Opera’s Mobile Browser Is Silently Conquering Asia

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In the USA, smartphones already dominate 50 percent of the mobile market. In Asia, smartphones now account for 66 percent of purchases but the overwhelming majority of existing mobiles out there are still feature phones. And if you’re on a feature phone, it’s even more likely that you use Opera as your web browser of choice. Out of the top five countries for Opera Mini users in the world, three of them are in Asia.

I chatted with Håkon Wium Lie, chief technology officer at Opera, who gave me the lowdown. To date, over 237 million people all over the world have used Opera. In Asia, Opera has already hit millions of monthly unique users in a handful of countries. According to Håkon:

Indonesia and India hit one million in 2008, China in 2009, and the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Malaysia in 2011. Nepal and Thailand just made it on the million-user list last year.

Interestingly, although Asia is feature phone dominated, this is not where the growth is – it’s actually on smartphones. In most countries, Nokia is the main phone that people use Opera on, but in China, Samsung and iPhone mobiles are used the most with the Norway-made mobile browser app. Håkon explains:

While the feature phone is still strong in this region, especially in south east Asia, we see that some countries have experienced a sharp increase in smartphone owners using Opera Mini or Opera Mobile products last year. For example, the number of Opera Mini users in Indonesia on smartphones has increased more than 460 percent in July 2012 since July 2011. Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are also strong smartphone growth areas in the Asia Pacific region.

Opera’s also focusing on tablets. With the worldwide trend heading towards tablets, this makes sense.

Smartphones and tablets will be the focus for Opera. With more people getting more advanced mobile devices and more data will be consumed, they expect to have a better browser to speed up their browsing while on the go.

Of course, I was really interested to hear about Opera’s main growth markets and even happier to see Myanmar on the list. Håkon adds:

Myanmar has particularly strong growth compared to the larger Asia Pacific countries, with a 900 percent growth in users and 500+ percent growth in pageviews. In addition, the user growth in Bangladesh, Laos, China, Cambodia, and Malaysia is more than 100 percent.

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