in mature markets such as Korea, Japan, Singapore and China, other markets in Asia such as Indonesia and Malaysia where currently the usage is more focused on social networking and search will be quick to catch up as availability of these services improves.”
With a plethora of applications now available for smartphone users, apps usage across Asia Pacific is high. Korea and Japan had the highest incidence of apps usage in the past month (81 per cent), whilst Korea and Singapore smartphone users had the largest number of regularly used apps (median of 55 and 47 respectively) (see chart 3). Games were the most popular app category across the Asia Pacific region, with the exception of Indonesia where music and social networking apps were favoured.
Although smartphone popularity is soaring across the Asia Pacific region, resulting in increased consumption of mobile media, advertisers are yet to identify the key to effective engagement via mobile advertising.
With advertisers and media owners looking to leverage the burgeoning smartphone market, Nielsen’s Smartphone Insights study found that the smartphone users most likely to have been exposed to mobile advertisements in the past month were those in China (77 per cent), Malaysia (74 per cent), Korea (66 per cent) and Hong Kong (66 per cent). Frequency of exposure to mobile advertisements was highest in Japan and Korea (74 per cent exposed at least daily) and Hong Kong (65 per cent). Resistance to mobile advertising remains high, however, with many smartphone users reporting to never click on mobile advertisements.
“The constant connectivity of smartphones provides an ideal platform for advertisers to reach their consumers, however, to date we are seeing a significant level of resistance among smartphone users towards mobile advertising,” states Bali.  “Hence, it becomes important for advertisers to understand various factors that can help to improve acceptance levels and provide a better ROI.”
Bali notes that such factors include, but are not limited to:
1. improved creative and design elements tailored to the mobile platform;
2. availability of various ad formats to cater to different screen sizes as well as having a targeted approach rather than going for mass advertising; and
3. utilizing contextual advertisements that are location-specific and provide smartphone users with access to free content.
“Marketers must build in these key hooks to get a better response and engagement with their brands,” concludes Bali.
Share of operating systems varied across Asia, with Android leading in northern Asia whilst iOS was the most prevalent in Singapore and Symbian holding the lead in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India.