Southeast Asian Smartphone Users ‘Prefer Budget Models’

Smartphone users in key Southeast Asia market overwhelmingly prefer mid-range and budget models, study finds, as manufacturers look beyond downturn

Young smartphone users in the expanding Southeast Asia market have an overwhelming preference for mid-range or budget handsets over high-end models, according to a new study.

The survey from UK-based YouGov found that more than three-quarters of respondents in the region preferred “mid-range” phones, including 37 percent who “strongly” preferred such devices.

Almost eight out of 10 said they were more confident in mid-range handsets compared with five years ago as they strike a balance between affordability and features.

The survey, sponsored by Xiaomi-backed smartphone brand Poco, covered 2,500 users aged 18 to 40 in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Expanding market

Southeast Asia is seen as a key market for smartphone makers as it features an expanding middle class and a young population.

Poco, whicih was spun off from Beijing-based Xiaomi in 2020, is one of the firms targeting the region with mid-range phones, including its recently released Poco M3 Pro 5G.

The device, featuring 5G, a dual-SIM slot and battery conservation features, sells in Indonesia for only 2,399,000 rupiah ($157, £122).

Samsung currently leads the Southeast Asia smartphone market, with a 27 percent share in the first quarter of 2023, followed by Chinese firms Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Realme, according to Canalys.

High-end competition

But separate figures from Counterpoint found Apple’s iPhone sales rose 18 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, while Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi all saw shipments drop, an indication of the competition that budget brands face from higher-end models.

“The rise in digital payments and financing options in the region makes high-end devices more affordable for the masses,” said Canalyst analyst Sheng Win Chow.

Smartphone shipments in the region fell 21 percent year-on-year in the quarter, amidst a broader downturn, but Chow said the figures are expected to rise 7 percent next year as demand recovers.

“Looking ahead, Southeast Asia continues to be a promising market for smartphone manufacturers, thanks to its expanding middle class and young population, which are key customer segments for smartphone vendors,” Chow said.