Singapore, 04.03.2020

Consumers across Southeast Asia’s six key markets bought 1.2 million more smartphones in 2019

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand registered double digit increases in consumer spend on smartphones

Southeast Asia’s smartphone sales volume continued to rise slightly by one percent in 2019 amidst the two percent decline in global demand. Overall, consumers across six of the region’s key markets snapped up nearly 97 million units of the device worth USD23 billion last year; representing a growth of four percent in sales value compared to 2018.

Malaysia and Singapore grew at the same rate for both smartphone sales value and volume at 13 and 11 percent respectively. Meanwhile, Thailand recorded a significantly higher value over volume growth, at 13 versus 6 percent, while Philippines’ growth stood at 5 percent in value and 3 percent in volume. Only Vietnam and Indonesia reported negative growth in the single-digit range.

“Over the years, the region’s consumers have always been showing keen interest when it comes to mobile handsets, with many owning more than one set or changing their smartphone frequently,” explained Alexander Dehmel, Associate Director at GfK. “It should be highlighted that the higher value over volume growth recorded in the Southeast Asian smartphone market indicates that consumers are upgrading their devices—a trend that has been observed in recent years,” he added.

Consumers’ fixation with their smartphones also stems from the fact that in many markets, the device has become an integral part of the shopper journey.  For instance, GfK’s latest FutureBuy report revealed that in Southeast Asia’s biggest market of Indonesia, over three-fifth (64%) of respondents agreed that their smartphone/tablet is their most important online shopping tool. In addition, more than half (58%) said they prefer to use their mobile device to pay for transactions—affirmation that smartphones are increasingly playing a more dominant role in consumers’ daily life.   

Innovations have been defining the smartphone market over the years and this is the area where easy-to-grasp improvements are taking place. Following the mantra “the more, the better” the smartphone features continue to offer more and improved capabilities. One of the major technological advances, which is closely related to performance and experiences, is 5G. 

“5G will be a hot topic this year, with Singapore spearheading to launch this high-speed network in 2020. We can expect to be seeing a lot of buzz around 5G network and also anticipate the market to be heating up with lots of promotions around new 5G smartphone models,” Dehmel said.

These days, with the enhanced capabilities of the in-phone cameras and their ability to capture high quality images and videos, consumers prefer models with large internal storage to accommodate more media, making it one of the most important features consumers look out for when purchasing a smartphone. Nearly one-fifth (20%) of all devices sold have 128GB of storage or more, compared to only 6 percent in the previous year. Singapore (18%) and Malaysia (6%) led the way for highest proportion of sales coming from devices with 256GB and above internal storage.

“Under normal circumstance, we would expect to see market performance in the region continuing its upward trend with even bigger and better phones being launched to satisfy the consumers’ insatiable appetite for new devices,” commented Dehmel. “However, in this instance, the Covid-19 situation will temporarily affect market performance in the region, and even globally. The impact of the coronavirus on global supply chains and production capacities as well as weaker demand is likely to slow but not stop the growth of the category in SEA.”


·       Markets covered in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.

·       Comparison period: Jan – Dec 2019 versus Jan – Dec 2018

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