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Smartphone shipments declined in 2017, dragged by Myanmar, Philippines

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Total smartphone shipments in the emerging Southeast Asia region were appropriate 100 million units in 2017, declining less than 1% year-on-year (yoy). The region comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Myanmar and the Philippines were the only countries that recorded a decline with some vendors experiencing a significant drop, pulling down the total shipments in SEA. The Top 4 players – Samsung, OPPO, vivo, and Huawei – continued to gain strength with their mix of low-end (US$100 to under $200) and midrange ($200 to $400) handsets, at the expense of local and smaller players.

“The majority of end users are in no rush to acquire new handsets as their midrange ones are of decent quality and priced considerably high for this budget conscious region, resulting in longer lifecycles and replacement rates,” says Jensen Ooi, senior market analyst, client devices, IDC ASEAN.

Midrange smartphone shipments grew 53% yoy driven by the Top 5 players. While low-end devices still make up most of the market with 37% share, midrange handsets now make up 27% (27.1m units) of the total market versus 2016 when it was 17% (17.6m units).

Samsung takes the top spot in the midrange segment with its Galaxy J series. OPPO and vivo expanded their brand presence with celebrity endorsements and loud marketing activities, pushing their F and V series respectively. Huawei pushed its Nova series and employed almost similar tactics as OPPO and vivo. Apple’s presence in the midrange segment is represented by its older models, the iPhone 5, iPhone SE, and iPhone 6.

4G smartphones grew 44% yoy while demand for 4G feature phones remains low. 4G smartphones now make up 81% (81.1m units) of the total market versus 2016 when it was 56% (56.2m units). 4G feature phones only recorded close to a quarter of a million units, and were mainly available in Tier-1 cities where the 4G network is more reliable; lower tier cities continue to opt for 2G feature phones.

Shipments of phablets (5.5” to below 7”) grew 71% yoy signalling a change in preference for larger screen sizes. Phablet shipments made up 35% (35.0m units) of total shipments in 2017 versus 2016 when it was only 20% (20.5m units). Smartphones with screen sizes between 5” and 5.5” still hold the larger share of 50% (50.5m units). The growth of phablet shipments was spurred by changes in media consumption habits and vendors introducing thin bezel smartphones. Samsung recorded the largest shipments in this category while vivo recorded the highest growth.

“In 2018, local vendors will continue to feel the impact as end users gradually shift their preference to more popular brands and are more willing to invest in their upgrade to larger screen midrange smartphones,” said Ooi. “Most would soon be equipped with enticing features such as dual cameras, thin bezels, on-device artificial intelligence, and so on.

“To stay competitive, we expect local vendors to ship smartphones with some of these features and introduce devices that come with Android Oreo ‘Go edition’ while keeping the price affordable at below $200 to suit the budget requirements of their local target segments.”

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