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Apple shines in a declining southeast Asia smartphone market

Smartphone shipments in Southeast Asia’s five key countries (Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia) fell 13% YoY due to low demand and a seasonal drop, according to Counterpoint Research’s Southeast Asia Monthly Smartphone Channel Share Tracker.

All key SEA countries saw a decline in Q1 2023 but some more than others. Countries like Vietnam received relatively more shipments in Q4 2022 and so OEMs felt the need to reduce volumes in Q1 2023. Consumer sentiment has not completely revived in Vietnam. Factors like a 10% fall in Samsung’s production, seasonally low smartphone demand after Q4 2022, and reduced revenues for OEMs and operators were also among the driving factors. Indonesia and Thailand did comparatively well than the other countries as demand started improving in March 2023.

Southeast Asia Smartphone Shipments by Key Countries

All key SEA countries are coming out of the geopolitical effects from last year while still reeling under some inflation effects. For instance, the Philippines suffered high inflation at the start of this year. However, operators continue to remain aggressive on 5G development and partnerships with tech companies. The industry has resumed its earlier levels of advancement as foreign investments are again entering big economies like Indonesia and Malaysia. There are collaborations happening on the financial services front as well. For example, OPPO in Indonesia is partnering with banks to provide banking services while AIS, the leading operator in Thailand, has partnered with Bangkok Bank to provide financial services on digital platforms. Consumers are not exactly feeling the improvements on the ground though. Most smartphone purchases are being delayed.

Southeast Asia Smartphone Shipments Market Share

Vietnam is a growing Apple iPhone market. The demand for the iPhone 13 and 14 series was good in Q1 2023. Indonesia has seen growth in iPhone shipments as well. Overall, iPhone shipments grew 18% YoY in Q1 2023.

Infinix is the official smartphone partner for Mobile Legends professional league in the Philippines. Infinix has improved on promoting itself as a gaming brand in the region. Overall, though Infinix’s volumes are not on a par with the top brands, it continues to grow in the region. The brand grew 41% in Q1 2023.

While certain brands have been in focus at the start of this year, the price range share favored two consumer groups in Q1 2023. <$200 smartphones witnessed a 4% YoY growth despite an overall decline in volumes. Since entry-level phone shipments had been consistently low, pent-up demand motivated higher shipments in Q1 2023. However, not all countries saw a spike in low-end smartphone demand. OEMs in Vietnam were still looking to push these volumes. The Philippines’ low-income families are reeling under high tax and inflationary issues, restricting low-end smartphone purchases. Premium-end (>$600) smartphone shipments continued to rise and saw 4% YoY growth. Mid-to-high-end ($201-$600) smartphone shipments suffered the most across the region.

Commenting on the SEA economies in 2023, Senior Analyst Glen Cardoza said, “Southeast Asia is at a stage where different consumer types are behaving in a different manner. Low-end smartphone buyers are recovering but they are not just there yet. Mid-to-high-end smartphone buyers are holding on to their wallets and extending the ownership of their phones, while high-to-premium smartphone buyers are unaffected by the economics of the situation. These consumers are going out and choosing to buy the S series, foldables and iPhones. While 5G is becoming a norm, operators are coming out with creative packages and providing options for all types of smartphones. The coming months are likely to see a bit more improvement in consumer sentiment while governments make sure that their countries remain largely unaffected by global macro issues.”

The Vietnamese government is looking to commercialize 5G in the country this year. This will facilitate a new level of manufacturing and consumer usage if done earlier than later. While the Malaysian government and industry work on 5G commercialization and the terms for it, consumers are already equipped with 5G smartphones.

With an increase in tourism in SEA countries earlier in the year, there is a chance that tourism business and revenue will increase this year. Countries like Thailand are also concentrating on eco-tourism initiatives that focus on sustainability, all through smartphones. All these developments are likely to spell normalcy for the public, leading to a likely improvement in consumer sentiment in the coming quarters.

CT Bureau

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