Philippine Smartphone Adoption is Growing, But Users Still Stick to Basic Features



We are well aware how consumers are becoming attached to their smartphones. In Asia, this is happening at an even faster pace. Last September we looked at a report from GfK Asia that shows mobile user-ship in Southeast Asian is growing exponentially. Today, market research firm TNS takes a closer look at the mobile growth in the Philippines.

TNS’ study of the Mobile Life 2013 reveals that consumers in Metro Manila, Philippines, are leading the nation’s smartphone adoption. 53 percent of TNS’ respondents already own a smartphone, which reflects an 11 percent increase from last year’s study. As a matter of fact, today the average number of devices each consumer in Metro Manila has is at 4.6, which includes laptops, tablets, desktop PCs, smart TVs, and smartphones. So most users today may have a mix of all those.

Joseph Webb, head of digital TNS in Greater China, oversaw the study and says that the Metro Manila area is not lagging behind neighboring Asian cities in terms of mobile device adoption. 64 percent of the respondents in Metro Manila consider their mobile device as their most important piece of technology. The result is quite close if we compare it to more advanced countries in the region like South Korea (71 percent) and Hong Kong (72 percent).

53 percent smartphone usage in Metro Manila

But while there is growth, there remains a huge chunk of the Philippine population still using feature phones, about 89 percent. Joseph says that affordability is holding back adoption in some areas. So the current rate of 53 percent smartphone users in the capital area is expected to increase once smartphone prices lower further.

As for smartphone users, SMS texting, taking photos and videos, and listening to music are on top of the list of their usual activities. While browsing the internet also joined the list, most users still prefer to access the internet through a public wifi. And this is where we’ll see that mobile internet access is still slightly behind other Asian nations “because of the lack of the right infrastructure,” says Joseph.


The report finds that most of the internet-related activities today are focused on social media sites where a quarter of mobile users access them to check and update their status. Other activities central to e-commerce like comparing prices and reading product reviews are also gaining traction. But generally, Joseph says, easier e-payment gateways and other mobile-related activities like m-banking are yet to become accessible.

While there is indeed a huge interest in smartphones on the consumers’ end, not everybody is jumping onto the bandwagon just yet. I believe dropping of price points is slowly happening, especially becase there are now local players in the mobile telco market like MyPhone and Cherry Mobile, who are already releasing four- to five-inch Android quad-core phones at almost half the price of those from bigger brands like Samsung and HTC. A good example is MyPhone’s 5-inch Android phone, the A919i Duo, priced at PHP 9,500 ($218), while Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is priced at PHP 24,500 ($564).

And likewise, local companies can take part in boosting mobile usage by providing more apps for Filipino users. Generally, this study shows that the smartphone users in Metro Manila are still focusing on basic activities that they can actually do with feature phones – stuff like SMS texting and listening to music. If more locally-made smartphone apps appear – for things like online shopping, gaming, local information – that will boost adoption and diversify smartphone usage as well.

(Editing by: Steven Millward and Anh-Minh Do)

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