Google survey: Asian smartphone usage skyrockets

Asians are leapfrogging desktop Internet.
Asians are leapfrogging desktop Internet.

In the annual survey, many Southeast Asian users expressed no interest in any non-mobile devices

SINGAPORE — A Google study not only confirms a dizzying increase in smartphone penetration; it also shows that many consumers have no interest in a non-mobile devices, especially in Southeast Asia markets where the PC never had a foothold.

Smartphone adoption in Vietnam has hit 36 percent, up from 20 per cent a year ago, according to the Internet giant's annual Consumer Barometer. In Indonesia, penetration now stands at 28 percent, double last year's figure. Thailand is now at 40 percent, up from 31 percent last year.

"The surprising element to me is how fast things have moved in terms of penetration," said Julian Persaud, managing director, Google Southeast Asia. "This trend is manifesting itself in several different ways."

Many respondents report that a mobile device is the only connected device they own. In Malaysia, over a third of users said a phone was their only device for going online, and in Vietnam this is true for almost a quarter of the respondents. In Singapore, the figure is at 16 percent and in South Korea and Hong Kong it is 14 percent. By contrast, Western countries demonstrated single-digit figures, with Germany at 7 percent and the U.K. at 6 percent.

Conversely, Asians reported having more than one gadget. Nearly eight out of 10 Singaporeans use two or more connected devices, a trend that’s picking up in the rest of Southeast Asia too: 12 percent in Indonesia and 35 percent in Malaysia.

In Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, 30 percent to 40 percent of people go online while watching TV, and over 75 percent do it with a smartphone. In Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, more than 80 percent are looking at things unrelated to what's on TV.

Google’s annual Consumer Barometer, in conjunction with TNS, is a global study of consumer trends across 56 countries and 150,000 people. For this leg of the research, Google researched 14 countries across Asia-Pacific.

Two of the top five smartphone nations come from Asia with Singapore reporting adoption at 85 percent, followed by Korea at 80 percent. Others in the region aren’t far behind as Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong are now over the 50 percent mark.

"It’s amazing to see Singapore in the global number one spot. This is a massive wake-up call to any business without a mobile-optimized site or application," Persaud noted. "In 2014, this is no longer a viable approach; you’re effectively slamming your shop door in the face of your customers."

Once online, consumers in the region use search extensivelt. Nine out of 10 Singaporeans search for information at least once a month, a trend that holds across Asia with Vietnam at 93 per cent, Japan at 96 per cent, and Malaysia at 76 percent. Among smartphone users, 88 percent in Singapore, 92 percent in Vietnam and 91 per cent in Japan searched at least once a month.

If search is ubiquitous, then shopping is really starting to take off: 69 percent of Singaporeans said they conducted research online before purchase, while in Malaysia eight out of 10 people reported doing the same. Among smartphone users, nearly half of Singaporeans, 40 percent of Vietnamese and 41 percent of Malaysians reported using a smartphone to conduct pre-purchase research, compared to just 28 percent in the US.

This story originally appeared on

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