The latest GfK data revealed that smartphone adoption rates have passed the halfway mark in the overall handset market -- this makes up 55 percent in March 2014 across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam.
According to the market research company's media statement, smartphone sales have grown to 43 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2013. In terms of value, it has garnered nearly US$4.2 billion within January to March this year, which is a 25 percent increase from last year.
"Demand for mobile handsets is stabilising as indicated by the slight two percent growth in volume sales, but we continue to see consistent deepening of smartphone penetration in this region," said Gerard Tan, Account Director for Digital World at GfK Asia. "More than half the market today is contributed by smartphones and the trend will be sustained as the switchover in emerging markets takes precedence."
The top three growth markets for smartphones according to sales volume in quarter one was Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, which reported 68, 59 and 45 percent increased sales respectively. Indonesia is also the largest market with consumers buying over 7.3 million units -- or 40 percent -- of the region's smartphones.
"The intensified penetration in Thailand and Vietnam was likely driven by the 3G launch last year, which served as a catalyst tipping consumers in these two countries towards the smartphone segment," said Tan. "At the same time, a mix of Chinese and local brands have penetrated into the smartphone market of emerging countries with very attractively priced models to appeal to the low-end segment, managing to convert those consumers who cannot afford the premium phones."
Meanwhile, phablets, or large smartphones with screen size measuring over 5.6 inches, have become increasingly popular. GfK stated that over 1.1 million units worth US$567 million have been sold, with Malaysia and Indonesia being the biggest markets for this sector.
"Several popular international brands have officially announced the launch of a number of flagship models in the next two quarters of this year, and this could likely be holding consumers back from their purchases in anticipation of the new models," said Tan. "We can be expecting these events to play a major contributing role in boosting the smartphone market further across this region to turn in yet another stellar performance."