Consumers in Southeast Asia are upgrading from basic mobile phones to smartphones and they spent a total of US$10.8 billion on these devices in the first three quarters of 2013.

A newly released report by GfK shows that about 41.5 million units of smartphones were purchased by consumers from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines this year.

Indonesia demonstrated the highest smartphone sales volume and value in these emerging markets with consumers in the market purchasing 14.8 million smartphones worth over US$ 3.33 billion.

The next highest smartphone sales was recorded by Thailand and Malaysia as they sold 7.2 million and 6.4 million units respectively.

"The increasing affordability of smartphones, particularly in the developing markets is helping many consumers in these countries make the switch from their basic feature phones to own their very first smartphone," said Gerard Tan, account director for Digital Technology at GfK Asia.

Android rules

Android has grabbed a huge 72 percent market share and is extensively used in Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Percentage of Android smartphones sales jumped from 37 to 60 percent within a year, in Indonesia.

South Asian consumers now prefer larger screen sizes, and the sale of 4 inch and above smartphones has doubled this year. 27% of smartphones sold in the first three quarters of this year has a screen size of at least 4 inches.

Tan predicts continued uptrend and exponential growth in the smartphone market in this region and advises manufacturers to target the 50 percent of feature phone buyers who have not yet switched to using these devices.

"The latest trend in the market now is phablets, which is defined as mobile devices with cellular voice phone functionality and a display between 5.6 inch and 6.99 inch," said Tan. "Launched only recently around mid-2013, over 460,000 have already been sold and we will likely see greater take-up as more models enter market."