MANILA, Philippines — In a testament to the growing popularity of smartphones among Philippine consumers, newly released data from research firm GfK Philippines indicated that a third of phones sold within the first five months of the year are smartphones.
This figure is five times as high as the number recorded in the same period last year and the highest it has ever attained, totalling a massive 1.7 million units of modern phones sold in the early part of 2012.
Despite the surge, feature phones — or those which do not come with any of the newer mobile operating systems — still constitute majority of the mobile devices sold here, with more than 50 percent share.
Gfk, however, pointed out that the tide may soon be turning as smartphones begin to contribute more value to overall mobile sales, with overall smartphone value totaling $400 million (P16.8 billion) during the period.
“Basic feature phones grew in sales volume by 30 percent and continue to remain popular, but it was the smartphone segment, with its 408 percent spike in demand, that has been stirring up the industry,” noted Benny Villanueva, general manager of GfK Philippines.
Villanueva said the steep demand came from the overwhelming success of low-priced smartphones in the Philippines, with units selling for as low as P5,000 in the local market.
The research firm, however, refused to give further details as to which of the smartphone manufacturers were the most popular in the country.
Ever since the boom of smartphone worldwide, GfK noted that in just a year, average prices of newer mobile devices dropped 23 percent to $244 (P10,000) worldwide, an indication that smartphones may be nearing mainstream penetration.
Unlike personal computers, smartphone take-up in the Philippines is not only concentrated in the urban centers such as Metro Manila, GfK noted, where more than half of smartphone owners in the Philippines are based.
GfK data said growth in smartphone adoption in the Visayas and Mindanao regions were the fastest in the country, posting a combined high of 800 percent growth in units sold during the said period.
Despite these gains, Villanueva said smartphone penetration in the country remains a positive opportunity for phone makers, as other neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia have already reached near-saturation levels for smartphones.
“The aggressive marketing and promotional activities by network service providers along with the government’s ongoing efforts to improve Internet connectivity as well as offer free Wi-Fi in public areas will continue to generate escalating demand for smartphones for the next few years,” he added.