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In Asia-Pacific, Emerging Markets Grab Highest Smartphone User Shares

Still, smartphone penetration is far higher in more developed markets

More developed markets in Asia-Pacific still lead the way—by far—in penetration of mobile connections, including mobile phones overall, smartphones and the mobile internet—though it’s the absolute numbers and high growth rates found in emerging markets that are giving the region such a large slice of the worldwide mobile pie.

eMarketer estimates that South Korea and Japan will tie for the highest mobile phone penetration in the region this year, at 86.0% in both countries. That includes all individuals who own and use a smartphone or feature phone at least monthly. Australia’s penetration rate is nearly as high (84.0%), and even China will have mobile phones in the hands of 80.0% of its population this year.

But when it comes to smartphones, a split is more apparent. This year, more than two-thirds of the population in South Korea will use a smartphone monthly, compared with about six in 10 in Australia, a slight majority in Japan, and a mere 10.0% of the population of India. Fast growth in India and Indonesia will close the gap somewhat during eMarketer’s forecast period, but a nearly 55-point spread in smartphone penetration levels will remain by 2018 between South Korea and India.

Sheer size counts for a lot, though. A solid majority of smartphones in Asia-Pacific are in the hands of consumers in China, with India coming in a distant second at 13.0%. The much smaller populations of developed markets like South Korea mean that country only contributes 3.6% to the regional smartphone total—still a relatively high number compared with Australia’s 1.4%, but clearly dwarfed by the size of emerging markets in the region.

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all of its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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