While Singapore may have the highest smartphone penetration in Southeast Asia, sales of smartphones will continue to benefit from significant netizen buying interest in the country.

Based on a recent survey by The Nielsen Company, four in 10 online consumers, who claim they do not own a smartphone, said they will or are likely to buy one in 2011.

Almost half of the online consumers surveyed in Singapore claimed they already own a smartphone. Netizens aged between 35-39 years old are the largest group who claimed to own a smartphone (59% out of the total in the age group), followed by those aged between 25-29 and 30-34 years old (both groups 51%). The percentage of netizens who said they own a smartphone grew 8% to its current level over 2010.

“Launches of newer mobile devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 OS, the influx of Android phones, as well as the different affordable data plan packages offered by telecommunication operators to increase or maintain their subscription base, present consumers with a kaleidoscope of choices. Operators are also wooing existing customers by offering upgrades on a mobile device just before his/her subscription plan expires,” said Kaushal Upadhyay, Director, Telecom Practice, Nielsen Singapore.

Who’s more likely to buy a smartphone?

The smartphone penetration in Singapore looks set to increase further, with 39% of online consumers indicating they intend to purchase a smartphone within the next 12 months. Male and female netizens are equally likely to purchase a smartphone. The tendency to purchase a smartphone is highest among consumers aged between 45-49 years old and those under 20 years old – 58% and 49% respectively indicated they will definitely or will probably buy a smartphone.

Apple OS is preferred choice for netizens in Singapore

With the rising popularity of smartphones, usage of mobile apps will grow in tandem. One in three online consumers in Singapore said they have downloaded an app in the past 30 days. The potential to grow is also strong: 55% of online consumers said they know about mobile applications and are interested to download these to their smartphones.

Online consumers who use apps chose to do so via Apple OS (68%), Nokia (31%), Android (24%), Blackberry (18%), Microsoft (14%) and others (8%). While Apple OS is most commonly used in Singapore, Nokia is the preferred choice of netizens in countries like Indonesia and Philippines.

Mobile internet usage to grow too

While SMS is still the most popular activity on a mobile phone (95% of online respondents claimed to have used SMS in the past 30 days), mobile handset manufacturers and operators should be ready for the next, if not current, demand from Singapore consumers: mobile internet.

Based on Nielsen’s research, 51% of online consumers have used mobile internet in the past 30 days, with more than a third accessing the internet at least once a day. This number is set to increase in 2011 as 59% of consumers plan to access mobile internet in next 12 months.
“The growing usage of mobile internet is related to the rising popularity of smartphones and/or multimedia feature phones that provide user-friendly features for consumers to access the internet. This will inadvertently present many opportunities for advertisers to reach out to current or potential customers via this channel, as consumers become more sophisticated users of the mobile internet. However, for mobile internet to really take off, consumers will be looking out for more flexible and affordable data plans,” said Upadhyay.

Source: The Nielsen Global Online Omnibus Survey